Over two-thirds of all Australians use complimentary therapies, yet more than half of these Australians don’t share this information with their GPs.
Kath Teagle, the Director of Newcastle’s fist truly Integrated Health and Medical Practice (Mayfield Medical Connection),chats to us this month about what integrated healthcare means, why she started an integrated health practice in Newcastle and what this new generation of health and medical service delivery has to offer the Hunter community.
So Kath what does an ‘integrated approach to healthcare’ mean? It means combining the best of both worlds: the advantage of western medical knowledge and treatments with the option to use natural therapies openly.
The word ‘holistic’ is often bandied around what does it actually mean? We prefer to spell it with a ‘w’ because we see our patients as ‘whole‘ rather than ‘holes’! It really just means that the whole person is considered in treatment not just their symptoms.
Any type of treatment can be applied holistically, from the ‘straightiest- one- eightiest’ western approach to the most far out esoteric.
Why did you want to start a wholistic, integrated health and medical practice? It was really based on my own life experiences: as a child with a very ill mother, as partner to a man given a diagnosis of a potentially terminal illness and the frustrations of finding balanced heath care solutions as aparent of two young children.
Growing up, my Mum suffered from a relatively rare autoimmune disorder. She was desperately ill and desperate to be well to see her young family grow up. Like many in her situation she was willing to give anything a crack. She would travel from our farm in Wagga to Melbourne to see specialists who tried treatments with chemo therapy and high doses of cortisone. Whilst she was there she came across a naturopath who suggested she take high doses of vitamin C.
Mum integrated the separate elements of her treatment, but didn’t feel comfortable telling her specialists about the treatment her naturopath was giving her. Luckily, it worked out well for her; but it may not have. Not disclosing this kind of information to your doctor can be dangerous.
Then in my 20’s my partner was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. We spent months and my inheritance from my grandfather chasing whatever therapy we could find, turning ourback on the orthodox treatments of chemo and radiation.
His diet was perfect, he meditated, exercised, he was rebirthed and spiritually healed - we would have tried anything. Unfortunately his tumour kept growing, pushing his head over to one side, it was so massive.
Thankfully we sought advice from a qualified herbalist who gve us some unexpected advice: speak to an oncologist and if so advised, get chemotherapy as quickly as possible.
We followed her advice and he responded really well to chemo. We were very lucky our resistance to integrating both medicine and complementary measures didn’t cost his life. This was an epiphany for me - how stupid to deny a whole wing of knowledge!
So, there are a couple of decades between then and opening MMC, why did it take so long? Years later I lived in Sydney with my new partner and our two children, we had access to fantastic Integrative Medicine at our local GPs with the wonderful Dr Jonathan Bentley - I found his mix of Western medicine and complementary treatments inspiring.
Then we moved to Newcastle to the cold hard reality of the medical care that was available to the rest of the country. The IV vitamins, functional pathology and evidence based nutritionals offered to us in Sydney, just weren’t readily available here.
At the same time, my job as a teacher with developmentally delayed kids showed me that those who could afford to travel the big distances and seek Integrative Doctors saw significantly greater improvements than those who couldn’t. It just seemed so unfair! Finally... the seed germinated.
So you finally had the flash, but you were a teacher, how did you come to open a medical centre?
A bit of serendipity! It made sense to me rather than training to be a doctor to invest my energy and time into creating a practice that attracted the kind of medical practitioners and complementary therapists that were open to providing the very best health care working together in a supportive environment.
So began a three year journey of planning, researching and learning. On the very night that my partner Chris suggested that my attention would be better spent on my family than on a business plan that was never going to happen, I spied an ad for a practice around the corner from our home. The rest is history!
So you’ve got a medical practice, how did you make it Wholistically Integrative? More happenstance, more faith that the right people would come. We were blessed to have Dr Bo Wong, who is a GP and an acupuncturist join us. Then someone who knew of my dream for an integrative medical practice mentioned Dr Stuart Glastonbury, a GP and herbalist who was practicing in Queensland, and by happy co-incidence, the little brother of my best friend back at Wagga Wagga High School!
Stuart and his young family wanted to move to Newcastle and he agreed to come and work with us. So that gave us a GP who speaks both languages; his influence and knwledge rubs off on the GPs around him as theirs does him.
Now add to the mix our wonderful Dr Filipe Soares Rocha who is also a practicing Reiki Master, and the insightful and well considered practices of Dr Miranda Cook, Dr Kristy Baily and our registrar Dr Riarne Smith. We’ve also added the excitement and commitment of dieticians, psychologists, naturopaths and onsite pathology.
Also, knowing that therapy is followed more often if you have it on hand, we have an herbal dispensary available. Now you’re really starting to get the kind of practice that would have saved both my Mum and my ex a lot of risk and me as a mum of two kids a lot of effort. But without the path behind me I would never have made creating this space a priority!
So that’s a lot you’ve got going on? In less than 4 years we’ve gathered such a wonderful mix of expertise to offer to the community of the Hunter. I love that the centre addresses all kinds of care, from just plain great doctoring to herbal and energetic therapies, it’s an honour to be amongst it and we also try to involve the community wherever we can.
On 5th September our Naturopaths are running a free Natural Health Fair afternoon with natural health workshops, cooking demonstrations, herbal tea tastings and a drop-in ‘chat to a naturopath’ session so that people can get an idea about the service without having to commit to an appointment. They are really keen to make their services accessible so they’re running a $15 for 15 minutes special for September as well. It’s Spring...time to get healthy!
The addition of Dr Kristy Bayliss has meant that we can open on Saturdays and both earlier and later on weekdays to help out those with work and study commitments.
In the near future, we are planning a men’s weight loss group based on the GutBuster lifestyle program, a Newcastle initiative that provides real hope for permanent, sustainable weight loss.
Later this year, we’ll be offering evening meditation classes for stress prevention and health. Not to mention the extension to the building that’s just about to start that will house a far- infrared sauna for chronic pain relief and detox assistance.
Plus we’re passionate about being there for people of all walks of life and we’ve just followed this passion through gaining approval from ACON as an LGBTI Safe Place. Yeah, it’s a lot, and it is seriously exciting.... and just a little bit scary.
Scary or not, it sounds like the way healthcare needs to go! So how do we stay intouch with what’s happening at your practice? We’ve a facebook page called ‘MayfieldMedical’ that e update constantly with all our latest news, or call our lovely admin team. Plus our website, though a bit dodgy at the moment, is just about to get very comprehensive: www.mayfieldmedicalconnection.com.au