Skip to main content

How Integrative Medicine Changes Lives

Dec 26, 2013 11:29AM ● By Megy Karydes

From a very young age, it was a love of science and a fascination with the human body that drove Dr. Katherine A. Thurer to become a physician, but it wasn’t until she had an acupuncture treatment following college that she realized there was more to healing than the traditional Western approach. “I wasn’t just getting stuck with needles,” she says, “I left feeling better and curious about how this worked.”

With that seed of curiosity firmly planted, Thurer went on to complete medical school at the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1999. Attracted to a career where she could have an ongoing relationship with her patients, Thurer chose obstetrics and gynecology, completing her residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles.

“Western medicine is great for things like trauma and cancer, but it doesn’t always address all aspects of chronic illnesses like polycystic ovarian disease or pelvic pain,” notes Thurer. The doctor says she practices integrative medicine because it allows her to look at the body as a whole and delve deeper into the root cause of the problem, instead of simply prescribing a pill.

Working at the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern as an integrative gynecologist has been a dream come true for Thurer. An integrative approach to healing gives the patient access to the collaborative efforts of multiple providers while using the best in Western medicine, combined with other proven, time-tested practices. “A patient may have thyroid issues, fatigue or chronic stress, and these all play a role when it comes to hormones,” says Thurer. Having access to healthcare providers with other specialties within the same office is a benefit to patients.

Thurer also is pleased that she’s able to perform in-office surgical procedures for conditions such as heavy bleeding and permanent birth control in an environment that is more calming than a typical hospital operating room. “If a patient is nervous, even if it’s for a routine exam, I’ll often use lavender essential oil to help the body relax and promote peacefulness,” she says.

As a gynecologist, Thurer sees patients with medical needs ranging from regular annual check-ups to helping them navigate complex health issues. While she always asks patients about their history and current issues they might be experiencing, she wishes more of her patients wouldn’t feel embarrassed asking about topics like a low sexual libido or urinary incontinence.

Thurer also has found that some holistic treatments have benefited her patients significantly. “Unfortunately, the traditional Western medical solution to a lot of gynecological issues is the birth control pill,” she says. “I often see patients who have been on the pill for a decade and who are not in tune with their bodies. Other patients are in their 20s and are not having regular menstrual cycles. Lifestyle modifications, Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture have proven beneficial to my patients.”

To stay current with developments within her field, Thurer continues her medical education by attending conferences, reading medical journals and working with Northwestern Memorial OB/GYN residents and medical students that often shadow or accompany her in surgery and the office. Medicine is always changing, and the continual learning and discovery of new and effective ways to treat patients is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her career.

Thurer loves to do yoga and often recommends it to her patients. She says the benefits received from incorporating yoga are one of the reasons she pursued a career in integrative medicine.

To schedule an appointment to see Dr. Katherine A. Thurer at the the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern, located at 500 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 450, in Chicago, call 312-276-1212 or visit