Multimedical: Opening to holistic, alternative approaches to health

I’m a modern medicine junkie. The more degrees and certificates my doctors hang their office walls, the better I feel and the more I trust them.

I know that’s not the case for many of my neighbors. Whether near the foothills in my Ohio hometown on the other side of these Appalachians, or here in Asheville, I encounter neighbors and friends that have a certain amount of disdain and distrust of “all that book learning” that comes with modern medicine. They have always trusted in — or are just beginning to explore — other forms of healing and treatment.

I thought the best place to begin this inquiry would be with one of those degreed people that put so much faith in, my own doctor, Julie Bass-Ransom, a physician assistant at Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville. She shared with me how many of her patients, from all sorts of backgrounds, take advantage of all kinds of medicines, therapies and remedies that don’t come directly from modern Western medical practice.

While not all of her patients have had positive results in every case — like one patient who had to be referred to a specialist after being treated by a bone-setter — Bass-Ransom’s experience is that homegrown treatments do work. “I try to meet them where they’re at. If certain treatments are working for them, I don’t want to say they’re wrong,” says Bass-Ransom. “I do take as holistic an approach as we in Western medicine can take and stay within the boundaries of our training, which I think is a good thing.”

Bass-Ransom also said a spiritual approach can be beneficial. “Access to a shamans or any other kind of healer seems to be helpful for many people. I think connection to others is very important, no matter the case.” This connection to others and trust in sources outside of modern practice, can be the key to a better, healthier outcome for many. Perhaps it is no surprise then, that most modern medical facilities and hospitals don’t employ doctors and nurses, exclusively. One can find all sorts of other healers — chaplains, Reiki practitioners, yoga teachers, even many volunteers — that help people create and find those connections that lead to better results.

As much as my fellow modern-medicine enthusiasts may want to believe otherwise, Bass-Ransom says that modern approaches to diagnoses and treatments aren’t always going to help everyone. In some cases, medical technologies may reveal a great deal of information, but might not do a lot of help. “You can go pay right now to have your whole body scanned, but then what will you know?” says Bass-Ransom, who questions whether a fixation on certainty, precision and proving is going to improve life and health. “We do still call it the art of medicine,” she points out. 

I would add that medicine is also called a practice. And sometimes, the best practices come from places beyond modern medical schools, hospitals and offices. I hesitate to admit it, but I think sometimes it really doesn’t matter how many degrees and certificates a person has on their walls. Many people find that they trust in other healers and feel better with other therapies — isn’t that always the best outcome?

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