I recently had the wonderful opportunity to interview Dr. Tad Sztykowski. He is the founder, owner and medical director of Centers for Integrative Medicine and Healing (CIMH). Dr. Tad is also a wealth of information.
Over the course of our interview we covered a variety of topics. Our discussion ranged from diet, acupuncture, health insurance,integrative medicine and everything in between. I split the interview into multiple parts because I want to share everything I learned with you.
To start with, Dr. Tad has a fascinating story. His passion for integrative medicine makes total sense once you hear his background. He's been working for over 30 years and has treated over 46,000 people. But he can say it better than I can! My questions are in italics and his responses follow.
Sam: Your bio says that you began your studies with Western medicine as an OB/GYN. How did you make the transition from this to integrative medicine?
Dr. Tad: The transition was natural. There are four generations of doctors in my family, so medicine was an obvious choice. I began my career studying and practicing Western medicine. I wanted to study study medicine that is effective for both prevention and treatment. I was also especially interested in treatment of chronic problems. The major issue with treatment in medicine is always chronic issues. About 90% or so of patients who have health complaints have chronic issues. Of those 90%, only about 10% are emergency patients. I am also licensed in and practice emergency medicine. While Western medicine has the best ways to treat emergency patients, the solutions for chronic problems are lacking. In looking for solutions to chronic problems I naturally drifted towards other systems. It wasn't long before I stumbled, if you will, on Chinese medicine. That lead me to come to the United States 28 years ago and enter into a program in acupuncture and medicine.
Sam: It’s interesting that you stumbled upon Chinese medicine and then ended up in America. Is there a big or growing interest in Chinese medicine in the United States?
Dr. Tad: Partly, but it was actually for more practical reasons. My first inclination was to go to China, after all it is the birthplace of Chinese medicine. But that was the time of Communism, both in my country (Poland) and China. It was extremely hard to to get the visa and go to China. So that plan kind of went South until I met an American who happened to be a friend of a friend. It turned out that she is a director of the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College. What’re the chances of that? The American director of an integrative medicine school comes to Poland! When we connected I said to her, "I’d like to study Chinese medicine, can you help me out?" And she said yes! It took a year, but I was able to come to the United States and study there. So it was more of a personal factor rather than a growing US interest in Chinese medicine that brought me here. It just happened to be a part of my destiny, you know?
Dr. Tad was attracted to the preventative and holistic aspects of Eastern medicine.
Sam: Sounds like it was fate! Are you now trying to share Eastern medicine and make it more popular in America?
Dr. Tad: Yes, I am trying right now. I’ve actually been trying for the last 25 years! And it’s not easy. Statistically speaking, Americans are not necessarily open to alternative treatments. Only 5% of the population uses the medicine that I practice. On the other hand, 100% are using Western medicine. So it’s an effort--it’s not an easy sell. The good news is that the interest is growing; more and more people are interested. It’s just ever so slow. So here we are talking about it! We are also in a sense trying to figure out what to do next to have more people utilizing this medicine.
Sam: You've also had the opportunity to help thousands and thousands of people. Have any of these experiences been especially rewarding, or inspiring? Have any stuck out in any way?
Dr. Tad: Well I have treated over 21,000 people by now, with just this particular form of medicine. Practicing Western medicine back in Europe I treated another 25,000 people. So I have an experience of over 45,000 patients at this point with different issues. As far as rewarding experiences, the ones that would stick out are saving somebody with stage 4 cancer. I would say that is definitely one of the most rewarding things I have done. I have had quite a few people with stage 4 cancer and about 3-6 months to live and they are still very much alive right now. So as far as saving lives, that was the most rewarding.
But the long term rewarding experiences are simply helping people with chronic problems. This can be a chronic pain or another issue that is not helped with any other treatments. When they come to me and we are able to stop whatever is going on in their bodies, I feel rewarded. Reversing it and improving their health tremendously for the rest of their lives gives me great satisfaction. So to me any patient improvement is rewarding, that’s the way I look at this. Everybody’s an individual and the reward comes in the fact that we can help all these people.
And that is the (quite) brief version of Dr. Tad's story. In the next post, I'll summarize what I learned about integrative medicine as a practice, how integrative medicine can help cancer patients, how to practice integrative therapy at home, and teach you about acupuncture.
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