About Us

Ann McKay, R.N.C., John McGonigle, M.D. and Mark Brody, M.D. have devoted themselves to homeopathy and related alternative medical treatments. In keeping with the spirit of homeopathy's founder Samuel Hahnemann M.D., we utilize treatments that emphasize safety and the restoration of the sick to health.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rodney and us

Homeopaths have struggled for two centuries to obtain validation from the conventional medical world. Hahnemann and his early homeopathic colleagues faced vicious opposition within their own lifetimes, and it's been an uphill struggle since then. Today, homeopaths still face the indignity of being described in the popular and medical press as tantamount to charlatans, and our mighty protests to the contrary notwithstanding, there seems to be little hope that this will change in the future.

This struggle is to some extent shared by our brethren in other branches of alternative medicine, but homeopaths have been especially vulnerable, perhaps in response to Hahnemann's early salvos against allopathy, which he savaged in numerous articles and lectures. Keeping up this spirit of strong dissent, modern homeopaths continue to decry the pitfalls of suppression and promote their cures as superior to what is possible in allopathic medicine. Claiming to be superior to another group is surely no way to win friends among members of that group, so perhaps we have ourselves to thank in many ways for our plight. Nonetheless, it is a rare homeopath who does not bemoan the woeful state of disrespect homeopathy finds itself in in the modern world. We are the true Rodney Dangerfields of alternative medicine.

Homeopaths have long emphasised the virtues of their unique therapeutic approach. It is virtually devoid of side effects, divorced from noxious commercial influences, capable of promoting health more generally, and inducing cures in some cases. It can benefit the treatment resistant and the undiagnosable. While these virtues have never been successfully challenged, there have been objections that those who see homeopaths may experience delays in obtaining needed and potentially helpful treatment of a more conventional nature. In Hahnemann's time, this all too often consisted of blood-letting or exposure to powerful cathartics or emetics. However, in our times, the allopathic alternatives, for all of their dangerousness are not so obviously wrong-headed. So we need to be able to counter this objection persuasively.

This type of criticism, which might apply to allopaths as well, as has been seen many a time in the past, with regard to controversial disorders such as Lyme Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, and chronic pain syndromes. Allopaths differ widely amongst themselves about the proper treatment for many illnesses and are just as happy to string each other up by the neck as they are any vulnerable homeopath or other alternative medicine practitioner. But homeopaths need to guard more carefully against this allegation than other specialties because we have been contenders for the throne. We hold ourselves forth, however guardedly, as better than the allopaths in so many way.

In this area, I feel that I myself and many of my colleagues are vulnerable. Our vulnerability lies in not having demonstrated our ability to correctly diagnose and manage serious illness. Management includes above all knowing when to refer out, and knowing when to refer out implies an understanding of the allopathic as well as homeopathic diagnosis and the multiplicity of diagnostic and therapeutic options that should be considered if the initial treatment fails to effect a positive outcome. While I have had the good fortune to receive quality homeopathic education at the Hahnemann School of Homeopathy, under the tutelage of such great homeopaths as Roger Morrison, Nancy Herrick, Jonathan Shore and Todd Rowe, and at the Dynamis School, with the inimitable Jeremy Sherr, and during seven years of such training, I came to understand how to manage illnesses of all types that might be seen in a primary care setting using homeopathy, I still lack the fundamental grounding in the diagnosis and management of serious physical illness, because my allopathic training was as a child psychiatrist. And many of my colleagues lack the training in psychiatry and child psychiatry to have this perspective when more severe mental symptoms are part of the case.

This might not be an issue if we homeopaths cured 100% of our cases, but we don't. And the thing we hate most is when the patient/client leaves us to undertake a course of allopathic treatment. We may regard this as a sign of impatience or failure to understand the virtues of our peculiar specialty. But the fact is, we need to know when we are failing and what to do next, even if it means referring out for allopathic treatment. We need to show ourselves and the allopaths that we can handle most problems as an allopath would, treating optimally and then referring out when we've reached the limits of our expertise.

All too often we rely on the allopaths to make the diagnosis for us and then we happily proclaim our success in treatment after the allopathic treatment has fallen apart. But we need to show ourselves to be exemplary diagnosticians as well, if we are to win the trust of allopaths and the community. Speaking for myself, I feel I could use a tune up in my allopathic diagnostic skills. Perhaps we all could, in one way or another. This is the point of CME. But having some kind of certification process within the homeopathic community, demonstrating a minimal level of competence in diagnostic skills, not just of the homeopathic variety, but of the allopathic variety as well would go a ways towards establishing this sort of confidence. I feel I need this kind of certification. I think it would help homeopathy in general if we all had it.