Dr. JoAnn Yanez, Executive Director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (right), joins KCAAs “On the Brink” host, Erin Brinker (left) to discuss the foundation of naturopathic medicine: the healing power of listening and touch.
Erin: Welcome back! I’m Erin Brinker.
Tobin: And I’m Tobin Brinker.
Erin: We are on the Brink, the morning show on KCAA. I’m so excited to welcome back to the show Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She is the executive director for the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, weaving a passion for illness prevention into her professional life. Dr. JoAnn Yanez’s career has spanned advocacy, academia, naturopathic patient care, and public health. Dr. Yanez is the past chair of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health, and is on the advisory board for National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions. Welcome back, Dr. JoAnn Yanez.
Dr. Yanez: Good morning, Erin and Tobin, how are you both?
Erin: Doing great!
Tobin: Doing good, yeah.
Erin: Doing great, I hope you are doing well as well.
Dr. Yanez: I am doing fabulous! Do you know that this week is Naturopathic Medicine Week in the United States?
Erin: I had no idea.
Dr. Yanez: It is!
Erin: So that’s awesome!
Dr. Yanez: We are having, we are celebrating all of the wonderful things that naturopathic doctors do all across the country and all across the world here in the United States.
Erin: So what kind of activities are you doing this week?
Dr. Yanez: Well, we’re on the radio. But naturopathic doctors all across the country in our naturopathic medical colleges are hosting events, they’re hosting open houses, they’re having patient thank you days for their patients, and student thank you days for the students. We’re doing all sorts of things all across the country. It’s really fabulous.
Erin: Well, that’s wonderful. We, here in the Inland Empire, we have Loma Linda University. And around Loma Linda University and in Redlands and that sort of, in this area, there were a lot of integrative health doctors, and naturopathic doctors, and alternative medicine doctors. And I know a lot of people who go to them and are very, very happy as their patients.
Dr. Yanez: Yeah. This month, we put together a piece on why patients are happy and at least why we think patients who go to naturopathic doctors are really happy. And it boils down to one thing that one of my professors told me my very first week of naturopathic school, which was, “It all boils down to the relationship.” And if you think about any of your relationships, what’s the foundation?
Dr. Yanez: Trust, solid communication, listening, caring, those things are all the foundation for having a really good relationship. And with naturopathic doctors, we really focus on that. We focus on listening. I remember one of my mentors eons ago said to me, “All of these classes you go to, the physiology, the laboratory diagnosis, guess what? Your patient knows what’s wrong with him. You just need to listen. And they might not be speaking in medical terms, they might not be speaking in the diagnostic code that you need to put in, but they’re gonna tell you what’s wrong if you just listen.” And I remember that, and it really struck me. And so one of the key things that I always cherished about the naturopathic doctor’s visit versus when I was rotating with my conventional colleagues was the length of time that we had with patients.
My first office visit lasted anywhere between one hour and one hour and a half.
Erin: Which is, that’s just unfathomable with, in conventional medicine, there’s no way doctors have the time do that.
Dr. Yanez: Yet office visits in primary care are typically scheduled on the 15 minute mark. And some doctors see patients even more quickly than that. There was such data on the conventional model and the average office is in the 15 minute range. And the average and median amount of time that a physician and patient are speaking is the five minute range. And I can tell you with naturopathic medicine, most of what I’m doing is asking a few key questions and then shutting up.
Dr. Yanez: Yeah. It was funny. When I was in school, I had a teacher, and this is in the early days of video taping. And he had a video recorder in the patient room, and he would sit in the supervisor’s room, and watch the video tape and watch us basically, seeing the patient. And one day, he said to me, “Okay. Here’s your assignment for the day.” And I said, “Okay. Sure, doctor, what do I need to do?” He said, “Go in, ask one or two questions, and the only thing that you’re allowed to respond is, ‘Tell me more or tell more about it.’ ” And I said, “What? Excuse me?” He said, “That’s all you’re allowed to say.” I said, “Okay, I’m gonna try it.” And you know what? I got the patient to open up so much by just saying, “Tell me more.”
Dr. Yanez: And what else? Tell me more. And it was incredible.
Erin: I think that, I don’t think my experience is abnormal, especially in this era of managed health care where … 15 minutes? I don’t know that I get 15 minutes with my doctor, I really don’t. Or a good chunk of that 15 minutes is her standing and charting everything that they’re gonna do. And so, they talk to me for five minutes, they chart for another five to eight minutes, and then that’s it. And then I leave the appointment going, “I wish I had said this or I wish I’d said that, but it was so quick.” And I’ve got to honest too, I don’t that, at least the doctors that I’ve had, they don’t really like putting hands on you.
