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Live it! Q&A: Taking a holistic approach to medicine

Dr. Emily McDevitt is a doctor of osteopathy, a branch of medical practice that emphasizes the treatment of disorders through the manipulation or massaging of the bones, joints and muscles.

It’s a practice that falls into the category of holistic medicine, the science of healing that addresses the whole person – body, mind, and spirit – and a deviation from more common allopathic medical practices.

She has treated patients for six years, since completing her residency in South Bend, Indiana. And she’s devoted to her practice.

Live it! Magazine recently sat down with Emily in her office at the Affiliated Community Medical Centers clinic in Willmar to discuss her approach to medicine and why she advocates it.

Live it!: Thank you for meeting with me. So please explain what you do?

Emily McDevitt: Well I’m a D.O. (doctor of osteopathy). In medical school we learn everything other M.D.’s (medical doctors) do, but we also learn to manipulate parts of the body, the way a chiropractor does. But I’m not a chiropractor. It’s just a different approach.

Live it!: So is your type of practice creating a shift in how M.D.’s treat patients?

EM: I don’t know that there has been a shift among allopathic practitioners in how they treat patients. I feel the holistic approach is really more specific to certain physicians who are more interested in that.

Live it!: So why do you feel an holistic approach is beneficial for your patients?

EM: I feel a person’s health is not just based on biology, that there are a lot of other elements that go into it. Spirituality is an important piece. What someone puts into their bodies and what they do activity wise is obviously important. Stress plays a big role. And I feel like in medicine, as a whole, we’re starting to recognize those things a little bit more. But in general, I don’t think doctors consider the fact that some people might benefit from focusing on a patient’s spirituality as one element of their overall health as opposed to always prescribing a medicine.

Live it!: What are the benefits of a patient understanding the root of their ailments over just coming in for a checkup and ultimately just taking a prescribed medication?

EM: I think it’s more empowering for them and it allows them to see they have a role to play in helping themselves get better. I think it’s extremely important for patients to understand they can often be a solution to their ailments. Obviously, that’s not the case for everyone. But a lot of times it’s what they’re doing to themselves that can cause an issue.

Live it!: Obviously genes play a large role in a person’s health, but what practices do you believe can help someone feel healthier, both physically and mentally?

EM: It’s very patient specific, but I’ll talk a lot about medication or prayer or just journaling. Making sure they have time to themselves. We talk about what the patient enjoys doing, and I’ll ask ‘what do you like to do, what really relaxes you?’ Yoga is a great way to help with ailments, so I’ll mention that as an option, particularly for those with back pain. And I see a lot of patients with back pain. I really stress some kind of movement. If walking is boring for you, it’s imperative you find something else you enjoy. Any step you can make toward increasing your activity level, bettering your diet … that will always help.

Live it!: Should M.D.’s be thinking outside the box with how they treat patients?

EM: I think so, yes. What works for one doesn’t always work for everybody. So, yes, I do think doctors need to be more open to more natural treatments, chiropractic care, supplements, gluten-free diets and things like that. There’s some truth to all of it.

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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