Training integrative healthcare providers for delivery of Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
Dr. Erika Schwartz is the go-to physician for all types of healthcare providers looking to train in prevention and wellness. In that context she is perhaps best known for her role as physician educator in the methodology and science of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy for prevention and wellness. Her career, however, started in a very different area of medicine. At the age of 28, Dr. Erika was the Medical Director of a major trauma centre in New York City. Five years later she went into the private practice of internal medicine and developed a highly successful practice for the following fifteen years affiliated with three hospitals and on the board of a New York medical school. What lead this well- respected, classically- trained physician to seek
a new approach to patient management? “I didn’t like the style of medicine I was practicing… everything was disease focused… I was waiting for people to get sick while doing testing and sending them home to wait for something to go wrong”, was her reply.
Dr. Erika’s career path is as unique as the life path that brought her to her current position. Born in Bucharest, Romania, she graduated from an American high school in Rome, then off to the “Big Apple” to attend college and medical school in New York City. Graduating from medical school in 1975, Dr. Erika’s internship, residency and fellowship focused on internal medicine and critical care, all disease centered practices. Twenty years into the practice of this conventional type of medicine, Dr. Erika found herself asking more questions than the system had answers for… By the early 1990’s, her interest in prevention was firmly established.
Dr. Erika researched physicians in New York and California that were engaged in the practice of integrative medicine and found few credible resources and no formal training available in the area. Dr.Erika found herself spending countless hours researching available data and training in the practices of integrative medicine. Her role today as a leading educator in prevention and bioidentical hormones for clinical practitioners stems from Dr. Erika’s personal frustration with the lack of quality education and training in areas considered outside conventional medicine.
Erika has written a highly successful series of books aimed at educating the general public on principles of wellness and disease prevention. Her first book, entitled Natural Energy (From Tired to Terrific in 10 Days) (1999) reviewed and highlighted the importance of CoEnzyme Q10 and L- carnitine in fighting fatigue. We at IHP are in total agreement that these two agents are crucial in maintaining healthy mitochondrial function, an area receiving more and more attention as the focus of care shifts to health maintenance rather that disease treatment.
Dr. Erika attributes tremendous importance to hormone balance as a means of preventing chronic diseases in the 21st century. “Running out of hormones is unhealthy. Using human identical hormones as replacement opens the door to true disease prevention. Prevention strategies are likely to fail if people feel drained, exhausted, depressed, and generally unwell. Using human identical hormones to create much needed hormone balance leads to improved mood, energy, and general well being allowing a person to be able to address the multiple lifestyle factors (diet, exercise, sleep) responsible for disease prevention”.
Dr. Erika’s second book was published in 2002, and we feel it important to point out it was published three months before the results of the Women’s Health Initiative study demonstrated the use of synthetic (pregnant horse urine) estrogen as a source of higher risk for heart disease, strokes and cancer. In her book, The Hormone Solution, Dr. Erika raised concerns about synthetic hormone replacement therapies (estrogen derived from pregnant mare’s urine), while highlighting the advantages of human identical hormone therapy (also known as bioidentical or natural hormones) and discussed the impact on overall health when individualized hormone therapies are provided for each patient. In 2004 Dr Erika authored her next book “The 30 Day Natural Hormone Plan”, reinforcing the importance of hormone health and simultaneously providing useful tools for implementing health sustaining plans for diet, exercise, relationships, and sleep. In 2007 Erika published Hormone Solution for your Daughter, which showcased the role of hormones in balancing the health of teenagers, and reviewed important skills for parenting, diet, exercise, relationships and sleep.
Treatment with bioidentical hormones has witnessed various methods of usage. Dr. Erika applies a concept of therapy we found incredibly unique; unlike the conventional approach of “treat to a target blood level”, Dr.Erika adopts the approach of “treat until the person feels well and then assess blood levels. Those are then the target blood levels for the individual in question”. It is an approach that may result in “higher than typically used in compounding ” levels of hormones being prescribed, yet is an approach that is truly individualized, and inherently identifies each patient’s particular optimum hormone levels. The approach may be applied to a broad array of treatment plans, not isolated to the application of bioidentical hormones.
“The book is intended for the public, yet delivers an important message to physicians as well; physicians need to change their attitudes. They have to become patient partners and serve the patient rather than their own egos. The book teaches patients to take responsibility for their own care, to trust themselves and not allow others to dictate their path to wellness. Ultimately, there is no reason to be sick!”
Dr. Erika has emerged as a leading authority in the education of healthcare providers. In 2007, along with a few other key opinion leaders in the field of prevention she founded the not for profit organization Bioidentical Hormone Initiative www.bhionline.org www.bioidenticalhormoneinitiative.org Through this organization and its affiliation with a New York medical school, Dr. Erika is able to offer practitioners clinical in office and seminar format training on the use of bioidentical hormone therapy. The seminars Dr. Erika teaches are not just about how to use bioidentical hormones in your practice; they are powerful examples of patient advocacy, and a tremendous and effective tool in bridging the gap between conventional and integrative healthcare providers. The seminars attract practitioners from all disciplines leading to successful much needed inter-professional relationships that result in truly integrative care for the patients and mutual respect and information sharing.
Dr. Erika has a new book in the works. The book focuses on helping patients take responsibility for their own healthcare by giving them the tools and confidence necessary to avoid bad medical decisions. “The book is intended for the public, yet delivers an important message to physicians as well; physicians need to change their attitudes. They have to become patient partners and serve the patient rather than their own egos. The book teaches patients to take responsibility for their own care, to trust themselves and not allow others to dictate their path to wellness. Ultimately, there is no reason to be sick!” she affirms.
IHP is grateful to Dr. Schwartz for taking the time to allow us to showcase her work to you. Dr. Erika is an incredible, energized, brilliant physician whose presence motivates you to ask yourself “what else can I do to help others”… Her parting words for me seem an ideal way to end this story: “you are only as good as the last past patient you helped make well”.