There are many questions about the field of Integrative Medicine and what it is like to practice in this field. Dr. Leslie Smith knows first hand about the field. She has an interesting story of how integrative medicine actually found her. Now, as the Director of Integrative Medicine and Director of Culinary Medicine, she shares her journey in integrative medicine with the Women in White Coats.
Q: How did you decide to go into your field?
I developed a repetitive stress injury in my arms due to operating with just over a year left to go in my residency training in general surgery. I was in bilateral wrist cock-up splints and horrific pain. Acupuncture was the only thing that worked for me: learning about it made me more and more curious about alternative therapies and stimulated my deep dive into integrative medicine as a field.
Q: How many years did you study and train? Where did you go to school and train?
4 years medical school. 4 years residency. 2 1/2 years Masters in Physiology and Biophysics. 1 year Master’s in Medical Education and same year Fellowship in Surgical Education. 3 1/2 years Master’s equivalent in Traditional East Asian Medicine.
Q: What are somethings you enjoy about your chosen field?
I get lots of time to see patients and focus on whole-body care. I am able to actually fix things. With integrative care, people get better so their pain goes away, their dysmenorrhea/menopausal symptoms, and issues with pregnancy resolve. Digestive issues resolve; energy and sleep improve. It is very gratifying.
Q: What are somethings you wish were different about your chosen field? What are some of the challenges you face within your field? Were there obstacles you had to overcome?
It is considered a part of preventative medicine, so it makes it hard to code and bill for the services I provide. Insurance arguments are common, just like in every field of medicine. Most patients are very curious and open. Some clinicians are very open, some are not.
Q: What is your lifestyle like? What are your hours like? Do you take call?
Before this new job, I was a small business owner exclusively (with 2 clinics and 7 employees) and working 50-70 hours a week on a regular basis. Now I am working a little less, but trying to balance my small business in Chicago while being an academic in Springfield. Overall, I love my work. It is deeply fulfilling to be facilitating healing in a profound and lasting way. I’m learning to leave work at work, which is a new lesson for me.
Q: What advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in your field? Would you recommend your field to them?
I highly recommend integrative care. You can use a fee-for-service model, charge what you feel is appropriate for your time, spend the amount of time you want to with your patients, and be your own boss.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with readers about your field?
One of the most beautiful things about integrative care is that you can pick what you want to integrate. Are you fascinated by homeopathy? Take some classes and begin to use it in your practice. Like manual manipulation? Learn osteopathy or take classes in craniosacral or tui na. Want to learn about botanical medicine? Read or take classes in Ayurveda, or Chinese botanicals, or naturopathic medicine and begin to help your patients with these therapies. There are fellowships that will expose you to a wide variety of integrative techniques and help prepare you to bring them into your practice.
Dr. Leslie Smith is a dedicated learner and an enthusiastic teacher of all things related to the body and to health. She believes in the integration of different healthcare modalities and chooses the techniques that will enhance each individual person’s healing process and promote their health and vitality. Dr. Smith listens tenderly and thoroughly to her patients. Her touch is gentle, intuitive, and knowing. She uses Asian medical modalities, laser therapies, nutritional supplements and medicinal herbs, osteopathic release techniques, and nutritional counseling in her practice approach. You can find out more about Dr. Smith by going to her website, www.lesliesmithmd.com