Practitioner Spotlight: Dr. Shawn Yakimovich, ND

This is a blog series profiling the philosophies, practices, and work spaces of integrative health professionals. This week we spoke with Dr. Shawn Yakimovich, ND.

My name is Shawn Yakimovich, and I’m a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Kemptville, Ontario. I graduated from CCNM in 2006, and though its hard to believe, I’m starting my eighth year in practice.

What inspired you to become an ND?

My mom was a big influence, raising me with herbs, supplements, and taking me to chiropractors. Since I was about twelve, I knew I wanted to go into the healing profession. For a long time my goal was to become a chiropractor, since that is what I was familiar with. However, after I met my first ND when I was in high school, I realized that is what I wanted to do. It took me 12 years to get from idea to graduation, but it was worth the wait.

Do you have any mentors?

Yes, many. I had the great privilege to hear both Jared Zeff ND and the late Bill Mitchell ND speak at a conference even before I was a student, and they inspired me greatly, especially in the field of botanical medicine and naturopathic philosophy. I practice Hahnemannian homeopathy, and have studied with Dr. Joe Kellerstein ND and Dr. Andre Saine ND. And finally, Dr. E.B. Nash MD, was a homeopath who practiced in Cortland, New York in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a small town doctor, doing house calls with his horse and carriage, curing diphtheria and the other ailments of the day. I try to model my small town practice after his, except without the horse.

What are your favorite books or information sources?

I love botanical medicine. One of my earliest references is a little known book called Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. It is a wealth of information about herbs, formulas, and herbal history and lore. Bill Mitchell’s book, Plant medicine in Practice: Using the Teachings of John Bastyr is also a gem.

As a homeopath, I depend on Hering’s Guiding Symptoms, Allen’s Encyclopedia of Pure Materia Medica, and of course the works of Hahnemann. While I was a student, I read Nash’s Leaders in Homeopathic Therapeutics from cover to cover, twice! I learned a lot about remedies and practice from that book. By the time I finished it, he felt like an old friend! Every June, I take a week long Case Analysis course with Dr. Andre Saine in Montreal, which is fantastic, and has done more for my practice success than anything else.

For information on diseases and drugs, I find the e-medicine website and app by Medscape to be excellent. I love books, and prefer reading on paper vs. a computer screen, so I still think of books over apps/websites. A book I wish I had is King’s American Dispensatory, which is now out of print. Its available online, but its not the same!

If anyone is travelling in Europe, I have to mention the Josephinum Medical Museum in Vienna. It houses one of the greatest collections of wax anatomical models in the world. I wish every naturopathic medical school could have a collection like this – absolutely amazing. Also, the Semmelweiss Medical Museum in Budapest is wonderful, and encapsulates the entire history of medicine. There is a small homeopathic display there, with three old remedy kits and an early edition of the Organon.

Tell us something people don’t know about you.

I’ve played the violin for close to 30 years, and I’m currently in three bands, playing folk, Celtic and country-rock! I love gardening, and grow medicinal plants in my front yard. I harvest Calendula and Hypericum blossoms that I’ve grown and use them to make a healing salve I give to patients.

How big is your practice?

Almost 2 years ago I began to practice exclusively in Kemptville, a small but growing community serving about 16 000 people, a half-hour drive south of Ottawa, Ontario.

I have a general family practice, with a special interest in autoimmune diseases, paediatrics and infectious disease prevention and treatment. I practice part-time, and see 5-15 patients a week. I am a sole practitioner in a small office space with 2 rooms above a yoga studio. I regularly refer patients to an excellent network of massage therapists, chiropractors and an osteopath who all practice in the area.

Visit to learn more about my practice.

What modalities do you use?

I use most of the naturopathic modalities in my practice: homeopathy first, but also diet therapy, supplementation when required, botanical medicine, acupuncture and hydrotherapy.

I don’t do manipulation, primarily because I don’t have the proper table for it yet. The most common lab test in my practice is the 96 food IgG bloodspot panel from RMA.

Do you do home visits?

Yes. Not many, but I always promote it as an option for patients.

Do you treat any remote patients?

Yes, I do phone follow ups if required after I have done an initial intake and exam in person. For example, I have a couple patients from upper New York state who I keep in touch with over the phone so they don’t have to drive an hour every time.

How do you manage your time to deliver individualized care while also running a successful business?

I practice 2 days a week, Tuesday and Thursdays, with the flexibility to see patients on other days if necessary. I offer same day visits by appointment, seven days a week, for acute care. This service is feasible since I live a few blocks from my office and can respond quickly. In addition to pre-booked one on one visits, I’m starting to experiment with walk-in clinic hours, which I send out via Facebook the night before, and post on a sign outside my office. In 2014, I plan to offer community acupuncture on Saturdays. These new models are ways I am trying to make my services more accessible to my community, as well as increase revenue.

