As the medical director of Darien Integrative Medicine, I’m often asked by patients how I started my journey into integrative and alternative medicine.
My interest in health and alternative medicine actually began as a child. I grew up with a mom who was a home economics teacher with a keen interest in natural nutrition and followed the teachings of nutritionists such as Carlton Fredericks and Adelle Davis. So, I spent a fair amount of my youth trying to discover which healthy foods such as wheat germ and eggs and she was trying to sneak into my meals.
Apparently, she was influenced by her father – a surgeon in New York City who encouraged whole foods and even bought a cow to supply his family with fresh raw milk. In this environment, I readily developed an interest in nutrition & health and I began reading about alternative medicine in my teens.
I soon became interested in a career in health care, but my natural skepticism led me to wonder whether becoming an MD was the right path for me to follow. The medical care that I saw in the 1970’s often didn’t make sense to me. It seemed as if safer natural alternatives were often ignored. Eventually, a cousin of mine who is a surgeon had a long talk with me. He convinced me that becoming an MD would offer me the best way to achieve my goals.
So, I went off to college, intent on a career in medicine. I received my BA in psychology from Cornell University in 1985 and my MD from Georgetown University in 1990. I completed my family medicine residency at the University of Rochester in 1993. I became a board-certified family physician, but I wasn’t comfortable practicing family medicine in the way that family doctors were supposed to practice, so I did not go directly into primary care. I had begun working as an emergency physician at the end of my residency, so instead, I continued to work in the ER while I tried to find a way to practice medicine the made sense to me.
I went on to become the Assistant Director of an ER and later served as the Medical Director of a group of outpatient health centers. During this period, I learned more about the strengths and weaknesses of modern medicine, both professionally and personally. Many of the patients I saw suffered from chronic illnesses, and I was disappointed to see that their long-term health often improved very little despite “state-of-the-art” medical care that made their test results look better. At the same time, the hours I spent reviewing the medical literature left me puzzled.
It became obvious that many of the most widely used medical treatments had little meaningful scientific backing. Many of these treatments had never been proven to save lives, and they rarely seemed to make people feel better. In fact, I found that many treatments worked by disrupting normal metabolism, often leaving the patient less healthy overall.
I had to find a better way. I began to vigorously pursue my lifelong interests in nutrition and alternative medicine. This journey started with a course in alternative treatments of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia with Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum. This brief course exposed me to a vast new world of nutritional and hormonal research and natural therapies.
My research into these treatments, lead me to the works of some of Western medicine’s great physicians, including Sir William Osler, Broda Barnes, and Eugene and Jacques Hertoghe. I then began pursuing more specialized training and learning directly from top integrative physicians, including Dr. Jefferies, Thierry & Therese Hertoghe, and many others. But I believe that the most important of these learning opportunities came through seeing patients with Therese Hertoghe.
For those who do not know of her, Therese Hertoghe is a fourth-generation hormone expert. Her great-grandfather Eugene has been called the Father of Endocrinology. Her father, Jacques, was a brilliant physician who specialized in natural hormones and her brother Thierry is the president of the International Hormone Society. I was lucky enough to meet her at a medical conference when she came from Belgium to teach in my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut.
Therese Hertoghe is a true expert in medicine and natural hormone treatments. She is also a great teacher. Is Learning at her side, I finally saw the great potential integrative medicine firsthand.
Finally, I had discovered the safe and effective approach that I was looking for. Further research, training, and experience confirmed my belief in the basic principles of proper nutrition, healthy lifestyle, and hormone balance — as the keys to health.
During this time, these issues became more personal as family members suffered from complex medical conditions that did not improve with standard care. In particular, my wife became increasingly fatigued to the point where she could barely get off the couch. She had developed a thyroid condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and then she suffered a miscarriage. She saw specialists and was treated with the standard treatments for this condition, but she did not get well.
At that point, I felt obligated to try to help her, so I began to apply my newfound knowledge to my wife’s thyroid problem. After prescribing a variety of natural and alternative treatments, including Armour Thyroid (a natural hormone medication), my wife experienced excellent results — including 3 new babies.
This range of experiences has helped me understand the strengths and weaknesses of modern medicine and has helped me develop an approach that works better for my patients. By identifying the underlying causes of illness and concentrating on nutrition, hormones, and lifestyle — and remembering that restoring health depends on a healthy balance in mind, body, and spirit — I have been able to help many people improve their health and their lives.
A Note from Dr. Doyle
I have found that the best way to help my patients is to ask the right questions and to offer practical and proven solutions. The process starts with taking a thorough medical history, performing a physical examination, and utilizing the best available tests.
I have found that what you, the patient, tell me through your medical history is the most important step in understanding your health. By first listening to you, I am much better equipped to move forward in making an accurate diagnosis. The next step is a physical examination. Like all doctors, I have been trained to identify specific patterns of symptoms and physical changes that point toward specific diagnoses and underlying causes. In many cases, a thorough medical history and physical examination are all that are needed to make a diagnosis. While many modern doctors now neglect these skills, I find that they remain the cornerstones of safe and effective medical care.
The final step is to use scientific testing – when needed – to further clarify the diagnosis. The key to this step is using tests that most accurately identify the cause and lead to the solution for your problems. The best test is the one that helps me make an accurate diagnosis that leads to effective treatment. I use tests to help make medical decisions, not to replace listening to you and examining you.
To get the best results when dealing with most health problems, I look for the underlying problems contributing to or causing illness. In the case of chronic health problems, I find it best to focus on nutrition, lifestyle and hormones. For example, deficiencies of key nutrients can contribute to many health problems. Similarly, hormone problems, especially hormonal deficiencies or imbalances, are common causes of illness. And an unhealthy lifestyle can, of course, contribute to or cause many health problems. When such problems are identified, the solution is often obvious, if not always easy.
My philosophy is that the safest and most effective way to treat chronic illness is to restore and maintain health in your body as a whole. In many cases, the simple concept is to remove what is eroding your health and replace what’s missing. In the area of nutrients and hormones, I often offer nutritional supplements or bioidentical hormones to restore healthy balance. This approach works best when it is used in the context of a healthy attitude, appropriate exercise along with healthy sleep and eating patterns.
Throughout the process, I remain committed to treating you, not just your numbers. We must always remember the 2 legitimate goals of clinical medicine; helping you live longer and feel better.