Interview with Dr. Randy Baker and Pattie Mills of Connection Magazine
♦ Dr. Baker, please tell us some about your practice and background:
I am a holistic Family Physician. I grew up in the Chicago area. I was fascinated by biology and earned a degree in Biology from Stanford University. I attended the University of Michigan School of Medicine, where I also completed my residency in Family Practice.
After completing my medical training, I could have moved anywhere and chose the Santa Cruz area as the ideal place to settle. I started my practice, the Pacific Center for Integral Health in Soquel in 1988. I then completed a four-year postgraduate program at the Hahnemann College of Homeopathy. I am a founding diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine.
♦ Do you have a particular focus in your practice?
As a Family Doctor, I am qualified to treat everyone from newborns to the elderly, but I seem to attract people who are chronically ill and have been to many other doctors who either cannot find the cause of their problems or can find the problem but don’t have effective treatments to offer. I, thus, see many patients with problems like chronic fatigue, chronic pain, food and chemical sensitivities, gastrointestinal disorders and autoimmune conditions. But, I also see many people who are in good general health who are interested in maintaining optimal health and preventing disease.
Of course, it is easier to prevent illness than wait until one is ill and then treat.
♦ What modalities do you utilize?
I utilize virtually every healing modality to various degrees, but there is a method to how I use them. When I work with people, I focus on three main areas. The first is identifying the underlying causes of illness.
These causes are many and varied, but basically all health problems are caused by the interplay of stress and our genetics.
Stress includes both emotional stress and physiological stressors. Common physiological stressors include environmental toxins (heavy metals, molds, pesticides etc.), microbes and electromagnetic fields.
While removing such stressors as much as possible is essential to health, it is also necessary to provide the body with optimal nutrition via diet and supplements. The tricky part is that one person may need a lot more of a given nutrient than another person, so it is important to determine individual needs. Also, it is important to give nutrients that each individual can digest, absorb and transport to the parts of our bodies that need them.
Even if one removes stressors and provides optimal nutrition, people often will not heal from chronic problems unless the energetic component of health is addressed. Our bodies are not just physical and chemical mechanisms; there is a flow of energy that moves throughout our bodies. In chronic health problems that energy flow is disrupted.
Modalities that balance body energetics, such as homeopathy, Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine, are usually essential parts of a comprehensive healing process. Within the realm of Energy Medicine, I specialize in Classical Homeopathy, which is my favorite of all healing modalities. I have seen homeopathy cure many conditions considered incurable by conventional medicine.
When all of these aspects are addressed, even the most intractable and serious health problems can be healed (though it should also be noted that sometimes no matter what we do, some conditions will not be healed; I believe fate/karma is also a significant factor in our lives and health).
♦ Have you found any conditions to be especially prevalent in the Santa Cruz area?
Chronic Lyme disease with co-infections like Babesia and Bartonella is very common in our community. It can cause almost any set of symptoms, but the most common symptoms are fatigue, aches and pains that move around and a variety of neurological symptoms like poor memory and concentration as well as anxiety and depression. Most who have it do not know it, as most doctors do not know how to recognize and diagnose it.
Another common issue is symptoms related to mold exposure, which can again manifest with a wide variety of symptoms and, again, many with mold toxicity are unaware they have been exposed.
♦ How is a visit with you different than a visit with a conventional doctor?
One of the main differences is the amount of time I spend. The average medical visit in the U.S. is 10-20 minutes. I generally spend an hour with patients and up to three hours with new patients. I try to get to know my patients in depth, educate them about health, and involve them in treatment decisions. I do offer conventional pharmaceutical treatment when appropriate—but prefer to use herbs, nutritional supplements, homeopathy and mind-body techniques as well as diet and lifestyle changes. By trying to understand my patients issues in depth and addressing the underlying causes of their problems, I do my best to help them to heal rather than treat symptoms superficially.
♦ You are known in some circles for being Jerry Garcia’s doctor. Can you tell us about that?
I was a huge fan of the Grateful Dead and like many, was very concerned about Jerry’s health, so it was a dream come true when I met Jerry through mutual friends and became his family doctor in early 1990. I did my very best to help him and we had some great successes, particularly in the summer of 1992 when I helped him to stop using drugs and stop smoking. And, through diet and exercise, he lost 60 pounds. Unfortunately, when he resumed touring he fell back into some unhealthy habits. While I wish he was still with us, I’m happy that at the time he died—Jerry was making a sincere effort to become healthy again.
♦ The website http://www.HealthTap.com has named you Top Holistic Medical Practitioner in the Nation. Please Tell us about that.
That is a great honor but probably sounds more impressive than it is. HealthTap is a website where doctors volunteer their time to answer medical questions submitted from people all over the world. Over 75,000 doctors participate. I enjoy helping the patients who submit questions. And, other doctors can see and comment upon the answers—which is a one of the reasons I participate there, so I can share knowledge with my fellow physicians.
I have been voted ‘Top Holistic Medical Practitioner’ 7 of the 8 times that it has been awarded (the other time I came in second), but this competition is only amongst the doctors who participate on Health Tap and there are many superb Holistic Doctors who are not on HealthTap, as well, of course!. I am most honored that my fellow HealthTap physicians have voted me as the leading expert amongst them in the nation on: Lyme Disease, Supplements, Vitamin Deficiency, Vitamins D, C and B12, Vegetarian Diet and Herbal Supplements and as the second-leading expert in Homeopathy. Anyone can search for my profile on HealthTap to see the thousands of answers I have authored.
♦ Tell us about the other practitioners at your center.
I have had the privilege of working with Cynthia Quattro, a talented Acupuncturist/Doctor of Chinese Medicine as well as Physician Assistant for more than 20 years. Cindy is one of the few acupuncturists in our area who specializes in Japanese-style acupuncture, which can be more subtle and refined than the Chinese style.
We also have two skilled RNs, Caroline Stepovich and Catherine Harms, who administer intravenous vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as glutathione. Many patients experience dramatic benefits from IV nutrients.
We also have 2 superb massage therapists, Serena Fennell and Susan
Greeninger. A talented Marriage and Family Therapist, Anna Dasbach, also works at our center.
I am very excited that we are on the verge of offering Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, another modality that often yields dramatic benefits.
♦ We understand you recently suffered a personal tragedy.
Yes, my dear wife Jody Cantor, a home school teacher beloved by many in our community, suffered a sudden cardiac arrest caused by an arrhythmia in June of 2013. She was resuscitated after a half hour but suffered severe brain damage due to lack of oxygen. She was in a coma for several weeks and never fully recovered. She required 24/7 care, which we did mostly at home, but despite the efforts of many fine healers she developed complications and died this past June. It is hard to explain how incredibly difficult and stressful this ordeal was. My family is extremely grateful for the tremendous financial and moral support by a great many people in our community that helped us to care for Jody at home. I am also grateful for the tolerance and understanding of my patients, as my hours were quite limited for those two years, and I was often quite exhausted.
Being a single parent to my 12- and 15-year-old daughters while maintaining my practice is still very challenging, but I now have much more time and energy to devote to caring for my patients.
I enjoy sharing information on health with as many people as possible. For several years I wrote a regular column for The Connection Magazine (and, I hope to resume this). Those old columns can be found at http://www.drrandy.org, a website that needs some updating but still has useful information (as well as on the archived Connection Magazines. I have a blog with more recent essays at www.drrandybaker.com.
And, I have a Facebook page “Randy Baker MD” where I share and comment on health related topics. If you scroll down on that one, you can see my ‘Herb of the Week, columns that I did for about a year, four years ago, which I think that many of you might enjoy.
♦ Thank you Dr. Randy Baker for your time and especially for being such an Outstanding Doctor, Naturopath, and so much more!