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An Interview with Dr. Adrienne Clamp

Thoughts From a Hypothyroid Physician Practicing Integrative Medicine

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Updated June 13, 2014

An Interview with Dr. Adrienne Clamp

Adrienne Clamp, MD is an integrative physician practicing in McLean, Virginia

Photo © Adrienne Clamp
Dr. Adrienne Clamp is a traditionally trained physician, hypothyroid herself, who has gradually shifted her focus toward a more holistic, integrative approach to medicine, including thyroid and hormone balancing. Dr. Clamp is in private practice with my physician, Dr. Kate Lemmerman. In her practice, Dr. Clamp is shifting away from general practice, which is allowing her time to focus on in-depth problem-solving for thyroid, adrenal and hormonal imbalance patients, as well as holistic health and acupuncture. I had an opportunity to interview Dr. Clamp about her philosophy about thyroid and hormonal care, her own health, and relationships with patients.

Mary Shomon: You were trained as a traditional MD, but you now practice medicine along with acupuncture, and other nontraditional approaches from a Western standpoint. What caused you to become interested in acupuncture, reiki, herbal medicine and holistic health?

Adrienne Clamp, MD: I went into medicine, at least in part, because of my fascination with people and how they work. At the time I was trained, the disciplines of traditional medicine and alternative medicine rarely, if ever, crossed paths. It was not long after I entered practice as a young physician that I came to realize that allopathic medicine, while a fabulous tool, did not have answers for many of the ills that plague people.

I think that since those early years, my antenna has always been up for what else is out there that might be of help in those situations where what I had learned was not helping. I read about many world cultures and their approaches to health. In 1999, I was fortunate enough to be able to study acupuncture and the Chinese system of understanding health and disease in a detailed way. It literally transformed the way in which I understood health and disease and people. Here, at last, was a sophisticated system that did not divide people into their component parts but spoke of the interrelationship of all parts, spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical and their interactions that result in health or disease. I was hooked and have not stopped studying since. My husband despairs of me ever deciding that I have taken enough courses or read enough books!

My real passion has always been with understanding the human organism in all of its complexity. I am fascinated by the many ways that has been accomplished by different cultures throughout history and by contemporary practitioners, with different ways of understanding. I think that honoring all those ways of understanding and dealing with people, even if they are not my primary way of thinking, is a valuable tool in helping people to heal and reach their full potential.

Mary Shomon: What is your favorite part about being a doctor?

Adrienne Clamp, MD: That answer probably differs with what period of my career we are talking about. In my youth, I delivered tons of babies and took care of lots of kids and young Moms and Dads. I loved every minute of it. After doing that for several years, I moved to the Washington area and worked for the Healthcare for the Homeless Project. I worked with homeless families and individuals and helped to establish care for homeless pregnant women. And I loved every minute of it.

Later on, I taught in the Family Medicine Residency Program at Georgetown University, helping to prepare newly graduated physicians for careers in Family Practice. I loved every minute of it. I have worked in the field of Addiction Medicine delivering medical care to this poorly understood and often poorly treated segment of our population. And I loved every minute of it.

For awhile I did only medical acupuncture (and still do a lot of it) and loved every minute of it.

My practice now is largely integrative medicine. I especially enjoy working with people when the standard answer or the "quick fix" has not worked very well. With many patients, I'm taking an "alternative look" to help them meet their health goals on their own terms, not on mine. I particularly enjoy working with people who want to take charge for themselves and change their lives.

So, I guess the answer is: "I love it all!" Or perhaps, I love the vocation of accompanying people on their journey, in the best and the worst of times and of giving help and comfort when I can. After all these years -- and I graduated from medical school back in 1979 -- I can honestly say that I have the best job on the planet, the job of "being with" other people in a way that helps them to heal and realize their potential. It is a profound privilege that I am grateful for every day.

Mary Shomon: A while back, there was an article in Time magazine, by columnist Dr. Scott Haig, called When the Patient is a Googler. Dr. Haig doesn't take kindly to patients who do their own research -- he called them "Googlers" and "brainsuckers." I took major issue with it, however, as you can read here. The reality is, however, that many of us -- and in particular, thyroid patients trying to get answers -- are forced to do our own research. What are your thoughts about "Googlers" and patients who do their own research? And why do you think some doctors don't like them?

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