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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Treating the Individual Rather Than the Disease

Jul 09, 2013 04:14AM

After a long career as a board certified physician in obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. John Pan, had a different idea of how to treat his patients. Conventional medical practice begins by looking at a patient’s symptoms. Drawing on the rich and sacred traditions of the world’s best healing practices, Pan decided to turn that notion on its head.

The starting place is not the disease, but rather, the patient.  This is the basis for treatment at the George Washington Center for Integrative Medicine (GWCIM). Pan, the self-described parent of the GWCIM, first opened the doors of this ground-breaking clinic in 1998, with the assistance of the George Washington University Medical Center administration, later moving to its current location at 908 New Hampshire Avenue, D.C., in 2001. Soon after, GWCIM was invited to join the prestigious Consortium of Academic Health Centers of Integrative Medicine (CAHCIM), a national organization of integrative medicine (IM) centers in academic institutions to include Harvard, Duke, Yale, Stanford, and UCLA. Pan has also served as an executive board member.  Dr. Mikhail Kogan, joined the center in 2008 as an associate director and became medical director in 2011. Kogan is also an assistant professor of medicine and director of Integrative Medicine Fellowship at GWU Medical School.

The practices of the Center are drawn from the fundamental belief that “the pathway to healing is unique to each patient.” A headache in one patient may not respond to the same treatment as another patient. GWCIM has an extensive menu of possible treatment modalities which give both the physician and patient a wider-scope from which to find healing. This model relies upon an understanding of the “mind-body-sprit whole,” in which each patient is not defined by his or her disease but is seen as a whole person, who stands in partnership with the practitioner to find the most effective healing path among the scientifically-proven, medically safe modalities. And while treating sickness and chronic illness is an important work of the highly-trained staff, patient wellness serves as a goal for each patient and begins with the patient’s first visit.

 The pathway to healing is unique to each patient.

The Center is staffed by 21 practitioners, all licensed, certified and credentialed, who offer a wide variety of specialties for health issues pertaining to weight loss and body composition, aging, diabetes, cancer, women’s medical issues, thyroid, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, holistic psychiatry, and holistic geriatric care, to name a few. New patients are asked for a comprehensive medical history for the staff to review to determine the practitioner or group of practitioners with whom the patient will begin treatment. 

The center is pleased to announce two new physicians who are joining the staff.  Dr. Nisha Money, a nationally-known integrative medicine physician, is the director of the Global Healing Initiatives Institute, specializing in global health and integrative medicine and uses mind-body-spirit therapeutics to help with trauma-related problems. Marianna Ledenac, ND is a naturopathic physician with over 10 years of experience practicing naturopathic family medicine with special interest in lifestyle medicine, nutritional assessments (through specialized testing), pediatrics, botanical medicine, and women’s health including fertility support for men and women.

One of the most unique elements of the Center is that the entire team of practitioners joins together in weekly staff meetings to discuss patients’ progress and collaborate on treatment.  While the patient may only see one doctor or practitioner per visit, the treatment plan devised may have been aided by the wisdom and training of other staff practitioners, thereby adding to the truly integrative nature of the Center’s work. One of the fundamental goals of the Center is to train a new generation of physicians from GWU’s medical school who come to see how integrative medicine is practiced in a real world. Medical students are given a variety of opportunities to serve and learn at the Center. Some students will participate in a two week rotation to learn the basics about integrative medicine but some will choose the four-year integrative medicine track program to begin their pathway on learning integrative medicine in depth. As Kogan notes, “The students keep all the practitioners on their toes.” Each staff member of GWCIM, many of whom serve as faculty members in addition to seeing patients, is devoted to nurturing the highest level of scholarship and the deepest wisdom among these students.

The GW Center for Integrative Medicine, while in our own backyard, stands in the national spotlight for its patient-centered approach to healing, its commitment to bringing new doctors into the field and its collaborative style, which all combine to offer a unique and comprehensive place to heal the mind, body and soul to the District.

For more information about the George Washington Center for Integrative Medicine, watch short videos about the Center by Drs. Pan and Kogan or learn about the individual practitioners who serve there, visit


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