Alternative Medicine Pioneers Created Breakthroughs for Modern Medicine

Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a board certified cardiologist, describes himself as an “integrative cardiologist”. That is, he prefers to treat heart disease by using the best of both conventional and alternative medicine.

Dr. Sinatra began studying heart disease from non-traditional perspectives because he noticed that so many of his patients had high-achieving Type A personalities. He took courses in bioenergetic analysis (a field that examines the relationship between the mind and the physical body) and immersed himself in nutrition, learning how vitamins and minerals influence cardiovascular health. With this knowledge, he created Heart MD Institute as an educational resource for disease prevention using lifestyle changes.

His work at the Institute that calls upon his wide experience as a cardiologist, nutrition specialist, certified bioenergetic psychotherapist, and an anti-aging specialist, is responsible for much of the information we now have about alternative medicine. This is particularly true for stress and particularly regarding the heart but also for general good health. Quoting from his blog, Dr. Sinatra explains some of his “integrative” philosophy,

“Good health information is based on all of the facts, not just the ones that support your agenda.”

Another pioneer, Dr. Norm Shealy, founded the first comprehensive pain and stress management clinic in the world. The Shealy Institute was recognized for several years as the most successful and most cost effective pain clinic in the U.S. Over a 30 year period, Dr. Shealy’s clinic has treated over 30,000 chronically ill patients with a remarkable 85% success rate.

Early in his career, Dr. Shealy developed a device called the dorsal column stimulator, which uses small electrical currents to adjust the electromagnetic fields within the spinal column. The cost-effectiveness of Shealy’s treaments for back pain have led to a series of breakthroughs culminating in the discovery of very low levels of a chemical known as DHEA in almost all patients suffering chronic pain. Shealy noted that many of his chronic pain patients were also clinically depressed. Wondering if there was some connection, he went back to school for a Ph.D. in psychology. He then discovered that depressed people also showed a low level of DHEA.

Soon after, he developed a highly successful treatment for chronic clinical depression, again by naturally raising the patients DHEA levels without the use of drugs. This seminal breakthrough in pain treatment laid one of the cornerstones of modern alternative medicine by proving the mind/body connection.

Perhaps the earliest of the pioneers in the field, Dr. Bernie Siegel, retired from practice as an assistant clinical professor of general and pediatric surgery at Yale University in 1989 so he could devote his time to speaking to patients and their caregivers. But way back in 1978, he originated Exceptional Cancer Patients, a specific form of individual and group therapy utilizing patients’ drawings, dreams, images and feelings. ECaP is based on “carefrontation,” a safe, loving therapeutic confrontation, which makes him one of the very first converts to alternative medicine by including people’s lives and emotions in their treatment instead of just their bodies.

As a physician, who has cared for and counseled innumerable people threatened by an illness, Bernie (as he prefers to be called) embraces a philosophy of living and dying that challenges traditional medical ethics and brings spiritual issues into consideration along with physical symptoms. His philosophy of good health is a philosophy that includes foremost, thoughts of kindness and love.

These are three very different pioneers of medicine who have all found safe, relatively inexpensive and highly effective combinations of traditional and alternative medicine, and laid a firm foundation for many of the breakthroughs we enjoy today.