Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Interview With Dr. Katiraei

Many of our Barefoot Mamas have raved about Dr. Katiraei and his wholisitc pediatric clinic. For those of you who aren't familiar with Dr. Katiraei he has generously taken the time to interview with us and tell us more about his practice and why holistic medicine is so important to him.

Tell me a little about yourself.
I was born in Iran. I was the curious child who loved taking things apart to learn how they worked. This curiosity still drives me today. My family and I got a chance to learn the meaning of freedom when the Iranian regime changed and caused enough persecution to drive us from Iran to the United States. We settled in the Southern California area, where all my family still lives. Many things interest me. I have enjoyed building things, gardening, reading, traveling, and even sky diving. The most important task I have ever undertaken in my life is learning mindfulness. Mindfulness is the process of transcending the ego, its attachments and judgments, and learning a greater appreciation for the miracle of life. Like many others, I believe we can solve many of our problems and conflicts if we can step beyond an ego driven state. The amazing beauty and potential of human being is perhaps yet to be realized.

What made you decide to go inot wholistic medicine?
I do not think it is fair to say that I chose pediatrics or holistic medicine. Rather, it would be more appropriate to say that they chose me. Early in undergraduate, I knew I wanted to go into medicine. Afew of my friends encouraged me to explore osteopathic medicine. I became intrigued by the idea that the body can heal itself if restrictions within the muscles or bones could be removed. I matriculated into osteopathic medical school at Western University of Health Sciences. Within a few months, I found myself very uncomfortable with the medical information I was being taught, eventhough I could not understand why. Some thing just did not seem right. I got to a point where I considered leaving medicine and going into business administration. At that time, I had no idea that Iwould be interested in working with children. Everything changed within the first few hours of my first pediatrics rotation. It almost seemed like I had entered a magical world where the children had supernatural powers to cast spells on me. These young children were able to transform my reality. I now believe that children had (and still have) this powerful effect on me because they are masters of mindfulness and presence; children are not obsessed about thinking; they are busy just living and enjoying life. They are the greatest testament to the beauty of the human being. Have you ever met a one or two year old child that held a grudge or insisted on remaining angry or upset for any reason? Have you ever met a young child that is concerned about the clothing they wear, a serious deformity they have, or any other aspect of the outer world? As long as a child is fed, warm, and loved - they are always happy. Some of the most impressive human beings I have ever met are children in an oncology unit. They still remember to smile and express joy despite the cancer that they may have or the chemotherapy they are being given.

As with pediatrics, I also had no idea I would ultimately be interested in holistic medicine. I entered residency with little interest in further pursuit of osteopathic medicine or holistic care. During my residency, I explored various pediatric subspecialties and none seemed a right fit. Dr. Sharon Riesen, my Pediatric Residency Program Director at Loma Linda, helped remind me of my osteopathic roots and suggested I explore holistic medicine. I attended a holistic conference and instantly felt a strong interest. Holistic medicine showed me another way to look at medicine and health. Our Western allopathic medicine teaches us that healing typically comes from outside of the body in the form of a medication or surgery. I don't believe this is the entire picture. Before going any further,we do need to acknowledge the fantastic things that have come from modern Western medicine. Our medications do save lives. The skilled hands of a pediatric heart surgeon can perform miracles and fix a heart that would otherwise be incompatible with life. In certain circumstances, our Western medicines and treatments work extremely well.

Now, let's take a step back and try to understand holistic medicine. According to some figures there are anywhere between 10-50 trillion cells in our body. EACH cell must carry out numerous reactions within itself as well as interactions with outside cells. Can you even imagine how much has to take place in one body at any given second for us to even be alive? It is beyond miraculous! Holistic medicine teaches that the body always has the ability to heal itself and that disease only manifests when the natural healing mechanisms fail to function appropriately. It then becomes our job to learn how to help the body overcome a given restriction or problem so that it can start healing itself. This is what the Chinese and Indians have taught for thousands of years. In Chinese medicine there is an old saying. Chinese doctors use to get paid to keep people healthy. When someone got sick, it meant the physician failed at their job and, therefore, did not get paid. Obviously, our system of Western system of medicine is different. Our Western medical model is based on the treatment of disease. Physicians are paid far more for illness diagnosis and treatment than they are for preventative care. In our current system, a physician simply cannot survive financially if all they do is spend lots of time to help patients stay healthy. Many, like me, believe that this model needs to change. We need to bring our focus back onto HEALTH care (not disease care) and do all that is possible to make sure people stay healthy. As mentioned, my job as a holistic practitioner is to understand why the body is unable to heal itself. I am not there to heal anyone. My job is to help the person and their body heal themselves.

