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Helping a New Generation of Integrative and Holistic Veterinarians

Story at-a-glance -

  • Today, Dr. Becker concludes her discussion with two doctors from the integrative veterinary medicine service at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine: Dr. Donna Raditic, head of the service, and Dr. Danielle Conway, the first veterinary school graduate to receive a two-year fellowship with Dr. Raditic’s integrative medicine program.
  • In today’s conversation, the doctors discuss the misconception that alternative and complementary therapies are some new fad, as well as the need for veterinarians to remember that a thorough physical exam is a powerful diagnostic tool.
  • Dr. Conway advises veterinary students to develop very solid skills in conventional practices first, and then start learning and incorporating complementary and alternative therapies that appeal to them. Both Dr. Raditic and Dr. Conway believe veterinary students also need to focus on taking good care of themselves.
  • They both also see a bright future for integrative veterinary medicine. They feel it’s a matter of making integrative medicine, including complementary therapies, the standard of care.
  • Through November 9, 2014, all your donations to help fund an ongoing integrative veterinary medicine fellowship at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine will be automatically doubled. For every $1 you donate, Mercola Healthy Pets will donate an additional $1, up to $50,000.

By Dr. Becker

Welcome to part 2 of my conversation with two doctors who work in integrative veterinary medicine at the University of Tennessee. The first is Dr. Donna Raditic, who is a clinical assistant professor at the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Raditic heads up the integrative medicine service and also works in the veterinary nutrition service. Dr. Danielle Conway is an integrative medicine fellow at the College of Veterinary Medicine, working under Dr. Raditic’s guidance.

Yesterday in part 1, we discussed Dr. Raditic’s new two-year integrative medicine fellowship program and Dr. Conway’s participation since July of this year as the “inaugural” fellow. Dr. Conway also shared with us one of her most memorable experiences as a brand new veterinarian. That led to a discussion of the importance of physical examinations, and the fact that training in complementary therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage help holistic and integrative veterinarians learn to find many problems in an animal’s body simply by using their hands during a thorough physical exam.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies Aren’t a New Fad

I asked Dr. Raditic where she sees integrative veterinary medicine heading from this point forward, now that we have an integrative service like hers at UT. She believes it will be a matter of continuing to raise awareness among members of the veterinary community, as well as pet owners.

Dr. Raditic also thinks things will come full circle when people realize complementary and alternative therapies aren’t some new fad. For example, the physical exam has been used throughout the history of veterinary medicine very effectively. So in many ways, it’s about remembering we can still use simple, non-invasive, hands-on techniques to help diagnose and heal patients.

Dr. Raditic also believes the bigger picture involves our own health care. Veterinary students are under a lot of pressure and stress, what with training to be doctors and carrying a big student debt load. They need to learn how to take care of themselves along with their patients.

Part of what Dr. Raditic sees her integrative medicine program involved in is the whole One Health concept. A lot of people have been talking about the concept, but it hasn’t gone anywhere yet. Her vision is that it could be part of her department’s role to make it go somewhere. It’s about unifying healthcare – being conscious in caring not just for animal patients, but also for ourselves.

Dr. Conway Has Some Advice for Veterinary Students Interested in Integrative Medicine

Next, I asked Dr. Conway if she has any words of wisdom for students who are planning to become veterinarians and are interested in integrative medicine. Her advice is to get very solid in conventional therapies and treatment first, including biochemistry, physiology, and anatomy. It’s important to be very strong in those areas as scientists and clinicians.

Then they can start pulling in complementary and alternative modalities that really speak to them and learn to use those along with conventional approaches. “It’s really fun to be able to flip them back and forth,” says Danielle. You begin to understand how they interconnect -- for example, Chinese medicine and physiology. Or you may learn something in an internal medicine course that closely aligns with something you’re learning in a course on herbal remedies.

She also advises students to get involved in other activities. Being a veterinary student is very stressful, so it’s important not to get bogged down doing nothing but studying and worrying about your debt load. Take breaks, take in the world around you, and take good care of yourself. And always remember the learning goes on forever. No one graduates from veterinary school an expert on everything he or she will ever need to know.

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The Future of Integrative Medicine Programs in Veterinary Schools

Danielle is the first fellow in Dr. Raditic’s two-year program and hopefully, the program will continue, offering other students the same wonderful opportunity to learn complementary and alternative medicine in a conventional veterinary setting.

I asked Dr. Raditic if she thinks other veterinary schools will in the future offer the same type of integrative fellowship program. She believes they will, because at some point it will be necessary for them to do so from a One Health perspective.

The veterinary profession is growing and changing and becoming more inclusive. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) now recognizes the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), which is real progress.

Dr. Conway believes it’s a matter of making integrative medicine, including complementary therapies, the standard of care rather than a last-ditch alternative for pets for whom conventional medicine hasn’t worked. Seeing patients as puppies and kittens and embarking on a proactive approach to their lifelong health care is the goal. To do that, integrative programs must be available in every veterinary school. And good-quality research needs to be done. Danielle says, “That’s how I think we’re really gong to change hearts and minds, and convince veterinarians to incorporate complementary medicine into everyday practice.”

How You Can Help

I appreciate so much the work Dr. Raditic has done to develop her integrative medicine service at UT, and also her two-year fellowship program. And Danielle is a wonderful first fellow for the program. She’ll have the opportunity to make a tremendous difference in the health and well-being of animals for years to come, in no small part due to the experiences she’ll have over the next two years working with Dr. Raditic.

We in the holistic and integrative veterinary community are very grateful the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine has not only an integrative medicine service, but a fellowship program as well. In the future, we hope to help establish many more such programs across the U.S. and beyond.

I’m excited to announce that now through November 9, 2014, all your donations to help fund an ongoing integrative veterinary medicine fellowship at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine will be automatically doubled. For every $1 you donate, Mercola Healthy Pets will donate an additional $1, up to $50,000. So please, take a moment right now make a donation to the fellowship program.

Donate Today!

When you reach the Give to UTIA page, you’ll need to click the button for “I want to see other giving options” and type in Integrative Medicine in the box. Thank you!