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  • Writer's pictureJohn Kim

Leap of Faith - "getting bitten" - "hooked on integrative medicine"

Updated: Apr 17, 2022

In 1999 when I embarked on my journey through the undeveloped and uncharted territory of integrative medicine, I took a leap of faith. I left a career that would have provided me with relative safety of a steady job that paid well and plunged into uncertainty. In the third year of family medicine residency, I felt I was on a train headed towards wrong destination.


When I reached a decision to leave family medicine, I was fortunate to be doing a rural rotation where I had a lot of time. I fasted and meditated. After two weeks or so, I arrived at a deeply spiritual state where I felt both calm and resolved. I left family medicine.


My spouse and I survived next 7 months barely survived financially. Fortunately, I was able to gain an early acceptance to the UCSD-SDSU Preventive Medicine Residency which was a fantastic growth experience. I was drawn to that residency because Dr. Linda Hill (director) promised me that as long as I met my core competency, I could do every project on integrative medicine. Next two years I never worked harder (fulfilling requirements of residency, working two outside jobs, and attending school full time for a master's degree in public health). Work was tougher than family medicine, but I enjoyed it.


One of the speakers who lectured at the preventive medicine residency was Dr. Vincent Felitti who discovered ACE (Adverse Childhood Events). Dr. Felitti gave me an opportunity to build an experimental program in Kaiser assisting treatment-resistant obesity patients. The program focused on wellness - not weight, but there was significant weight loss at the end of 8-weeks.


Another benefit of preventive medicine residency was that one of fellow resident was in the US Navy and was married to a naval surgeon who introduced me to Dr. Richard Niemtzow, a genius and master physician acupuncture.


Looking back when I applied to Dr. Andrew Weil's fellowship, I had no doubt I would be accepted despite about 100:1 competition. This confidence came from the fact that I was bitten by integrative medicine. I knew that I had to practice integrative medicine as we need to breath air and fishes need water to survive. This is what it means to be "bitten"; and as a result of being bitten, I have been hooked on integrative medicine for last two decades.


Yes, I could have taken the safer route. Today, I feel grateful for my choices. I have not felt burnt out while on integrative medicine path. The path yielded enough to provide for my family. And I was fortunate enough to work with a variety of health institutions as a consultant and as an employed physician.

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