How I Became an Integrative Medicine Physician -- By Dr. Neela Sandal
Growing up near Baldwin, Kansas, I explored a world view that challenged conventional notions about what it was to be human. I was raised to see humans as a rich blend of spirit, body, and mind, a perspective significantly shaped by my parents. My parents were both monks in the Vedic tradition—India’s ancient wisdom tradition, similar to many ancient wisdom traditions across the world. When they met and decided to have a family, they decided to stop being monks, but they moved forward with their wisdom tradition.
A lot of my early exposure to healing came from watching my mom's vocation and avocation as a massage therapist and yogi. When it came to the health of the body, soul, and mind, my mom practiced from an experiential approach. My father worked from a philosophy that gave him a lot of intellectual freedom to ask questions and develop his thinking.
When I went to college, I initially rejected my parents' focus on spirituality as intrinsic to healing. Through my bachelor's degree study, I first came to see science as the absolute, and this was how we could understand the world around us. When I went to medical school and began to realize that the application of science is also an art, I began to see that science is not an absolute truth. Instead, science is our best current approximation of the truth.
Throughout medical school, I began to see more and more situations where our current science was failing people. Like any scientist, this made me question what we could do better. Medical schools train students to be tradesmen, not scientists, which leads to a lot of difficulty for the standard of medicine and treatment of patients. We often are taught and told that we should just open up our toolbox, apply our tools, and that's that.
I had the good luck to come across beneficial mentors, many very humanistic physicians who said we can't give everyone the right medicine, but we can help them find healing and grace with their process. While that's inspiring, it was not enough, and I found myself thinking, why can't we treat everyone, applying the best of research and healing traditions from around the world?
So I kept my eye out for physicians who thought differently and found them all over the place. They just don't speak loudly about this because there's such a tidal force of factors against this approach. It turned out that the University of Kansas has a very forward-thinking department of Integrative Medicine. Working with these people made it clear to me what I wanted to be doing.
When it came time to choose my specialty, I went to the place where I could combine family medicine, the most integrative of all specialties, with cutting-edge integrative medicine. I went to Tucson to train with the University of Arizona Family Medicine program and the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, which Dr. Andrew Weil directs.
My residency was an incredibly rigorous traditional medical experience, which was essential for physicians like me who wanted to bring integrative medicine into our practice. We learned that we had to know as much as the specialists we referred people to, whenever possible, to merge traditional medicine and leading edge science responsibly.
When I graduated, I returned to my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas to enter into family practice with doctors Ramberg, Burt, and Dunlap at First Med. Although I loved my work there, over time, I started seeing that I wanted to focus even more on Integrative Medicine.
This is why I founded Atma Clinic: To help my patients be successful. Integrative medicine was a call I had to answer.
Contact Atma Clinic to find out what different Integrative Medicine can make for you! Call us at 785/760-0695. Your first appointment is free.