Charles Elder, Kaiser Permanente Physician and Complementary Medicine Researcher

Charles Elder, Kaiser Permanente Physician and Complementary Medicine Researcher


I’m Charles Elder and I study Complementary
and Integrative Medicine at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. I was a full-time primary care physician,
practicing conventional medicine for 7 or 8 years, but with time I became a little bit
frustrated with my job because I found that the conventional medicine model was too narrow
for primary care. Over the years, I had familiarized myself
with some complementary and integrative medicine modalities and systems and I sent a proposal
to the leadership of primary care, suggesting that we pilot some of these complementary
approaches to see if our patients would get better results and if we could have improved
patient satisfaction. Patients really liked it, and over time, that
part of my practice grew and grew, such that now it’s become a considerable part of my
practice. Overeating at night is really bad news. I have a referral-based natural health clinic,
which is based upon Ayurveda. And at that clinic I teach them some basic
concepts of self care, diet, daily routine, stress management, exercise and so on. There are people who may have, say chronic
abdominal pain, and may have been to multiple specialists and have had multiple procedures,
and they come to our clinic and learn some very simple dietary prescriptions which enable
them to improve quite a bit. But to really apply these on a larger scale
in our health care system, we really needed more data. WHEN IS COMPLEMENTARY THERAPY MORE EFFECTIVE
THAN CONVENTIONAL THERAPY? In managing chronic musculoskeletal pain,
it’s common to prescribe long-acting opioids on an ongoing basis, but there’s really no
evidence that it works, and in fact, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it’s harmful. On the other hand, acupuncture has been shown
effective, and yet is greatly underutilized by our system. I think complementary and integrative medicine
is becoming more accepted,and one of the things that we can accomplish by doing research in
this area is to help us to understand which of these approaches are most effective and
are most appropriate for integration. WHAT WOULD PEOPLE BE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT
YOU? People are surprised when they learn that
I spend two hours every day with a meditation practice. And people wonder how I find the time, but
the fact of the matter is that when I meditate, then the rest of the day I’m a lot more focused
and effective. And I get a lot more done than I would if
I skipped that practice.

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