OVER 35 YEARS OF QUALITY HERBAL THERAPEUTICS

Interview: Dr. Glenn B. Gero, N.D., M.Sc., M.H., M.E.S., C.L.C.

Holistic Naturopathic Center, Clifton NJ

What was the path you took to become a naturopathic doctor?

My lifelong study of natural health and fitness started at the age of 12, when I had overheard a stranger whisper to her friend that she thought that I was fat. Within the next year I had broken the junior high school record for the 60 yard dash.

After receiving a master’s in business (MBA), I had gravitated toward professions that were focused on medicine and health. I had attained executive positions publishing some of the most prestigious medical journals in the world including The American Journal of Surgery, The American Journal of Cardiology, and the Annals of Internal Medicine. I was also a vice-president of the regional chapter of the American Heart Association.

My introduction to naturopathy began after a ten-month period of stress-induced malaise. I had consulted with a naturopathic physician who reversed my condition in three weeks. My future professional path was clear; I had decided to convert my lifelong avocation to a fulfilling vocation.

In addition to being a licensed and board certified naturopathic physician, I have furthered my education with doctorate and master’s degrees in nutrition, a master’s certificate in botanical medicine and professional status with the American Herbalist Guild. I’ve attained over 20 certifications in various disciplines of natural medicine, including those in medical exercise, post-rehabilitative medicine, biofeedback, neuro-linguistic programming and holistic life coaching. I also devote over 200 hours each year to continuing education. I am especially proud of my prior and continuing botanical training with David Winston. I am a graduate of his two-year program as well as his graduate program, and continue to attend virtually all of his workshops.

A lot of people have had experiences with conventionally trained medical practitioners looking askance at herbal medicine. When you took continuing education courses at both Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins, what was that like in terms of acceptance of your background and the course material fitting in with your alternative training?

As both Harvard and Johns Hopkins offer programs devoted to natural healing and complementary medicine, my experiences at both fine institutions were quite positive. While there is still a considerable amount of controversy regarding the utilization of natural remedies, I have been able to uphold my clinical convictions with a vast number of medical professionals. Many doctors today are starting to realize some of the limitations of their professional capacity to assist their patients. They have been hiring physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and other patient care providers to educate their patients. I have positioned myself within the realm of patient education and supportive services. This is generally regarded as non-threatening to the establishment.

There are, of course, still an extensive number of doctors (mostly among the medical specialists) who resist the integration of naturopathic or herbal protocols. Many of my patients have, therefore, sought professionals that would be willing to work within a team approach with their naturopath. I personally prefer this model and will consult with their physicians as needed.

As a side note, when anyone quips that I practice “alternative medicine” my response is: eating properly, the absorption of vital nutrients, holistic homeostasis, physical exercise and the correction of aberrant thinking could never be the “alternative.” The alternative to the body’s natural ability to heal is drug therapy and surgery!

How did David Winston’s Herbal training mesh with your other areas of study?

I consider David Winston’s training to be the core of which all of my other areas of training are based. I continually hear myself uttering David’s words of wisdom when I’m counseling my patients. Prior to my initial two-year study with David in 2000-2002, I had thought that I already had a formidable educational background. David’s training put everything in perspective. I often think about one of David’s quotes: “after devoting 35 years of study to the field of herbs, I now consider myself an advanced beginner.” Those words have been quite resounding as it fuels my continual thirst for answers. I have made a personal commitment to spend the rest of my life studying my craft to enrich my ability to serve the people that ask for my services. David has been, and continues to be, a source of profound inspiration.

 

How does David’s training compare with other herbal education you have received?

My first herbal training was a two-year independent study program through the school founded by noted herbalist Dr. John Christopher, culminating with an intensive week of classroom training in the mountains of Utah. This was a great introduction as it enabled me to identify and understand the utilization of individual herbs. The training was very good, but paled in comparison to the practical training I had received with David Winston. David’s training is devoted to the practical clinical applications of herbal formulations and to the understanding of the energetics and specificity of treating the patient, not the disease.

David Winston’s depth of knowledge goes well beyond the scope of botanicals as he incorporates lifestyle, exercise, diet and nutritional supplementation, making his program extremely relevant for one devoted to the practice of naturopathy. Many herbalists are quite myopic in their approach, attempting to solve every issue with an herb. Herbs are an integral component of my practice, but integrating their utilization along with other holistic lifestyle modifications makes my protocols click. Thanks to David’s clinical perspectives, my practice has flourished.

One additional observation is that David Winston’s classes are dynamic. David, like me, is in a constant state of discovery. What one has learned from David years ago may be updated, amended and revised as new data is uncovered.

Naturopaths are viewed differently by various states, resulting in a wide range of what can legally be said or done by a naturopathic practitioner, even though there are those who have more training than some MD’s. This is viewed by many people as doing a disservice to the patients. Do you think there will ever be a more enlightened, and standardized, way for naturopaths to work?

There is a wide diversity among naturopaths as there are so many disciplines within the scope of naturopathic medicine. This list includes, but is not limited to: homeopathy, botanical medicine, acupuncture, exercise therapy, Bach flowers, aromatherapy, nutritional supplementation, diet modification, energy/vibrational healing, biofeedback, holistic life coaching, hydrotherapy, etc. A naturopathic standard, therefore, becomes much more difficult than conventional medicine as each of these principles may have some sound clinical basis. It is very difficult for one to be an “expert” in every discipline.

Naturopathic schools teach the basics. In a four-year education it is impossible to attain adequate training in medical science, botanical medicine, homeopathy, medical exercise, patient counseling and every other adjunct associated with naturopathic medical practice.

IIt is my opinion that the strength that we have as individual practitioners could only be commensurate with our devotion to continuing education in order to perfect our clinical acumen in the naturopathic disciplines in which we chose to be proficient. By diluting our efforts we are compromising our ability to sufficiently benefit our patients.

Therefore standardization within the naturopathic profession is much more difficult. Many of us may reach the same ends through a different vantage point, utilizing specifically learned techniques and protocols. If the patient gets well, the practitioner was right. Additionally, naturopathic doctors utilize holistic protocols, not isolated remedies. These are more difficult to standardize or ascertain scientific justification as we make most of our clinical judgments on the basis of empirical and historical evidence.

I am proud that I am licensed, board certified and have attained about 20 certifications in various areas of natural health. If, however, we judge the competency of our practitioners solely on the basis of board examinations are we really getting the best practitioners or are we limiting the profession to those with the best memory?