conventional western medicine, conventional medicine, acute care medicine, emergency medicine, functional medicine, holistic medicine

Conventional Western Medicine–There’s A Lot to Love

We’re all familiar with the ways conventional western medicine falls short—sizing us up so fast as to not hear our whole stories or treat us as whole people, not seeking root cause solutions to our problems, parceling us out among specialists who look at just one piece of us (often missing the bigger picture that provides the answers), among other things.

But that’s only because we’re barking up the wrong tree—expecting it to be what it is not, and was never intended to be.

Let me remind us all: conventional western medicine was designed—quite brilliantly—to take care of us in the most acute, urgent, and catastrophic situations of our lives.

A dear friend’s life was recently saved by the heroic work of several of our community doctors. She had been sick with influenza that landed just as she was losing her mom. When her husband called because she’d become delirious, I directed them straight to Urgent Care where the doctor quickly diagnosed pneumonia. The first hospital placed a chest tube in the lung abscess that had developed and started life-saving antibiotics. The second—a referral hospital—kept a close eye as her body worked to recover, ready to perform surgery that, thankfully, was not needed.

They did everything just right. Saved her life. Brilliant. And we’re all so grateful. No other system of medicine could have done what they did.

We need different things at different times in our lives.

For health optimization, disease prevention, and root cause solutions to chronic problems, we need functional medicine, and the support of holistic healing modalities that go deep—systems to understand us comprehensively and support our healing intelligently over the long term.

And for life-threatening illnesses, like my friend’s, we need conventional western medicine and its rapid-fire, high tech, and sophisticated techniques and pharmaceuticals to keep us safe and alive—after which functional medicine grabs the baton and completes the healing.

But it’s not either—or. It’s both. We need both. We need to step out of our camps and mindsets to understand and embrace the value of both—in their very distinctive and brilliant ways. One is not the other, and that’s how I, for one, want and need it.

Have a Beautiful day!


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Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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