"We're riding the wave of the future of medicine," said Josh Geetter, an acupuncturist and practitioner of Oriental medicine. "We're practicing real-time integrative medicine."
Geetter has teamed up with David Homer, M.D., a practitioner of conventional western medicine, to offer the Integrative Medical Clinic, held Tuesdays from 4-7 p.m. in Homer's main street offices.
"What we're doing isn't necessarily cutting edge," said Homer. "It's being done elsewhere." In fact, the University of Arizona in Tucson now offers a degree program in Integrative Medicine.
While Oriental medicine is gaining wider acceptance, having a western medicine doctor and an oriental practitioner working together with a patient is uncommon.
More common is the practice of faxing and emailing reports "back and forth between the patient and the medical professionals," said Geetter.
"The patients coming to our clinic feel well taken care of," he added. "They have two professionals doting on them for an hour. A lot of the åhealing' is in feeling so well cared for."
The idea for the clinic grew from patients who felt they had "hit a brick wall" with Western medicine, according to Homer. Either they have exhausted the medical options Western medicine provides or are looking for alternatives to manufactured drugs.
"We have great respect for each other's bodies of medicine," said Geetter. "We realize our practices cover different scopes, and thus, each has certain limitations. Our goal with the clinic is to utilize each other's scopes for the benefit of our shared patients."
Geetter views Western medicine as crisis oriented and Oriental medicine as strongly preventative. "Integrative medicine falls somewhere in between," he said.
"It used to be called åalternative' or åcomplementary' medicine," said Geetter, "but now the role of Oriental medicine in the successful treatment of many conditions has been recognized and elevated by the medical community;" hence the term integrative.
Unlike the Wednesday acupuncture clinics at the Ah Haa School where Geetter sees several patients at one time in a traditional open setting, Homer and Geetter see one patient at a time and by appointment.
"We see three patients each week," said Geetter, "one for each hour of the clinic."
At the first consultation Homer and Geetter review the patient's file and discuss the ailment and specific treatments. Geetter also begins an oriental medical treatment at that initial meeting.
"I am very result-oriented," said Geetter, "as are most people. I believe it's important to start treatment at that very first meeting. We're not messing around."
Geetter then sets up a course of treatment with the patient over the next several weeks, consulting with Homer for blood work and any medical testing that needs to be done. In order for many of the Oriental medicine treatments to be covered by insurance, a doctor's prescription is required.
"Josh thought he was using me" to get paid by the insurance companies, said Homer, "but really I'm using him."
Homer has been a patient of Geetter's as well. "The idea for the clinic came about partly through me being successfully treated by Josh," he said.
After initial tests at the clinic, all three ≠ both doctors and patient ≠ reconvene at a later date to assess how the treatment is progressing.
Kate Carpenter is one of the duo's happy patients. Diagnosed with Crohn's Disease six years ago, Carpenter has been constantly in search of new ways to treat her illness, a severe inflammation of the bowel that has no known cause or cure.
"Dr. Homer is my family doctor, so he has been involved since my original diagnosis," said Carpenter. "He referred me to several doctors, including a great specialist in Durango." Another local medical practitioner, chiropractor John Belka, suggested she try acupuncture and recommended Geetter. "Back in the spring, I started seeing Josh and went to him for 10 sessions," said Carpenter. "I've been in remission since then."
Carpenter has attended several of the clinics with Homer and Geetter and expressed a great appreciation for their combined work.
"This is a learning process for all of us," said Carpenter. "They have been on the forefront of searching out information about the disease and how it affects people. I've been asked how I know I'm seeing the right doctors, and I say I know by the way I feel."
Carpenter believes their proactive approach to the disease has been key to her remission. "They are searching out new and different ways to practice medicine," said Carpenter. "Don't let them fool you, they are cutting edge.
"Josh has a way of helping you listen to your body and senses a way of directing your body to heal itself," she added. "They are my team, seeking out ways to make me healthier. It's all about asking åwhat if?'," said Carpenter, meaning not standing by conventional medicine even when it isn't getting results.
She mentioned the Federal Drug Administration's recent action of pulling Vioxx off the market, and to new studies linking Prozac to the increased risk of suicide in teens who take the drug. "You know what you are getting with organic and herbal remedies," Carpenter said.
Both doctors acknowledge the fine line that must be walked when combining western and oriental medicine. According to Homer, working so closely with Geetter allows the duo to carefully monitor a patient's treatment and provide a healthy balance between herbal remedies and other drug dosages.
"We've been very successful with orthopedic post-op recovery, back pain and fertility issues," said Geetter. Patients with such serious conditions like AIDS, hepatitis, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's have seen progress as well.
"We're actually building research evidence on how integrative medicine is having success with some of these diseases," said Homer. "We plan to eventually publish our results."
A person need not be a previous patient of either Geetter or Homer to come to the clinic. Interested persons can contact either one to schedule an appointment. "The clinic is growing by word of mouth," said Homer. If and when the need arises, they are willing to increase the hours of the clinic.
"We're still muddling through some of the logistics," said Geetter, from how much to charge for the clinic and whether they both should charge to who has liability and where the clinic is held. Right now a patient can expect to pay a fee to each practitioner for the initial consultation, and then one fee during the treatment phase; the fee structure varies from case to case, however.
The clinic is held at Dr. Homer's office at 135 W. Colorado Ave. Appointments can be made by calling Homer at 728-6654 or Geetter at 728-6084.