COVER STORYFebruary 2021

Somebody is Listening to Senior Patients

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By Terra Paley

Ever felt that frustrating feeling after you wait months or weeks for an appointment with your primary or a specialist and you get ten minutes of their time at the most?  You are often left with unanswered questions and possibly even more concerns? Maybe you are looking for a more natural solution for a medical condition. Maybe you have an allergy to or side effect to a prescribed medication. That is why I back up all of my regular medical appointments with a visit to Bastyr University Clinic in Sorrento Valley. It is a small yet very professional teaching clinic with a friendly knowledgeable staff who have your best interest at heart.

I have been a long term patient at Bastyr in San Diego. Let me count the ways and reasons I appreciate that. It is a teaching environment, they can be your primary Naturopathic primary care doctor in California or as in my case, they work in tandem with my primary care physician. The team experience is like no other. You are seen by two students who take your history, your really complete history (almost exhaustive) and dig a bit deeper than just symptomatology. They are attuned to the clues you give and are alert for that one scintilla of information that can make a difference in your health. I have experienced that first hand by remarking about something and my attending students figured out what my real problem was…not the one I was presenting.

The students perform a physical exam along with the extensive interview  and then leave to confer with the supervising Naturopathic doctor. The three of them return with suggestions, solutions and if needed, prescription. What differentiates this from any other similar experience is that they listen. After they proffer their ideas, they ask you what you think. It really is a healing circle approach that  centers on your needs. There’s a whole lot of “you” in visits to Bastyr that provides you with a confident feeling. They answer your questions, talk over your fears, clearly delineate your prognosis and provide suggestions. I have also had them do extensive further research on a long term condition.

Due to COVID restrictions, I had a long and very interesting phone interview with Dr. Tim Schwaiger, ND, MA, Chief Medical Officer at Bastyr University Clinic. He is also a associate clinical professor in the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University California and you may well see him as the supervising doctor.  It was clear in speaking with him of his dedication to naturopathic studies, the caliber of the students and the overall health of the community at large. Although they don’t have a formal program for seniors, one third of their clients are seniors. Seniors have specific needs and he is implementing even more courses and actions to meet these needs.

His clinical interests dovetail with the offerings at the Clinic. They include primary care medicine, mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, endocrinology disorders such as hypothyroidism, neurological disorders such as dementia and Parkinson’s, sleep disorders, pain management, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, autoimmune conditions, sleep disorders, hormone replacement therapy, low dose naltrexone (LDN), and much more. He has 21 years of experience in injection therapy for pain management including prolotherapy and trigger point therapy. He is a certified HeartMath coach used in stress reduction. He also has an interest in integrative cancer therapy. He brings all this to the table while mentoring and guiding the Bastyr students.

Dr. Schwaiger and Bastyr have a strong belief in shared decision making, actively engaging the patient in the healing process as noted above. They focus on personalized medicine noting the importance of tailoring the therapeutic program directly to the individual using evidence based medicine and proven therapies, some that have worked for centuries.

Naturopathic doctors can help individuals with non-pharmaceutical approaches to blood pressure, depression, anxiety and insomnia. In addition to being a Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Schwaiger, also has a deep background in sleep research and therapies and is able to bring this experience into the teaching clinics at Bastyr.  As seniors, we are acutely aware that sleep is the foundation of our health. Sleep and nutrition are very important queries in any Bastyr visit.

The clinic offers affordable team care appointments described above as well as resident and private practice appointments. They are just beginning to add more physical appointments and many of their clients are choosing telehealth. Telehealth is really interesting because they can see you in your environment and you don’t have to brave the traffic. They have found great success doing this even in physical health appointments. These appointments will still be popular post-COVID.

At the moment, they are not able to accept Medicare but they can act as Ordering, Referring and Prescribing (ORP) providers under Medi-Cal. First appointments are $65.00 and are 60-90 minutes long, follow ups are $35.00 and are 35-45 minutes. When you call for an appointment, you may go through an intense phone screening so that they can route you to the perfect team. I referred a friend, she became agitated (too much time at home) at the initial process and couldn’t stop raving about how perfect her appointment was. When Bastyr says personalized, they mean it.

In San Diego, Bastyr offers naturopathic Primary Care, Physical Medicine (can be offered on telehealth shifts), Homeopathy, Nutrition Counseling (offered on naturopathic care shifts), Mental Health Counseling (only offered during spring and summer quarters. Please contact the clinic to be added to the waitlist.), Biofeedback and stress management support, Hydrotherapy (in-person only), and IV Therapy (in-person only).

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

As Defined by the American Association for Naturopathic Medical Colleges: “Naturopathic Medicine is a distinct health care profession that combines the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained as primary care providers who diagnose, treat and manage patients with acute and chronic conditions, while addressing disease and dysfunction at the level of body, mind and spirit.

Naturopathic Doctors concentrate on whole patient wellness through health promotion and disease prevention, while addressing the underlying cause of the patient’s condition. NDs are clinicians, authors, scholars, researchers and entrepreneurs, and are increasingly in demand across numerous industries. They provide individualized, evidence-informed therapies that balance the least harmful and most effective approaches in order to help facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. Naturopathic doctors are experts in natural medicine, and naturopathic medical education is the most efficient and direct way to train as a primary care doctor who specializes in natural medicine.”

More about the students at Bastyr: In San Diego, the average age is around thirty. Many come from the healing modalities and choose naturopathic medicine as their next career path. I personally encountered students with degrees in physical therapy, acupuncture, counseling, body working and musical theory. With a slightly older student, many bring their years of experience with them and add their expertise to the healing process.

If you are not wanting a teaching situation, many of the doctors see patients privately. Those fees are similar to what you would pay outside of a teaching environment.

Bastyr also has a beautiful state of the art test kitchen and lab where they conduct world class research (one of the only labs worldwide specializing in natural me. In non-COIVD times, the kitchen offers fabulous cooking and health classes. There is one class scheduled for February.

It is said that your health is your wealth. Bastyr offers strong support for your health. Though we have spoken of seniors, they see everyone from infants to seniors. It is an opportunity to be heard and maybe unlock a health mystery or find a way to handle a long-term condition. I think you will be as pleased as I am.

Bastyr University is located at 4110 Sorrento Valley Blvd., San Diego, CA 92121 The clinic is open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday are reserved for telehealth appointments only, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The clinic is closed Sundays. To learn more, visit https://bastyrclinic.org or call (858) 246-9730.

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