Director of "The Springs" at Clifton Springs Hospital
By Jennifer Waters, LAc, Dipl. Ac
Imagine going to a hospital for a surgical procedure and receiving acupuncture, massage and mineral hot springs treatments at that same hospital.
It sounds ideal, but unrealistic, doesn't it? Well, that ideal exists in "The Springs," part of Clifton Springs Hospital in Clifton Springs, New York.
Les Moore, ND, MSOM, LAc, MSOM, an author and director of The Springs, has facilitated this fully integrated medical clinic within the Clifton Springs Hospital (CSH). Some of the additional services available at The Springs include chiropractic, Chinese medicinals, and Western herbal treatments.
When fully complete, The Springs will house an entire new wing of the hospital, including sulfur mineral baths, or hydrotherapy, which was the hospital's original intent when it opened in 1849. Thanks to the vision of Dr. Henry Foster (founder of CSH, which was then called the Water Cure Facility), who knew the healing potential of mineral springs, the hospital was built entirely on sulfur springs. We're very grateful for Dr. Foster's vision of natural therapies. That vision continues today under the leadership of Dr. Moore.
Recently, I spoke with Dr. Moore to learn more about The Springs and the treatments offered there.
Jennifer Waters (JW): Do you find that patients are more receptive to "alternative" treatments because you're located in a hospital?
Les Moore (LM): Yes! There are people who came to tell me, "I used to see so-and-so for treatment in their home, but I felt a little uncomfortable about it. Since you're in a hospital, I feel better." There are also those people that will come in through the "back door," so to speak, to seek out treatment at The Springs, but also really need treatment in the hospital. These people probably avoided medical care for a number of years, but when they heard about the natural therapies available here, they came in. We then refer them to the hospital because that's (the type of) care they need more. Other people come who were diagnosed with a severe condition but they ignored it and did nothing about it. Now that The Springs is open, they come to see us, and we can then refer them for whatever care they may need.
JW: How receptive to natural therapies are the other doctors at the hospital?
LM: Each doctor is different, of course. Some are more open and receptive. I've gravitated toward this hospital because of its history; it attracts more open-minded people. A patient came in just this week who said that in 1973, his wife came to see Dr. Yang, a gynecologist at CSH, for acupuncture. This hospital historically supported integrative health care. Some doctors refer more than others, and some stay more open, but none definitely are against it.
JW: CSH and The Springs seem to be leading the integrative health care movement. Are there any other facilities with else with this level of integration?
LM: No one but CSH combines Western and Chinese medicine, with tinctures and raw herbs! Some facilities offer Chinese medicinals, or single therapeutic agents such as vitamin A or vitamin C, but none offer combination formulas the way The Springs and CSH do.
JW: To offer everything from ayruveda, to chiropractic, to acupuncture, to hydrotherapy treatments within a hospital setting appears radical. One might expect this in a major city, but why in Clifton Springs?
LM: Well, we're talking about New York, which holds an incredible history of using natural therapies. Naturopathy was founded in New York. Our hospital was the first to offer spiritual and pastoral care on a full-time basis with a full time chaplain; the first with an open-floor psychiatric ward treating people as human beings; and the second hospital with an X-ray machine. They also farmed organically. New York has pioneered a lot of things.
JW: Why do you think that natural therapies are considered the "alternative"?
LM: That's a pretty big question. We've moved from alternative, to complementary, then complementary/alternative, and now to integrative. I think a better word might be "special." Similar to conventional medicine, we might think special medicine. Just consider, the conventional forces go in and do it by force - the "take it over" mentality. The special forces go in and help people heal themselves. People are open to therapies that will help themselves heal. That is our hope: to help people heal themselves.
JW: What would you say are some of the issues facing the health care industry today?
LM: People want complementary and alternative medicine. We completed all the surveys, studies and a focus group and found that people want this kind of medicine. We face the challenges to fully integrate this. One doctor may say you can perform acupuncture, but you can't do it on asthma because that's what I treat, but you can use it on these other certain disease symptoms or for pain. We know that traditional Chinese medicine functions as a complete medical system. In the 21st century, modern medicine has its place, but if Western medicine held all the answers, then 23 acupuncturists couldn't make a living in a little town like Ithaca. If you're in an auto accident and you crack your head, you might receive a little acupuncture and arnica, but please do it en route to the ER. Western medicine is especially good for helping you stand back up when you're lying flat on your back. Acupuncture works well after you're standing to get you back up to optimum health.
JW: What is your personal vision for health care in this country?
LM: It's definitely about freedom; the freedom to receive the best care for you, care that resonates with you and that helps you achieve optimal health. We're whole people. Health is about wholeness, but a lot of therapies are not. For example, if you have diabetes, it's not about just the pancreas, it's the whole body. I have a view of truly integrating complementary and alternative therapies. For many people, the other therapies are complementary. In the West, people say, "Your herbs are interacting with our drugs," but actually, their drugs are interfering with our herbs.
As practitioners we must remember that we don't have the doctor title, but the Latin root word doc (ere) means "to teach," so in our job, we help or educate people on how to become healthy. Health comes from the Latin word heal which means, "to make whole." To be healthy is to be whole. We simply serve, so our patients care about themselves. The best way we show our patients that we care is to be present and listen. If we care, they care - ideally first for themselves, then with their family and friends. This begins to solve the health care crisis.
JW: Is CSH a model of integrative health care that is reproducible elsewhere?
LM: Yes. First, we must reclaim our state's heritage as a leader of integrative medicine; it's our long and very rich history of actually practicing integrative medicine. We have to say that this is what we want. People desire both their conventional medicine practitioner and their CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) practitioner on the same page. Ideally, the pharmacist, the acupuncturist, the internist and the oncologist are all on the same page. That will help the patient because that's what patients want.
JW: How can the patients help realize this level of integrated health care?
LM: First, they must ask for it, or actually demand it. There are number of ways it can be done. If you work in a company, you may want to talk to your human resource or health care insurance manager, a key person to mediate insurance claims. If your insurance company does not cover services such as acupuncture, ask them to. You can always look for another company that will cover it. It is a business. People also need to ask for insurance equality with their legislators. It requires participation.
JW: Thank you.
Dr. Moore has also been invited to be director of complementary and alternative medicine special projects at the Office of Regulatory Reform at the New York State Department of Health. His role will be to determine how to best integrate complementary therapies into the New York state public and private health care system.