rē•Imagining The Future of Wellness with Dr. Frank Lipman
What does the future hold?
One of Dr. Frank Lipman’s first introductions to non-western medicine was with local healers back home in South Africa, which opened his eyes to non-Western ways to treat illness and heal the body. While respecting the role of Western medicine, he noticed that the local healers provided relief to patients in some ways that doctors simply were not able to. This introduced him to the merits of myriad healing modalities, and the importance of cultural context for both patients and doctors, a phenomenon known as cultural competency.
Where Traditional Medicine Meets Western Medicine
Dr. Lipman is unique in that he is not attached to any singular model or style of medicine; rather, he non-judgmentally incorporates practices he has learned over the course of four decades in medicine, after treating tens of thousands of patients. “I always use the car metaphor,” he tells rē•spin of the reason behind his combined approach to medicine. “When you are driving your car and the oil light goes on, you look to see why the oil light went on. In Western Medicine, we too often just treat the symptoms and put a band-aid over the oil light, instead of looking under the hood to see what caused the oil light to go on.”
Dr. Lipman’s open mind began to shift his medical practice when he uncovered a gap in his Western training’s efficacy regarding everyday symptom management of long-term ailments. He came to believe that Western medicine was vital for crisis management but lacked the means to address many of the long-term symptoms that his patients lived with and complained of. He thus began to seek out alternative, traditional practices to address these discrepancies, integrating acupuncture, Chinese medicine, nutrition, meditation, and a myriad of additional modalities into his treatment plans.
Dr. Lipman went on this journey in the mid-80s, long before these types of practices were readily available to the mainstream. Through decades of practice and years of fine-tuning, he adopted his “Good Medicine” methodology by combining integrative and functional medicine. In other words, his training in Western medicine still serves as a guiding force, but for the management of chronic conditions, he seeks out the underlying causes of illness using alternative means. Oftentimes he treats those imbalances with lifestyle changes such as dietary modification, stress reduction, exercise, targeted supplements, and improved sleep hygiene.
The Dr. Lipman Approach to Wellness
An appointment with Dr. Lipman begins with an extensive patient history, followed by his efforts to identify a root, underlying cause — or imbalance — within the patient’s lifestyle and medical history. He does so by looking at the body as a whole, rather than treating singular symptoms at the face value. While symptoms are addressed, the key is understanding that their occurrence points to a deeper cause that can then be managed for an improved quality of life. He reminds us that it is important to remember that all life events and occurrences impact health, including emotional states like unhappiness, stress, or discontentment, which manifest themselves as negative health consequences.
“I always say, it’s the ordinary things that we do on a daily basis that have an extraordinary effect on our health,” Dr. Lipman says of the importance of lifestyle-based interventions. Hence, in order to achieve, and maintain, a sense of optimal wellbeing, Dr. Lipman recommends lifestyle changes like cutting down on sugar and processed foods. He also notes that finding ways to healthily manage stress is another massive step in the journey. Adopting a daily meditation practice, even if it’s just for a few minutes, and trying to move your body as much as you can, are other habits that can yield major, pro-health impacts.
Emotionally, he emphasizes the importance of surrounding yourself with love — and exercising that same compassion for yourself. Remembering to surround yourself with your friends, family, and loved ones, practicing gratitude, and learning how to forgive, and be kind to, both yourself and others, thus become important medical advice.
The Future of Medicine
The doors to Eleven Eleven Wellness Center opened up nearly three decades ago. After spending his time in clinics to learn more about acupuncture and nutrition, Dr. Lipman came to believe that the future of medicine would be integrative. He believes that incorporating various modalities and specialties under one roof would be advantageous to patients, so he did just that — a hybrid treatment model of treatment that was downright revolutionary in the 1990s. Dr. Lipman now serves as Chief Medical Officer of New York City’s The Well, continuing to help propel the world of wellness forward. “My goals today are to help take medicine to the next level,” he explains. “Where we take all that I do in my practice, combine it with information from wearables, and use a tech platform to aggregate all the collected data. With a platform like this, we will be able to offer patients personalized treatments and help people make data-driven lifestyle interventions.”
Dr. Lipman likens his idea to how Netflix rē-spun how we consume entertainment, or how Peloton changed how we participate in fitness. For him, this new model of medicine could change the healthcare experience, beginning with Hearty, an up-and-coming health and wellness platform. By aggregating lab results, statistics from wearable technology (like your Amazon Halo), your diet, and your fitness regimen into one place, the program will offer personalized advice from on-demand experts and health coaches. This type of interactive, constant engagement with wellness will keep you informed while holding you accountable.
From being a Western pioneer in the integrative medical space to imagining the vast health potential in apps, Dr. Lipman’s vision for the health and wellness world continues to inspire and empower.