I was raised in rural America. Born in on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, my family moved to a town of 150 people in the eastern sierra when I was 10. I thought my life was over. It was just about to begin.
Our town shared the county with another small village of 250 and a Native American reservation of the Washoe tribe with a population of 400. Yes these are numbers in the hundreds, not the thousands. The other side of the county was even smaller and inaccessible in winter months because of snowy mountain passes. It is one of the largest counties in California by land mass and literally the smallest by population, Alpine county.
My grade school was predominately Native American and by the time I was in 8th grade I was the only other Caucasian female in a class of 8 people. For high school, I bussed to Nevada and within four years I was valedictorian of my class of 400 people. Months after that, I sat in a calculus class at UC Berkeley with 150 peers. I had gone from a big fish in a little sea to ever enlarging oceans. The San Francisco Bay Area amazed me and the diversity was astounding. I was shocked that I could get a pizza at 2 am and that a small part of the Berkeley hills had a park with signs to the “nature area”.
As a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian. It wasn’t until I was in high school chemistry class that my teacher mentioned I was “smart enough to be a doctor’. I had never considered such a thing. But my chemistry teacher was married to the town vet and I listened when she suggested doctoring humans instead of animals. At the time, an only child, I had three cats, three dogs and three frogs. I realized, humans needed more help than animals, and I set off to find the path that would bring me to the evolving physician I am today.
I didn’t know what an osteopath was until I started a club at Berkeley called “Students for Integrative Medicine”. Selfishly exploring my own career options, I invited three women to a panel discussion I called “The Future of Integrative Medicine”. This was 1999 and the term Integrative Medicine, meaning the weaving together of western and alternative medicine had just been coined by Andrew Weil M.D.. I brought together a naturopath, a medical doctor with a holistic focus and an osteopath.
I recall a few distinct things about that night. All women worked about the same amount and made the same income. All studied each other’s modalities and there was a lot of overlap in their practices. I realized I could do whatever I wanted to do, but it was my foundation that mattered. Struck by the osteopath, I made an appointment with her, Runa Basu D.O.. I walked out of the treatment and was so amazed at the changes I felt that I called my dad and said, “Dad, I know what I am going to do. I am going to be an Osteopath”. For the next six months, I took the bus from Berkeley to San Francisco to volunteer and observe Dr Basu.
My best friends come from the town that I grew up in. One of them lost her step father within a few short months when I was a second year medical student. He died from malignant melanoma which had been on his fore head, a prominent lesion I can now recall. If he had ever visited a medical doctor for prevention, it would have been easily identified. I became motivated at that time to pursue family medicine, to be on the front lines of the healthcare system.
Over the next few weeks, as I give thanks for this path that has led me to opening my own direct primary care practice I will share with you my journey. It is a reflection for me and a sharing and opening for you. When I asked the first doctor I met who was practicing direct primary care he said to me that it was “like being the village doctor again”. This resonated with me. I love living in Denver, but creating the village of families that I care for within this big city was a step back to my roots. I am so thankful for those who are joining me. To be continued….