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&#