We had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Robin Vinge, a naturopathic physician who is currently practicing in Canada. She is a soon to be published author who has been surrounded by medical doctors her whole life, her fathering being an MD, but has herself decided to become a Naturopath.
Q: Please give us some background regarding your credentials. What type of education did you pursue to become a naturopath (naturopathic physician)? Please be specific regarding the schools you attended, your major, and any additional certification programs you attended that led you to this point.
Dr. Vinge: I did a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Biology at the University of Victoria and then went on to pursue a doctorate degree at Bastyr University in Seattle which is a 4 year program. Although exposed to it in school, I did additional training in mind/body medicine in 2006 in California. Recently, I have taken three levels of Emotional Freedom Technique, a new innovative approach complementary to health and wellness. I’ve been fortunate to participate in a workshop, led in part, by Bruce Lipton, a leading scientist in the field of healing and consciousness on the planet right now.
Q: A lot of people are confused about the legitimacy of naturopathic medicine. Can you expand upon your educational pursuits to explain the similarities and differences in training that you received as opposed to an allopathic practitioner?
Dr. Vinge: We have a similar curriculum to medical school in that we study pathology, anatomy, medical physiology, and all the basic sciences that are fundamental to the study of medicine. It is a very rigorous program. We learn how to do physical exams just like in conventional medical school. We don’t see the volume of patients that medical school students do but we are seeing patients after our first year of school and get 1200 hours of supervised training in the clinic. In 3rd and 4th year when we are studying different specialties of medicine like neurology, endocrinology, gynecology and so on, our approach to treating illness differs. We come from a different philosophy; being aware of the principles of naturopathic medicine may make things more clear>>> the doctor as teacher; do no harm, identify and treat the cause, the healing power of nature, treat the whole person, emphasis on prevention. We choose dietary treatments as a foundation- nutritional study is extensive in naturopathic medical school, as is the study of botanical medicine, homeopathic medicine, therapeutic supplementation, counseling and for my unique niche- mind/body medicine which may involve recommendations in the form of a specific meditation, visualization, guided imagery, or biofeedback to augment healing. Naturopathic doctors look at the whole person when treating patients and take into account the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional sides of healing. Our testing methods differ from most M.D.’ s as well in that we look more closely at how the organs are functioning- functional medicine doctors do this type of testing also.
Q: Are you a member of any additional professional organizations? Do you have any other credentials or accolades (public speaking, published author, etc.)?
Dr. Vinge: I am a member of the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors. I speak consistently at companies in Calgary on health and wellness. I am passionate about speaking; part of my role as a naturopathic doctor is educating and empowering others to take an active role in their own health care. I teach workshops at the M.S. society, Calgary chapter and have developed and facilitated a mind/body clinic for patients with M.S. I have recently written a book “Living in Alignment-Embracing Illness as a Catalyst for Transformation” that is currently being put into a proper format for publishing. I really feel that illness often shows up in one’s life for a reason and that inevitably it can be a healing force and act as a necessary catalyst in one’s life to re-align one’s self with their true divine nature. It is a blessing.
Q: What inspired you to practice naturopathic medicine as opposed to allopathic medicine?
Dr. Vinge: I played varsity field hockey in university and my coach was a big believer in naturopathic medicine and initially introduced it to me as a prospective career. My father was a medical doctor so I grew up with medicine all around me. When I read the curriculum for naturopathic medicine, it made more sense to me intuitively. I agreed with the philosophy of naturopathic medicine and when I started attending the school, I found out how science based the program really was.
Q: What are your views on the relationship between allopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine, ancient healing practices, and modern scientific research?
Dr. Vinge: I believe that each particular branch of health care has a benefit and as health practitioners if we can find a way to keep an open mind and co-exist, everyone gains the rewards of co-management and optimal care.
Q: What are your views on allopathic medical practices and medications? How do you view the relationship between allopathic diagnostic procedures and natural healing methods?
Dr. Vinge: I think allopathic medical practices and medications definitely have their place. Allopathic diagnostic procedures are incredibly sound, well tested and absolutely essential for thorough workups pertaining to patient care. I send my patients to their medical doctor for testing many times because if they go through me they will have to pay an additional cost and most doctors are okay with doing that as long as there is rationale for why they would do the testing in the first place. Allopathic medications can be lifesaving. If you fall and break your leg, you want to go the hospital. Allopathic medicine is best for critical care.
