Hi! I am the founder and physician at Spruce MD, an integrative medicine practice in Greenville, SC. I am a traditional, allopathic-trained physician in internal medicine, meaning the letters MD are behind my name. I practiced as a hospitalist for the last seven years where I cared for incredibly ill patients admitted to the hospital – patients on breathing tubes, receiving IV antibiotics, requiring blood transfusions, etc.
There was something missing, though. I was healing patients from their acute illnesses but their chronic diseases were worsening and multiplying. Patients were able to walk out of the hospital after massive heart attacks, but in addition to the hypertension and diabetes diagnoses they already had, cardiovascular disease and dyslipidemia were added to their medical problem list. Patients were returning home to their same lifestyles of soda addictions, fast food meals, hours in front of the TV and stress ridden days. This realization was frustrating. I went into inpatient medicine so that I could heal people. That’s every physician’s objective, right? The problem is, while I was treating patients’ acute problems, their overall health trajectory remained poor and unchanged. Despite my attempts at education, I wasn’t making any long-term effect on their overall health.
It was at some point of frustration during these years that I began envisioning my ideal clinic. Prevention was the mainstay of treatment, with a focus on nutrition and fitness. Lifestyle changes were implemented before handing over prescriptions. Patients knew me by name and there was a partnership in the established health plans.
Fast forward a few years and Spruce MD now exists. It is a smaller version of that dream with plans for growth. Spruce MD is a direct primary care (DPC) structured integrative medicine practice. Patients pay a monthly membership fee for access to physician assessments, registered dietician evaluations, advanced lab testing, direct communication with providers, and individualized health plans. Integrative modalities of treating the body, mind and spirit are utilized.
So what is integrative medicine? My favorite analogy is that integrative medicine is a marriage between conventional (allopathic) medicine and alternative approaches to healing. It is evidence-based, stresses the importance of the relationship between the patient and the practitioner, and treats the whole person. The focus is not to simply treat a disease or complaint, but instead to dig deeper into the root cause of that problem. It is personalized medicine with the goal of eliminating diseases instead of simply adding more pills to treat symptoms. Integrative providers still prescribe medications when appropriate, but often focus on assessment of one’s nutrition, stress management or fitness routine as an initial step.
The patient-physician relationship is paramount in integrative medicine. Medical care is a partnership with both sides developing and implementing a treatment plan. This cannot be accomplished in the typical physician office’s ten minute time slot. Instead, initial visits at Spruce MD are typically around 60 minutes. By establishing a more complete patient-provider relationship, individualized care can be provided, rather than treatment based simply off symptoms or illness.
The reason I stepped away from insurance-driven health care into a cash-based practice was to spend quality time getting to know and treat my patients. I wanted to make an impact in the health of others and this model allows me to provide the best care to my patients. Unfortunately, insurance does not cover extended preventative care visits, direct communication with providers and time spent on education about disease – yet these are the things that matter most when optimizing one’s health. Paying on the front-end saves my patients money and quality years lived on the back-end. By identifying chronic diseases in the early stages, we can often work toward complete reversal of disease – and often without prescription medications! As Americans, we often forget that our health is the most important thing we have – more so than the monthly Starbucks tab, entertainment budget or the newest Apple device. We dish out money for salon visits and eating out on the regular, but maybe some of that money should be rerouted to receiving health care in the most personalized way possible.
Spruce MD is a practice born out of a vision to make a difference in patients’ lives. by empowering patients with healthy habits and treatment to improve their quality of life. We would love to have you as a patient! If you live out of state, we have a place for you too. While the initial visit needs to be in person at our clinic in Greenville, SC, telemedicine visits are an option for follow-up meetings. Come visit and see what personalized medicine is all about!