Focuses on Person-Centered Holistic Care
As a leading provider for integrative health services in a nurturing and empowering environment, The Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern, in Chicago, combines the best of Western medicine with holistic healing approaches to create a system of health and wellness that honors the whole person. Raby’s medical director, Theri Griego Raby, M.D., founded the Institute in 2008 and is continually elevating awareness and understanding of the efficacy of integrative medicine to her patients, as well as the larger community.
“In integrative medicine, we work collaboratively with the patient to ensure they have a sense of ownership over their health. Treatments and care plans are tailored to the individual. We look at a person’s diet, exercise habits, genetic makeup, sleep patterns, and lab tests to get an overall assessment of their wellness in every area- emotionally, culturally, spiritually, physically, physiologically, biochemically, genetically, and nutritionally,” says Raby. The multidisciplinary team of providers at Raby includes primary care physicians, a pediatrician, a gynecologist, psychotherapists, a naturopath, an acupuncturist, a naprapath and a massage therapist, all who consult with one another to ensure a comprehensive treatment approach.
Dominic Patawaran, M.D., Raby’s board-certified primary care family practice physician, does conventional care as well as integrative and functional consults. In part, his role is to look at a patient’s overall care and treatment and see where there are gaps. “While a specialist might just focus on one aspect of a person’s health, I look how it all fits together,” he says. Through routine screenings, annual exams, and talking with his patients, he takes an integrative approach in combining holistic and conventional medicine.
“I look at a patient’s genetic predispositions, their general lifestyle, diet, exercise habits, and other factors that affect their health. From a functional medicine perspective, I always am looking for the root cause of a disease. As much as possible, I try to recommend natural therapies but with a medicinal dosage. For example, turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory and can be used daily for prevention and maintenance, but for someone with chronic inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis, I might suggest they take four times a regular dose,” he says.
An integrative approach to medicine stresses patient education so that they can begin to make healthy choices for themselves. Raby tries to spend as much time as possible with her patients answering their questions and asking her own. “We find out as much as possible so that we see the whole picture. For example, a person who was born via C-section is at a higher risk for allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases. At the same time, bodies are so forgiving and small changes can make a big difference. People who have been on medications for years can often see similar results with just a few simple changes to their diet or lifestyle. Part of my job as a doctor is to be an educator. My goal is to decode complex medical terms, diagnosis and treatment plans to increase patient compliance and understanding,” says Raby.
Finding out why a patient is having symptoms is just as important as coming up with a cure or treatment. Katherine Chavez, ND, is the naturopathic doctor at Raby, and says that a patient’s lifestyle is often at the root of illnesses or ailments. She guides her patients to make lifestyle modifications, such as stress reduction and changes in diet and exercise, to encourage a patient’s self-healing processes. “Our bodies are communicating with us all the time, and when they’re not functioning well, they will tell us. Small changes in our habits can yield a big difference,” she says.
Chavez acknowledges that it can be arduous to change lifelong patterns. “One of the biggest problems I see is a lack of sleep. The average person gets six and a half hours of sleep a night, and I recommend my patients aim for seven-and-a-half to eight. This is one of the easiest, and also most difficult, patterns to change, but when you achieve a state of deep sleep your body has a chance to heal itself. It produces cortisol, a stress hormone that can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even increase the risk of autoimmune disease. With a lack of sleep, you’re groggy and not able to focus during the day and usually end up turning to sugar for a quick pick me up. We are simply not designed to eat the quantity of sugar we currently do; this alone leads to many of the chronic problems we suffer from as a culture,” Chavez says. She educates her patients on proper sleep hygiene and how it impacts a person’s overall health.
The whole team at Raby works under the principles of empowerment, transparency, vitality, accountability and mutuality. The relationship between the providers and patient is emphasized to build trust, communication and partnership. “Whole-person healing is the consideration of all factors that influence health, wellness, disease and prevention, including mind, spirit, community and environment, as well as body,” says Raby.
The Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern is located at 500 N. Michigan Ave, Ste. 2100, in Chicago. For more information, visit RabyIntegrativeMedicine.com or call 312-276-1212. See ad on this page and in the Community Resource Guide.
Carrie Jackson is an Evanston-based writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect with her at CarrieJacksonWrites.com.