Q: Do you practice naturopathic medicine in general or do you focus your practice on the treatment of certain, specific conditions. Do you feel you are an expert in the treatment of a particular disorder or disease; or, do you prefer to work with specific groups of people (children, women, diabetics, etc)? Please explain.
Dr. Vinge: I certainly see all types of conditions and can offer some help to any condition but because I have dealt with my own autoimmune disease (M.S.), I feel particularly drawn to help those particular individuals. I also have a strong counseling based practice as that was part of our training in naturopathic medicine and I have a natural affinity for that. I would say women’s health, stress management, and mind/body medicine would be my other strengths in terms of practicing.
Q: In what instances, if any, would you tell a patient that allopathic treatments would be safer or more effective than a natural or alternative treatment? What criteria do you use to decide when a person should be seeking allopathic remedies as opposed to natural?
Dr. Vinge: I really feel that if you are dealing with cancer you need to be working with an oncologist. If you are seeing someone for co-management, they need to have a specialty in that particular discipline. If it is a life threatening situation they will typically need allopathic treatments.
Q: What are some of the most common ailments you see that are effectively treated with natural methods? Please give an example.
Dr. Vinge: Women’s health conditions such as PMS, perimenopause and menopause are effectively treated with natural methods. Dermatological conditions such as eczema respond really well to natural medicine. Adrenal fatigue which is a common condition many people deal with in a busy modern lifestyle is treated effectively with naturopathic medicine.
Q: What are some of the greatest obstacles you face when practicing naturopathic medicine?
Dr. Vinge: The greatest obstacle I face when practicing naturopathic medicine is realizing not everyone can afford it. That should not be an impediment for obtaining good health care but until there is more coverage for low income people this is a reality. This is why I speak about health and wellness so I can reach more individuals.
Q: What type of diet plan do you generally recommend to your patients? A lot of people automatically assume that following a naturopathic plan means eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. What are your views on the importance of having (or avoiding) animal proteins and fats?
Dr. Vinge: I choose a diet based on the person that sits in front of me. I take many different factors into account when I choose a diet for someone- temperament, ayurvedic constitution, and blood type might factor into my decision along with particular attention to the chronic disease that they are dealing with and how it might best be addressed. I prescribe gluten and dairy free diets far more often than I would prescribe a vegetarian diet or strict vegan diet. Naturopathic diet plans generally require discipline and commitment to ensure success so the patient must be motivated to change their diet and lifestyle for optimal health. Most people that are dealing with an illness are generally more motivated to change their diet because they hope that they will feel better by doing so. I agree with limiting animal proteins and fats as I believe doing so has been instrumental in my ability to live well with M.S. for many years and books like The China Study add weight to that argument.
Q: What are your views regarding the use of probiotics and digestive enzymes? Do you find that the majority of your patients benefit from these types of therapies?
Dr. Vinge: I believe the use of probiotics and digestive enzymes definitely have their place when addressing someone’s body ecology. Taking into account all the factors that can disrupt bacterial flora- medications, antibiotic use, processed foods, etc and the prevalence of these interventions in modern living today, I find that addressing gut health is often necessary in many naturopathic treatment plans. .
Q: Today’s society sees a lot of people suffering from conditions that lead to chronic pain. From a naturopathic perspective, what are your views on pain management?
Dr. Vinge: I think pain management is multi-factorial and must be addressed from many different angles. The most important question to ask yourself is, ‘why is this pain here and what is it trying to teach me?’ Make peace with the pain and listen in to what it is trying to tell you.
Q: If there was one piece of advice regarding naturopathic health care you could give anyone who would listen, what would it be?
Dr. Vinge: Commit to more than one visit. It takes time to change your health. Generally, the amount of time you have had the problem is at least required to reverse or change the problem. Be patient.
Q: What is best way to contact you to book an appointment, visit your clinic, or ask for a phone consultation?
#130, 111- 5th Ave SW
403-232-1283 (I have attached a picture. Unfortunately, it is illegal to have a first visit be a phone consultation.)