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The Integration of Conventional and Alternative Medicine - The Best of Both Worlds


Did you know there are different branches of medicine? Most of us think that there is only the one, called Allopathic Medicine - the branch of medicine that uses the designation of M.D. Yet many more branches are coming into more frequent use in today's Western world of medicine. These are often called "Alternative Medicine". Some of these branches are Naturopathic, Homeopathic, Ayurvedic, Osteopathic, Chiropractic, Chinese, and more. In this article, we present the similarities and differences between doctors trained in Conventional and Alternative Medicine and illustrate how they collaborate with one another to provide effective medical care for patients. At Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, we integrate three of the branches of medicine: Allopathic, Homeopathic and Naturopathic Medicine so our patients can receive the best medical care possible.

Allopathic Medicine, commonly referred to as “conventional medicine”, is a system of medicine that aims to combat disease through the suppression of symptoms by the use of pharmaceutical drugs or surgery. The doctors who practice Allopathic Medicine have the designation M.D. after their name and are often referred to as Medical Doctor.

Homeopathic Medicine is a holistic form of medicine aimed to restore the body to its natural state and healthy balance by prescribing a remedy designed to stimulate the body's internal healing process rather than to suppress the symptoms using pharmaceutical drugs. Homeopathic Medicine is a system of treatment that is based on Law of Similars, “like cures like”; meaning a substance which can cause symptoms of illness in a well person, can, when given in a very diluted miniscule amounts, eliminate those very same or similar symptoms in an ill person. A remedy is prescribed to an individual based on his or her unique state of physical, mental and emotional well-being. Two people with severe headaches, for example, might not receive the same remedies. Allopathic Doctors (M.D.) who are licensed in Arizona as Homeopathic Physicians have the designation M.D.(H) after their name and are often referred to as Homeopathic Physicians.

Naturopathic Medicine, also known as "natural medicine", is a type medical system that uses a holistic approach in treating the person addressing the mind, body and spirit of the person instead of treating disease initially with pharmaceutical drugs or surgery. Naturopathic Medicine treats disease states, symptoms and maladies with non-invasive and less toxic treatments encouraging minimal use of pharmaceutical drugs or surgery. The physicians who practice Naturopathic Medicine have the designation N.D. or N.M.D. after their name and are often referred to as Naturopathic Doctor, or Naturopathic Medical Doctor..

A good analogy to understand how Allopathic, Homeopathic and Naturopathic Medicine co-exist is to consider medicine as analogous to a tree with many branches with each branch representing a different philosophy of medicine. In this case, three of the branches represent Allopathic, Homeopathic and Naturopathic Medicine, with each branch of medicine having its own tools and methodologies sharing a common trunk and root of medicine, the healing arts, which is to protect and improve a patient's health.

The primary differences between the two disciplines are in the philosophical approach and the therapies they use in their practice:

Allopathic Doctors address and treat the symptoms of disease rather than the source of the illness by using pharmaceutical drugs or surgery. They are best at doing interventional medicine, which is treating acute and emergency conditions. Depending on their medical training, Allopathic Doctors are either general practitioners such as primary care/family doctor, or specialists such as allergist, cardiologist, dermatologist, endocrinologist, Emergency Room doctor, Ears-Nose-Throat doctor, surgeon, etc.

Naturopathic and Homeopathic Doctors use a holistic approach when treating patients. They examine the environment, lifestyle, physical and emotional well-being of individual patients to address the root causes of the disease and use natural, non-invasive and non-toxic therapies as treatments. Some of the therapies used are nutritional supplements, herbal supplements, I.V. (intravenous) nutritional therapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, minor surgery, physical medicine among others. They use pharmaceutical drugs as a last resort. They are best at getting results with treating chronic conditions and preventing disease. Naturopathic Doctors are trained to be primary care physicians. Homeopathic Doctors may come from many disciplines.

Both kinds of physicians can diagnose a disease, predict its course and prescribe treatment. The essential difference between the two is the method of treatment they prescribe.

They both are required to obtain a college degree with emphasis in pre-med before entering medical school. They study biomedical sciences at a four-year accredited graduate medical school, with a curriculum composed of rigorous biomedical sciences covering anatomy, biochemistry, cardiology, dermatology, embryology, histology, immunology, microbiology, minor surgery, neurosciences, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, laboratory and physical diagnosis, clinical case analysis, and others.

The first two years of their medical training are essentially the same. The final two years are different in that Allopathic Doctors do clinical training in hospitals with primary focus on conventional therapeutics, whereas Naturopathic Doctors do clinical training in outpatient clinics covering both alternative and conventional therapeutics.

Furthermore, in their final two years of clinical training, Allopathic Doctors are involved with direct patient care, with clinical rotations in both outpatient and hospital settings, covering conventional medical treatments in the operating room, the hospital wards, the radiology suites and outpatient clinics and offices. Naturopathic Doctors are also involved with direct patient care, with clinical rotations in the outpatient setting, covering diverse areas in general conventional medicine and alternative medicine such as acupuncture, botanical medicine, clinical nutrition/IV nutritional therapy, environmental medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, minor surgery, physical medicine and others.

The primary differences between an Allopathic Doctor and a Homeopathic Physician are in the philosophical approach and the therapies they use in their practice.

Allopathic Doctors (M.D) who also trained in Homeopathic Medicine (MD(H) are required to take extra post-graduate training, and pass a written Homeopathic Examination in order to be licensed as a Homeopathic Physician. In the State of Arizona, a Homeopathic Physician can incorporate the following modalities for which they are trained in their practice: acupuncture, heavy metal chelation therapy, homeopathy, minor surgery, neuromuscular integration, nutrition, and orthomolecular therapy.

Furthermore, Homeopathic Physicians share similar philosophies and modalities with Naturopathic Physicians in that they treat the whole person.

Despite how they were medically trained, our doctors at Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine share a common ground in that they practice Functional Medicine. Functional Medicine emphasizes treating the patient and not the disease by using a systems biology approach to analyze how all of the components of an individual's biological system, lifestyle and environment interact with each other. The doctors use all the tools of healing from both conventional and other branches of medicine, and apply Functional Medicine to identify and address the root causes of disease by treating the body as a whole integrated system rather than an isolated set of symptoms.

Our doctors at Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine believe Functional Medicine is the best approach to restore the function and balance to the body. We call it good medicine.

The Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine is truly an integrative medical practice composed of a collaboration of Doctors and Associates who are trained and licensed in both Conventional and Alternative Medicine.

Martha Grout, M.D., M.D.(H) is trained as an Emergency Room Physician with unique background training in dual licensure in Allopathic and Homeopathic Medicine, and with clinical training in both conventional and alternative medicine.

Deborah Marie Murphy, PA-C is a Physician Assistant with training in women's health, asthma, integrative cancer therapy and allergy management.

Steven Swerdfeger, PhD, CH is a Practitioner of Hypnosis and Guided Imagery with emphasis in treating people with phantom limb pain, anxiety and depression, phobias, chronic pain, elimination of recurrent and/or unwanted patterns, the enhancement of abilities, and the management and reduction of stress.

Nancy Wigton, M.A., LPC, BCN, QEEGT is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Board Certified Neurofeedback therapist with emphasis in using Neurofeedback as a viable alternative to drugs in the treatment of Attention Deficit related issues, Anxiety and Depression related disorders, and Learning related issues.

At Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, we understand that each patient is unique, so his or her treatment needs to be tailored individually. Our primary goal is to ensure each patient receives the best medical care possible by integrating Conventional and Alternative Medicine under one roof so that every patient benefits from the best of both worlds.