The current Plum Spring Clinic is the result of a long metamorphosis of intertwined professional and personal development. In 1998, our Medical Director, Dr. Michael Sharp, was a faculty member of the UNC School of Medicine beginning to question the efficacy of the medicine he was trained in, and with a personal diagnosis of cancer. His sabbatical year of recovery included immersion in the study of Chinese medicine and acupuncture, which opened the doors to a new world of holistic, systems-based thinking about illness, healing, and well-being.
We spent the next 10 years building on that foundation, opening the Plum Spring Clinic to offer holistic care. We embraced Functional Medicine, which begins in fundamental respect for the innate genius of the physical body to repair and heal, and applies the filter of human biochemistry to the sleuthing of roots of illness. We learned how deeply the stress reaction, when unremitting as with so many of our patients, contributes to chronic physiological dysfunction. We discovered the power of a team of multi-disciplinary healing professionals collaborating with patients in the shared intention to heal and the crucial importance of human contact in that process. And we came to respect that healing is always a process of change — of physiological patterns, of emotional habits — that needs nurture and time.
We offered this holistic care under the insurance model of payment, and learned the hard way of the fundamental mismatch between the disease-orientation of the insurance model and the wellness paradigm. No doubt we need both — when confronted with life-threatening crisis such as severe injury, we absolutely need medical insurance to pay for surgeries and hospitalizations whose great expense would otherwise be devastating. But we also need to understand that the insurance model is not geared to support the profound process involved in truly reversing chronic illness, pain, and emotional stress states. To truly be on our own side with regard to our health and well-being, we can’t look to the insurance companies.
So the practice changed to a fee-for-service model of holistic care. And while not filing with insurance removed one barrier to the healing process, it introduced another. We found that requiring patients to pull out their wallet each visit was its own stress, and too often discouraged the sustained engagement required for the healing journey.