I practice with my wife, Dr. Cheryl Wood, at Trinity Family Health Clinic in Lynnwood, Washington. We and our staff physicians see patients from newborns to the elderly. We treat in an eclectic naturopathic tradition, much as Dr. Bastyr did. We focus on diet and nutrition, but as primary care physicians we spend much time delving into the history and the interrelated nature of a patient's symptoms. I see myself as a detective in that I try to systematically view the body as a whole and determine the causes of the disease symptoms manifested in each patient. My work entails analysis based on patient history, exam and laboratory work, from which I design an integrated plan. Yes, it is wonderful having the rights to prescribe pharmaceuticals when needed, but I remain committed to the naturopathic philosophy.
I am also the co-owner of a dietary supplement company, BioGenesis Nutriceuticals, Inc. Currently I split my time between patient care, product formulations, tech-sheet writing or proofreading, and giving lectures around the country.
I had suffered from severe eczema since I was a child. My fellow classmates may remember seeing me with scaling, sloughing, oozing skin issues when I attended Bastyr. This health issue led me to question the validity of chronic long-term use of steroids. I was on them for 26 years! When I attended the University of Washington (for a pre-med, chemistry, microbiology major) I worked at a local health food store to pay my tuition. This further increased my interest in natural treatment modalities. Customers would come to the store and say, "Dr. Bastyr sent me over to pick up this or that item." I provided the product and went about my business, until one day I stopped a customer and asked, "What kind of doctor would send you in to our health food store for a supplement?" I then heard about Dr. Bastyr and naturopathic medicine. My goal had been to graduate from the University of Washington, go to medical school and set up a practice using nutrition. But suddenly I thought: Why not attend a medical school that actually taught naturopathic medicine (which incorporates nutrition at its core)?
I pondered and waited. About a year later, in 1978, another customer at the health food store mentioned that a new naturopathic school was starting that fall in Seattle. I had graduated by then from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and was ready to look to the future. Soon, I was interviewing with Bastyr cofounder Dr. Bill Mitchell and shortly thereafter enrolled in the first class (fall 1978) of the John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine (although I took a break and graduated with the second class). At Bastyr I met my future wife, Cheryl Garbarino (Dr. Cheryl Wood), and we later set up a practice together.
My training was established at Bastyr, but my career began when we founded the Trinity Clinic. When I think back on the last 26 or 27 years, I am amazed at the many blessings we have had. When Cheryl and I graduated we had no debt (we worked our way through nine years of college) and we had the blessing of people believing in us. This allowed us to get bank funding to start our initial clinic. The first day we opened, we had exhausted all but $50 of the bank loan and in 10 days had lease bills, utility bills and phone service bills due — and miraculously the clinic paid for itself from that day forward! Within six to nine months we quit our second jobs and were able to support ourselves and the clinic on the clinic income alone. Over the years we have treated babies who have grown, married and now are bringing in their babies. It's so fantastic! Most careers don't give you this level of personal interaction in people's lives. What a blessing and responsibility. I love it!
Another fortuitous experience happened in 2000, when Riley Livingston, my supplement sales representative, approached me at the clinic and wanted to start a new nutraceutical company with me. Intuitively I knew it was right. For years, I had formulated products in my mind and one nutraceutical company had consulted with me for formulations in the recent past. So, Cheryl and I embarked on another venture with Riley and founded a new company, BioGenesis. When we came out with our initial offering in December of 2000 we started with 54 products! This shocked the industry, and BioGenesis has been off and running ever since.
For those of you contemplating naturopathic medicine, please, do it for your love of people; not for reward of any kind. I know for certain that when Cheryl and I were called to this profession we gave no thought — zero — to the monetary or other rewards. If you truly feel that you were born to do this, you will succeed and in many more ways than you can imagine.
Bastyr taught me to think — not to regurgitate, but to think. To me the most important part of the program was the challenge to understand — to be stretched to think about all the possible things within the body and physiology that could contribute to the presentation of the symptoms. This is the beauty of naturopathic medicine. We look at the whole. We respect the body's wisdom and seek to understand and support it.
I am a dedicated physician. I suppose I will retire at some point (I am 56 years old). However, between my responsibilities at Trinity Clinic and my responsibilities at BioGenesis, I am quite content.
I think my education at Bastyr prepared me fairly well. My father was somewhat of a CPA and I think growing up under his influence helped me to be a successful business man. Remember, if you are to be self-employed (private practice), you must be a smart business man/woman as well as a smart and compassionate doctor. Over the years I have seen some of my colleagues fail. It saddens me when this happens, as I know that they do have medical knowledge but are unable to reach people with it. Many doctors do not have good business sense. In my type of practice you must balance both.
Interviewed July 2010