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Acceptance of alternative medicine in Hawaii

Q: On a personal note, I'd like to know how your work as a naturopathic doctor has generally been received by Hawaii's conventional medical establishment. Is alternative medicine more accepted now than it used to be?

On the whole, I have nothing but good things to say about Hawaii's medical community. In recent years I've worked closely with many MDs, nurses, pharmacists, and other "conventional" practitioners. As professional colleagues, some have become my good friends. They are extremely respectful of what I have to offer, just as I respect the skills that they are trained in. Not only do I enjoy numerous supportive relationships with MDs, but they often refer their patients or family members to me, and many have themselves become my patients.

This is a very exciting time to be practicing naturopathic medicine in Hawaii. Our conventional medical establishment is becoming increasingly open-minded about alternative medicine, and signs of change are everywhere. Many conventional practitioners, for example, have gone out of their way to contact me and express strong support for my recent articles promoting alternative therapies.

I would have answered your question differently 15 years ago; the landscape has changed dramatically since then. Hawaii was once considered by some alternative practitioners to be "behind" the mainland in terms of acceptance of alternative therapies, but it's safe to say that is no longer the case. As one who frequently attends mainland seminars on the latest advances in alternative medicine, I can report that Hawaii is increasingly in sync with national trends; in recent years growing numbers of MDs around the U.S. have gotten on board in support of naturopathic medicine because of its effectiveness. Many therapies first introduced into general practice by naturopathic physicians are beginning to be widely embraced by other types of doctors and practiced in hospitals and clinics.

The bottom line: It's all about doctors of every stripe working together to help people be well.

Dr. Laurie Steelsmith is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist in Honolulu, as well as author of the new book Natural Choices for Women's Health, published by Random House. You can reach her and read her past columns at www.DrSteelsmith.com. This column is for information only. Consult your health provider for medical advice.

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