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The Modern Medicine Woman (she composts)

· Athens,small business,other cool things,acupuncture,chinese medicine

A couple days ago I got to chat with Jana Galis, the owner and acupuncturist at Thrive Integrative Medicine in Athens, Georgia. She was one of the first handful of people to sign up for compost service when we first opened 5 years ago; she composts at home and at her business and we've even shoveled yards of compost into her backyard! We sat on the beautiful porch outside what feels like Taliesin, (not the story, just the architecture.)

I've gotten acupuncture at Thrive a handful of times, and it's always so effective that I don't need to go back! The first time I needed acupuncture, I had leaned over to tie my shoe and couldn't get up. It was the kind of pain that feels like you've got the world's biggest zip-tie around you and can't get out. Luckily I had my phone with me, and not knowing what to do, called Thrive and asked what to do. My girls were with me, and I didn't want to take them to the hospital with me if it wasn't necessary. On the phone, one of the practitioners calmed me down, explained what it probably was, and explained how to move out of it. I got acupuncture on my back the next day, and it was all better! The next time, I dropped a storm door on my toe. