Another gem from “The Business Times” in 2002. Marion Gluck, then visiting Singapore, talks so much good sense about integrative medicine in this interview. Yet where has it all gone in Singapore?
Singapore could be (was to some extent) such a great centre for medical tourism for those seeking integrative care in this part of the world but instead now those who live here have to travel overseas for care like this. Meanwhile Dr Gluck continues to prescribe the medicine we all long for from her clinic in London.
Prevention the best medicine
Business Times, Saturday, 19 January 2002, Page: 15
Singapore Press Holdings Limited
Wellness should be the key concern of medical bodies which should concentrate on preventing rather than curing illnesses. Dr Marion Gluck shares her views with CORINNE KERK
SHE was sitting by the window when we entered the room, staring out onto the busy road below, her knees pulled to her chest. Her short, curly hair is in a state of funky disarray, with some white strands peeping out in that “I don’t care if I show my age” sort of way.
But she jumps to her feet quickly when she sees us and her face breaks into a big, bright smile.
Meet Marion Gluck, born in Poland, trained in medicine in Hamburg, worked in Germany, Nepal and Iraq (yes, Iraq) and now an Australian citizen and passionate advocate of holistic preventive medicine.
“I have healthy women who want to know what they can do to stay healthy, fit and well,” says the Sydney-based Dr Gluck who was in town recently. “And the way I work is I deal more with wellness than illness.”
The 51-year-old first went into medicine because she likes people and doesn’t like illnesses.
“But when I finished studying and started working in hospitals, I saw that medicine can be unkind, invasive and painful,” says the mother of a 16-year-old son. “Doctors are meant to heal but we cause pain. And some diagnoses and treatments are painful, but patients don’t have a choice, they feel like victims and I wasn’t comfortable.”
The other push factor is the widespread use of prescriptive drugs, which she says causes too many side effects and other illnesses.
“It led me into holistic or integrative medicine, which encompasses everything about the person,” says Dr Gluck. “This integrates all modalities to help a person, whether it is counselling, lifestyle, diet or Chinese medicine. There are so many roads leading to Rome. So you can integrate the best of all worlds and individualise treatments.”
For starters, Dr Gluck says it is necessary to spend a lot of time with patients, talking to them and asking and answering questions.
“Patients don’t want to be treated as symptoms,” she emphasises. “They need to be educated. Then they will feel empowered because they’re responsible for their health, and they have choices and can do something about it. It’s different from just going to a doctor.”
This means trying to ascertain if there are problems patients are facing at home or at work and how these affect them.
“Of course, I use labs and biology and so on, but a lot boils down to bedside manner, and long consultations do not make money, while testing does.”
Indeed, Dr Gluck – who was formerly president of the Australian Overseas Trained Doctors’ Association and one of its political activists – is especially critical of the corporatisation of medical care, and of sending patients for too many tests.
“Medicine is becoming corporatised and patients don’t like it because they become a number,” she says in indignation. “They may have more beautiful rooms and the doctors have better computers, but it’s no longer personalised. Then doctors need as many patients to go through their clinics, take X-rays, do lab tests and see their specialists as possible. Patients fall into this and the bottom line is profit.”
Interestingly, however, Dr Gluck – who specialises in women’s health and in particular, natural hormone replacement therapy (nHRT) – is now part of a grouping of holistic healthcare practitioners in Sydney. The centre for integrative medicine brings together practitioners such as doctors, naturopaths, masseurs, and biological dentists. Basically, people who share the philosophy of holistic healthcare and who will only use “materials as natural and biological or organic as possible”.
But will they not fall into the same trap as corporatised medical groups which she finds so disagreeable?
“No,” she claims. “Because we charge more. With corporatised medical groups, the health insurance in Australia covers the costs and patients don’t have to pay. But with us, there’s a gap between what the insurance pays and our charges, and when patients pay, they value what they’re getting.”
She points out that there are also compounding chemists in Australia who are “going back to the old-fashioned way of tailor-making medicines” for individual patients.
And in her area of speciality, that is, nHRT, she uses hormones that are bio-identical to those of human’s.
“I do prescribe antibiotics where necessary and I do quite a lot of testing because it gets me information, but I avoid invasive tests or those that involve a lot of radiation,” she says. “I use both conventional and less conventional methods such as blood, saliva, hair and stool tests.
The benefit of integrative medicine is that you use all that is available as long as they’re safe and there are no side effects. There is no dogma.”
And if there are side effects?
“Then it’s not working,” she says firmly. “We always try through lifestyle, diet, vitamins and nutrients to enhance well-being. Or if you need to take medication, don’t take a high dosage so you can limit the amount of harm you may do through your treatment. Otherwise, for instance, if you take an anti-inflammatory medicine for joint pain, you may get a stomach ulcer and then have to treat that as well.”
And if someone is depressed, anti-depressants shouldn’t be the first course of action, she feels.
“You use all methods till they don’t respond, then you give them a prescription. It’s a lot more hard work, but it’s more rewarding. And the whole idea is that you inform them that they have a choice and it’s many things.”
But most of all, she believes it’s important for medical bodies to monitor health and well- being and concentrate on preventing rather than curing illnesses.
“I hope government bodies will realise you have to spend money on prevention, and educating and empowering the population,” says Dr Gluck. “And government and health insurance should pay for health prevention because it’s ultimately much cheaper.”