Tell me why your clinic is considered "wholistic" rather than"holistic." Is there a difference?
It took us some time to come up with the title of "Pediatric Wholistic Medicine Clinic." The proper spelling is holistic. We chose this alternate spelling to place an emphasis on the whole person. I believe we have a long way to go before we have an adequate understanding of how the human being functions. We may greatly underestimate the degree of interconnection between the body, mind, and spirit. Have you ever heard stories of people who have had spontaneous remission of cancers or of other types of miraculous healings? Are those stories real? If so, how are they possible? Although I am not Christian, I am very interested in healing stories of the New Testament. Were those stories real? If they were, what possibilities in healing can we unravel if we are able to understand how such phenomenon occur? Do we choose to ignore a possibility because it does not fit into our paradigm of understanding? Wasn't there a time that we believed the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth? Let us look at the title "wholistic" from another perspective. What happens when death arrives? Within seconds to minutes, a body that was functioning well for decades suddenly stops working. EVERYTHING starts shutting down, decomposing, and falling apart. Modern medicine speaks of death in terms of the cessation of electrical and chemical activity in the heart, brain, and cells. That is true, but what happens the moment before everything stops? We don't know. The Chinese and Indians explain that there is an essence far greater than us that gives us life. When this essence leaves, death arrives. If this essence is responsible for life, is there a chance that our spiritual health can influence this essence and ultimately have some effect on our physical health? We do not know. This is not to say that illness is due to "sin", but it is to say that our body may function more effectively when we are in a certain state of spiritual "health."

Let us not forget about the mind. We have many people in our Western culture that may obsess about their cholesterol but give no attention to the stress and anger they carry around. Ancient cultures believe there is a connection between the mind and body. We are now finding that stress decreases our immunity. We know that our mind affects our body via various hormones and chemicals. How much influence does the mind really have on the body? Without judgment or unnecessary pressure, my goal is to help families to raise children who are healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

I noticed that you are always quick to respond to your patients and their parents when they contact you. Is there a reason you have made yourself readily available to your patients?
Why should I not make myself available? It is the family that does all the hard work in raising a child. It is the job of a physician to help the family do their job as well as possible. I have had the privilege to work with some of the most caring pediatricians one could ever ask for. I believe most, if not all pediatricians are dedicated to families who depend on them. I don't understand why physicians have become so far removed from the people they serve. Perhaps our modern society and system of medicine have forced this upon the physicians and community. The only sensible thing for me to do is to try to bridge this gap. I give my email and pager out directly to families to allow them to reach me directly if they have any pressing concerns or problems. Medicine should be an intimate part of the community it serves, not isolate in a remote office with multiple barriers to access.

Wholistic medicine is a new concept to not only Loma Linda, but the general area. Did you face challenges in opening up a clinic that was open to alternative treatments?
Wholistic medicine is actually embedded in the roots of Loma Linda University. Loma Linda's motto is "To Make Man Whole." Before Loma Linda was a large academic medical center, it was a health sanitarium that used incredible nutrition, fresh air, and good lifestyle to help people heal. These concepts are not foreign to Adventists who are the third longest living people on this planet. On average, Adventists live 6-10 years longer than others in the same area. Most Adventists, including our administration, believe in holistic care. As such, Loma Linda and the Department of Pediatrics have been very supportive in helping me start this clinic. I am fortunate to be a part of this Institution. We have faced little barriers (insurance coverage, referral bases), but none that cannot be overcome.

What are the most important things you want to convey to everyparent that walks into your office?
The children we raise today will become the adults of tomorrow. The healthier our children are today, the healthier our country will be tomorrow. There is a lot happening to our environment (pollution, toxins..) and with our children (increases in autism, asthma, allergies, ADHD, eczema.) that we do not understand. Let us work together to make sure that our future generation grows to be as healthy as possible. Knowledge is power. Become informed so you can do the best job possible in taking care of the ones you love most!

Where do you see your practice in the next five years?
I would love to see this practice grow into a full holistic center with its own space dedicated to serving the community (Inland Empire) and expanding the holistic services of the San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. I would love to have other holistic practitioners join our team so that we can provide massage, acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, nutritional counseling, biofeedback, behavioral therapy, as well as many other services all in one place. I would love to see this clinic become a place where the community feels at home and comes to interact with one another to learn how to better the health of their children. This clinic could provide lectures and other educational programs for all those who would be interested. I would like to see us create a holistic resource base and library available for all patients and families to use at no cost. I would like to see a holistic center "for the people, by the people" where the community has an actual say in how the clinic is run.

If you could change one thing about modern medicine what would it be? If you could change one thing about wholistic medicine what would it be?I have already explained how I would like modern medicine to change. The only thing I would like to change about holistic medicine is the lack of integrity amongst some people. There are some selfish and greedy individuals in this world. Some of these individuals have learned how to take advantage of others through holistic care. They prey on those who are desperate and looking for any last option to treat a certain disease. They take advantage of others who simply want a more "natural" way to treat a condition or maintain health. There are some practitioners that get carried away with holistic care and practice in an irresponsible manner. Serious diseases like cancers and infections should first be treated with chemotherapy and antibiotics and then with holistic options, and not the other way around. These are some other reasons why this clinic exists - to ensure the health of the patients and community as well as their pocket books.

Contact information:
Pejman Katiraei, DO
Loma Linda University Pediatric Wholistic Medicine Clinic
11370 Anderson Street, B100
Loma Linda, CA 92354
(909) 558-2828

Thank you Dr. Katiraei!

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