Gainesville Medical Practices Combine Eastern, Western Medicine

By on September 11th, 2013
Dr. Angeli Maun Akey (far right) cuts the ribbon at the open house of her North Florida Integrative Medicine center. Akey’s practice is part of the growing integrative medicine trend.

Beatrice Dupuy / WUFT News

Dr. Angeli Maun Akey (far right) cuts the ribbon at the open house of her North Florida Integrative Medicine center. Akey’s practice is part of the growing integrative medicine trend.

More Gainesville primary care centers are putting checkups and acupuncture under one roof.

The growing trend of integrative medicine combines Western scientific medical practices with alternative treatments. Patients can now receive basic primary care and take part in a culture of healing therapies for the mind, body and spirit in a one-stop-shop for health.

More than 42 percent of responding hospitals indicated they offer one or more complimentary and alternative medicine therapies, up from 37 percent in 2007, according to a 2011 study by the American Hospital Association.

This combination of medical care changes the way patients are treated, Dr. Angeli Maun Akey said. On Friday, she unveiled her North Florida Integrative Medicine Center in Silverleaf Office Park, 6224 NW 43rd St.

Her practice, staffed with Chinese medicine and acupuncturist physicians, a clinical psychologist who teaches tai chi, a medical aesthetician and two massage therapists. The center offers primary care and specialties in integrative medicine, a holistic approach to treating patients.

Akey, who is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, said she’s looking to add chiropractors to her practice as well.

“I had been thinking about this for a really long time and it’s beautiful that it’s coming to pass now,” she said.  “It’s the fulfillment of 20 years of a dream to bring all these specialties together under one roof.”

For Akey, integrative medicine is a natural balance stemming from both her cultural and educational backgrounds. Akey, who is Asian, grew up in a culture of healing, prevention and herbs, but received a medical education and training at the University of Florida and Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

Akey said her integrative medicine team meets a few times a month to confidentially discuss a patient’s condition and present the possible western and eastern approaches to solving the problem.

“I think it’s very effective in terms of healing the particular person,” she said. “Here we’re not only using multiple brains, we’re using multiple healing traditions.”

UF’s integrative medicine program, which started in August, is still in its early stages. The UF Health Integrative Medicine Program offers yoga, massage therapy, martial arts and meditation to inpatients.

Dr. Irene M. Estores is the medical director of the program. At this time, Estores is the only physician in the integrative medicine program providing integrative medicine consultation and medical acupuncture.

“This is a very exciting thing that’s happening at UF Health right now,” she said. “It’s not just doctors telling you to take a pill and go get surgery, and you will get well. It’s an entirely different way of practicing medicine, that’s not just medicine but whole person care.”

Integrative medicine is commonly being used to combat chronic disease. Dr. Siegfried Schmidt, professor and medical director in the UF College of Medicine’s Department of Community Health and Family Medicine said modern medicine is not doing enough for chronic disease.

“The promise of integrative medicine is very good right now,” he said. “Because we’re seeing an increase in chronic conditions, patients are rightfully asking what else can be done that modern medicine cannot fix.”

But Schmidt, who is also a family medicine physician, stresses the importance of not relying solely on alternative medicine. Patient must seek mainstream care in emergencies and it’s when needed.

“You have to be alert,” he said. “Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

While some may be concerned about the price of integrative medicine, Akey finds integrative medicine to be a growing, cost-effective movement.

“We have given patients too many medications along the way without spending enough time saying how to not end up on the medication,” she said. “It’s a trend that’s going to continue because it’s low budget and high yield, and it’s good for the patients.”

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