I chose to use the word “wholistic” rather than holistic because I see my patients as whole beings, not merely as a “case” with a clinical diagnosis and its associated prognosis. The intention of my practice of medicine is to work with you to bring body, mind, and spirit into balance. Serious illness is life-changing, but it does not have to stop you from living a wholehearted life. Palliative care consultation can help.
Palliative care runs parallel with general internal medicine except when at the crossroad where the burden of treatment must be weighed against potential benefits. This is where comforting and quality of life are placed at a higher priority than broad generalized recommendations for an ideal blood pressure, a goal cholesterol level, or a balanced diet.
Palliative care goes beyond the curriculum taught in medical schools and post-graduate training. Palliative care is holistic. Patients are not merely a medical diagnosis. Palliative care includes social connections, the relationship between emotions and symptoms, and acknowledges that there are aspects of wholeness that we cannot measure nor touch.
Palliative care was born out of the limits of medical science, where more treatment is not always the best treatment. Hippocrates advised healers to “Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always”. Centuries later, the capacity to cure remains limited. Most of the illnesses of modern life are not curable: heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and asthma are not curable but are “managed” with the intention of helping people live longer. Medications, surgeries, ventilators, and feeding tubes in and of themselves do not cure illness but merely support the body’s natural healing forces.
Dr. Holly Ahner is a physician board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics with over 15 years of practice in palliative care. In addition, she has a background that includes massage therapy and clinical nutrition.