Published online April 5 on Providence Business News . com
Five Questions With: Dr. Lisa S. Rameaka
By Marion Davis Contributing Writer
"I THINK these therapies work best in conjunction with conventional medicine with the focus always being on the individual patient and her goals," said Lisa Rameaka, South County Hospital’s chief of ob/gyn.
For a long time, doctors frowned on “alternative” medicine, dismissing it as unscientific, unhelpful and even dangerous. But now, with many Americans embracing holistic nutrition, massage therapy, yoga and more, doctors are learning to connect the two worlds.
At South County Hospital, that connection is even closer now: All That Matters, the well-known yoga and holistic education center in Wakefield, is now offering its services within the hospital’s Medical Office Building, and founder Joan Dwyer is giving monthly talks.
Dr. Lisa S. Rameaka, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the hospital, explained why “integrative” medicine is valuable for patients.
PBN: What is integrative medicine, and how interested are your patients in it?
RAMEAKA: Integrative medicine is the combination of conventional medical therapies with selective complementary alternative medicine therapies for which there is scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness. Patients are very interested once they understand its role. … Integrative medicine is a philosophy of care that involves the mind, body and spirit. It is patient-centered care where the patient is educated and empowered to be responsible for improving her health. It is very individualized.
Integrative therapy has been an interest for South County Hospital for years. We have medical staff members who practice acupuncture, and there is an integrative therapy committee. This dedicated interest, along with the providers seeing it in their vision for The Center for Women’s Health, and a partnership with All That Matters, allowed for the motivation and formation of the current program.
PBN: How helpful can these therapies be, at their best?
RAMEAKA: I have seen patients who have benefited from integrative therapies. I think these therapies work best in conjunction with conventional medicine with the focus always being on the individual patient and her goals.
People who might benefit from integrative therapies include healthy individuals who want to optimize their health, maybe looking at stress reduction; people dealing with a chronic condition (for example, using yoga to treat back pain); and people with an acute diagnosis (for example, using acupuncture to help ease the nausea associated with chemotherapy).
PBN: How much have doctors’ attitudes toward complementary therapies changed?
RAMEAKA: I think the culture has changed, and with good reason. An estimated 83 million Americans seek out integrative therapies, including massage, acupuncture, and yoga, to name a few. An estimated $34 billion dollars a year is spent on alternative therapies.
The National Institutes of Health established the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine over a decade ago, and there is a large body of research showing that it works. It has funded over 1,200 research projects regarding integrative therapies.
More than 78 percent of medical colleges are now requiring students to take an integrative therapy course. Top medical centers have integrative medicine centers, and 18 percent of hospitals overall offer integrative therapies, up from 8 percent in 1998.
I think what makes our program unique is that South County has a dedicated core group of community members, physicians, nursing staff and senior leadership members promoting integrative medicine. We also have a health coach to assist us and work with patients.
PBN: Do you differentiate between various therapies and practices, encouraging some and discouraging others?
RAMEAKA: I make sure the patient realizes that integrative therapies are available to help complement conventional medicine to get the best results. This is where we are fortunate to have a health coach, so that the coach, provider and patient can work as a team to create goals and develop options for treatment.
PBN: What does All That Matters bring to the equation?
RAMEAKA: All That Matters is such a vital part of our program. Joan Dwyer started ATM in 1995 and created a very successful center that provides alternative therapies including yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic and massage services. Joan brought her expertise to the table, and together we created an integrative therapy program. By having some of these services within our center, it makes accessing these services easier for our patients.
To learn more about integrative therapies at South County Hospital, go to