Dr V's Personal Story Part 1

A 2008 survey of 12,000 physicians found that only 8% described their morale as positive.  Most said they did not have enough time to spend with patients and half said they planned to reduce the number of patients they would see in the next three years, or stop practicing altogether.    A broken system perpetrated by unhappy doctors, makes for dissatisfied patients.  Today patients are increasingly disillusioned by a medical system that does not take them for more than simply a collection of symptoms to be quickly addressed then rushed out of the office.  The system is indifferent to their needs; they feel unheard.

 A change is long overdue, we need a healthier way to practice medicine that reflects the ideals of every doctor and respects the needs of every patient.  The industry is begging for disruption, so along with my business partner, Ben Ridler founder and CEO of results.com, we created Bloom Integrative Health.  We are here to challenge the status quo while creating a healthier model for doctors and patients alike.

 I grew up in a medical doctors office.  I know the ins and outs, the piles of insurance forms and stressed out nurses cursing you for pawning off another IV insertion onto them. My dad is a GP of over 35 years and my mom, a nurse and health food store entrepreneur.  I witnessed my parent’s successes as well as their deep suffering as they traveled the road of healers turned business people with no prior experience or coaching.  My father is a deeply empathetic man, who feels the pain of his patients almost as his own.  My dad saw everyone, for everything. He was a generalist.  A primary care hero, who took on the hard cases no one else could budge and the patients who had already been to everyone else.  

Never afraid to challenge mainstream thinking, or medical dogma, he also was often attacked.  My father is a true visionary, and his career was a combination of vehement patient activism and educating the public on the dangers of the very profession he had to practice within.  Overworked and underappreciated, orchestrated by a profoundly broken system, it almost broke him as well.  As with many physicians the urge to help others often surpasses the need to look after oneself and the result are frazzled practitioners who end up even less healthy than the patients they are trying to help.

 I had my first stethoscope when I was 8 and always knew I would be either a veterinarian or a doctor.  I grew up harboring a deep fascination of biology and always had a natural intuition about the inner working of the body and natural world.  In high school, without studying I achieved a 5 (the highest possible score) on Advanced Placement/college biology, and upon starting university, was able to take second and third year courses my first semester.

I had my own personal foray into the conventional medical system when, after years of struggling with an eating disorder, I become severely depressed. My first point of contact was the GP at the university health center, who without even asking about my past history, diet (major red flags here, if only she would have asked), sleep (I wasn’t sleeping) or substance use (lots), prescribed me a beginner’s dose of antidepressants and sent me on my way.   After three weeks of mindlessly popping my morning Celexa, all of a sudden I realized I didn’t feel bad anymore.  I didn’t feel good either though.  I didn’t feel anything, I didn't care about anything.  Like being psychologically anesthetized, I no longer cared about school, family or goals, either. I was completely numb.   My doctor, who in my second 20 min appointment, seemed quite frankly relieved that I wasn't bawling my eyes out this time, said she was happy with my progress.  When I commented that I wasn’t, she added Lexapro to the mix and wrote me a referral to a psychiatrist.  

 Every day my poor neurochemistry ran the gauntlet from being bathed in sea of excessive serotonin, the singed tips of my dendrites hardly recovering from surging dopamine before being completely hijacked and dragged into the underworld of a deep benzodiazepine induced sleep.   It was a wild ride.  During the trial of a total of 12 different psych drugs, I ended up being labeled with a bouquet of psychiatric conditions, I harbored a deep hatred for myself and had the scars on my wrists, arms and thighs to prove it.

 At one point I remember sitting in the sunroom of the in-patient ward of a local hospital and realizing again, no one had yet asked me about my sun exposure, diet, hormones, my sleep or exercise habits, alcohol or drug use.  No one had the time to address or understand the underlying mechanisms to my mood disorder.  This story is not at all uncommon. I wasn't a bipolar patient or borderline personality diagnosis. I was a complicated, hormonally driven, media influenced, situationally depressed, nutrient deficient, insomniac teenager, searching for meaning.  No medications prescribed at that point could have cured me.