What software do you use in your clinic?

I was an early adopter of Fullscript. With a low volume practice, stocking a dispensary doesn’t make sense. With Fullscript, my patients have access to professional products that are otherwise unavailable in my community, and I preserve my cashflow. I’m impressed with the quick shipping time, often within 24 hours, and the prescription feature. Its very user friendly and patients love it!

I’ve used RADAR homeopathic software since 2006, recently upgrading to RADAR OPUS on a Mac, which is a great improvement over the old versions. It has occasional bugs, but the tech support is awesome and fixes things fast. Last year I switched to a Macbook and iPhone, and use Pages to make documents and posters for talks. No matter where I am I can always check email and reply promptly, which my patients appreciate.

I’m old school when it comes to billing – just a receipt book. On the recommendation of a colleague, I’ve started to research cloud-based invoicing programs. I accept Visa, Mastercard and Debit via a POS machine through Chase Paymentech. I also accept cheque, email money transfers and Paypal. My website is on Wordpress, which makes it easy to update. I have a clinic Facebook page, and use it to get the word out about walk-in clinic hours, upcoming events, or sharing interesting articles or photos of medicinal plants that I’ve taken.

Any advice for new grads?

Visit a variety of clinics to see if there is a model or style of practice that works for you. Become a member of your provincial/state and national associations – they work hard on our behalf to secure legislation and they are only as strong as their membership numbers. Don’t worry about not knowing everything. As naturopathic doctors, there is always something we can do to help our patients. If you adhere to our principles, you will see results, and the confidence will follow.

Any closing thoughts?

I love what I do. Every day I meet interesting people, spend time with them, and help them to feel better. Usually, I am successful.

Just this evening, I received a phone call from a patient I hadn’t seen in months. She first consulted me about 18 months ago for a severe case of ulcerative colitis. Based on her abnormal colonoscopy results, her gastroenterologist told her she would be his “patient for life”. She refused prednisone and drove close to an hour to see me.

We talked, and I prescribed a probiotics and a powder formulated to soothe and heal intestinal mucosa (both of which she acquired via Fullscript). I also validated her conflicted emotions regarding her long- time partner.

We had one follow up visit. Today, she shared the results of a second colonoscopy. No lesions. Her specialist told her “you’re a miracle”.

I make no claim to Divine powers, so I have to respectfully disagree with the specialist. Its not a miracle. NDs practice medicine, and aim to cure, in accordance with Hahnemann’s opening salvo in the Organon: “The physician’s highest calling, his only calling, is to make sick people healthy – to cure, as it is termed.” Illness can be described as the sum of a patient’s susceptibility plus lifestyle factors. As NDs, we know how to influence both in a positive way, which allows us to treat the seemingly limitless number of chronic diseases that rob so many of their potential and enjoyment of life.

I think the challenge facing my profession is still a lack of awareness about what naturopathic medicine is, and why it is important. I try hard to educate the public in my community about what I do, but it is a slow process. Despite this frustration, however, I feel that widespread acceptance of our medicine is inevitable, and feel very optimistic about the possibilities.

In an era of antibiotic resistant bacteria and emerging infectious diseases like Lyme and influenza, it will be our plant medicines and unparalleled homeopathic experience with epidemics that will offer the best hope for success. Our appreciation for and manipulation of the human microbiome makes us unique in medicine, and allows us to change the course of atopic diseases, digestive disorders, autoimmune diseases and iatrogenic dysbiosis. With our numbers and unused capacity we can do much to provide primary care to the millions of Canadians who currently have limited access. Our expertise in whole foods based nutrition offers a way to curb the epidemics of diabesity, diet-related cancers and dementia that threaten to overwhelm the capacity of our healthcare system to afford and provide the necessary care.

Our skill set is needed now more than ever.

Our modus operandi is to stimulate the vital force and remove the obstacles to cure, which are numerous in modern life. We can confidently discuss prostaglandin metabolism with any biomedical practitioner, yet be just as comfortable explaining the flow of Qi to our patients. We are knowledgeable, flexible, and open minded practitioners with a rich history of clinical success that truly honours the principle of “First, do no harm”. I strongly believe that there is strength in diversity, and that a multiplicity of approaches and views is essential for a culture to thrive and survive. We provide a unique perspective in the healthcare environment, and the public is better served because we are an option. Our medicine is sustainable and nimble, and our experience deep. I am so proud to be a member of this profession, and look forward to the opportunities and challenges the coming years will bring.