Happy Birthday, KIWI! You’re almost 5-years-old, ready to start grade school. As a pediatrician, I’m so used to thinking about age this way… what is five years actually in magazine years? I think it’s a very significant milestone, especially in this age of digital media. KIWI is relevant in 2011 because it speaks to the growing number of families interested in natural, healthy, “green” living. You’ve come a long way, KIWI, and I am proud to work with you. In many ways, my pediatric practice and family life have grown in parallel with you.
Five years ago, in 2006, I was approaching my tenth year as a pediatrician out of academic training. My children were 5 and 8 at the time. As a parent and as a doctor, I was in the midst of a transformation that felt like that freight train inevitably barreling down the track. I had no idea at the time that it would eventually lead to leaving my group practice to start my own fully integrative, green practice. I was starting to feel comfortable integrating holistic practices into every day encounters in the office. Families were coming to me because they valued the “greener” approach I was taking. I was also developing one of the country’s first academic pediatric integrative programs at Hackensack University Medical Center and working closely with the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center in New Jersey. I was just starting to fully appreciate not only the impact that the environment was having on our health, but also the major impact that the practice of healthcare was having on our environment. Furthermore, working with families in my practice to live healthier lives inspired me to make similar changes at home. Each week, we re-examined some aspect of our daily lives—from the foods in our fridge to the cleaning products in our pantry—replacing what we could with healthier, greener options. It was an exciting and somewhat overwhelming time, but looking back, it was a really important time for me both as a pediatrician and as a parent.
Today, in 2011, it’s easy to look back and trace the routes that brought me to where I am today. Writing for KIWI, heading the Section on Integrative Medicine at the AAP, starting the fourth year of practice at the Whole Child Center, I am fully engaged in green, integrative practice. Professionally, I am so encouraged by the number of families who are joining the crusade to improve our children’s and our planet’s health. Green living is a mainstream way-of-life. Every encounter, from prenatal group sessions to chats with teenagers, focuses on creating wellness and incorporating natural, ecologically sustainable practices in our daily lives. And my children—now 13 and 10—are actively working with their peers to green our community by educating friends about organic produce and chemical-free products. We still work to keep living healthy lives, but it feels less overwhelming and just the way we do things.
What does the future hold? Where will we be in 2016, five years from now? I am looking forward to continuing my work with KIWI, and with families in my community and practitioners throughout the world to make integrative, ecologically sustainable healthcare the mainstream way of living that it needs to be. We face tremendous challenges in the years ahead to make healthcare as accessible and affordable as possible. I am convinced that integrative and ecologically sustainable practices are the best solutions to creating a true HEALTH-care system that both reduces costs and improves health outcomes. If we continue this work together, I believe we can address the health care and environmental challenges we face in the years to come.