They’ll take the scope and look in your nose and your ears. And they’ll listen to your heart and lungs, but there’s no … I have a thyroid disease. There’s no palpating my thyroid, nothing like that. So it’s really changed on the conventional side.
Dr. Yanez: Well, I can’t speak to the conventional side. What I can speak to is what we do. And again, going back to one of my mentors, said to me, “Putting hands on patients at every single visit, whether it is for a diagnostic evaluation like a thyroid exam, or it’s a pat on the back, something that you’re making that physical human touch contact with a patient every time.” In naturopathic medicine, we’re fortunate that we have a lot of tools in the tool box. And when I was in practice, I practiced acupuncture, so it was pretty easy for me to have hands on a patient just about every visit, whether it was that or it was an injection I was doing, there was something I was physically coming in contact with them just about every visit.
And that’s something that we also teach our students and we emphasize it in class, the empowerment, and healing the power of touch, and the healing power of listening. So many times, I had patients say to me, “You’re the first doctor who listened to me.”
Dr. Yanez: And that means a lot. It really means a whole lot when you have somebody, I always think of this one woman I had who had life long insomnia. She was in her 60s, life long insomnia …
Erin: Oh! That’s awful!
Dr. Yanez: … Where she would wake up for hours and hours every night. And she saw doctor after doctor, integrated medicine practitioners, conventional practitioners, psychiatrists, psychologists. She saw everybody trying to get to the root of this. And I channeled that doctor I spoke about earlier and I said, “Tell me more, tell me more.” And she started opening up about abuse as a child. And their father was part of a ritual based religious organization that did really horrific things. And she felt like she had to sit vigil every night to protect her younger siblings.
Erin: Oh, my goodness!
Dr. Yanez: And she was never able to get back to sleep. And once we unearthed that connection for her, she said, “Wow! I never connected the two!”
Erin: You unplugged a dam for her.
Dr. Yanez: It really just opened up the floodgates, literally. And after that, she was able to reconcile it and say, “Listen, I’m not gonna let my past control my now and my future. And this is done.” And she was able to sleep.
Erin: Now, do you survey your patients? And have you learned things that you didn’t otherwise know in doing so?
Dr. Yanez: A lot of docs… I’m not clinically in practice any longer, but many docs do surveys and anonymous surveys. I think if you say, “Tell me how I’m doing …”
Erin: Right. Oh, you’re doing great!
Dr. Yanez: Well, you’re doing fabulous! People aren’t gonna be so honest maybe to your face. So I do know a number of successful physicians who, naturopathic physicians who survey their patients anonymously and they’ll say, “I’ll give you a $10 gift card or $10 off of your next purchase of supplements,” or something like for filling out the survey. And the patients will come back and they’ll get some honest feedback. I think it’s very important to have communication and to have feedback in whatever you’re doing, whether you’re a doctor, or you’re a server at a restaurant. I think we all need feedback to know when we’re doing a good job and when there are areas that we can improve.
Erin: Well, this has been fabulous. And I think that there are, I’m gonna go ahead and say this. There are a lot of women who I think go to the doctor and feel like they’ve been pooh-poohed, or ignored, or just made to feel like they’re making hay out of nothing, that they’ve been dismissed. That’s the word I’m looking for. And so it sounds like a naturopathic doctor, they’re not gonna get that experience.
Dr. Yanez: It really, we do tend to see more women and females in many of the practices. However, I want to say that nobody should feel dismissed when you come to a doctor. You’re coming for help. And so, if you’re feeling dismissed regardless of who it is, whether is a conventional physician or a naturopathic physician, find another doctor.
Erin: Indeed, so if somebody is interested in becoming a naturopathic doctor, how do they find out more information? Or if someone is looking to find a naturopathic doctor, can they go to your website?
Dr. Yanez: Yeah. So they can come to my website. If you want to be a student, if you want to learn more about what we do, aanmc.org is our website. And the National and State Professional Associations all have practitioner search databases. So if you go to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, or any of the state associations like here in California, California Association of Naturopathic Doctors, they all maintain a Find an ND database. And you search, and you find somebody, and you can get what you need.
Erin: Well, Dr JoAnn Yanez, it’s always a treat to have you on. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Dr. Yanez: Thank you both and I hope you have a great day.
Erin: Thank you, you too!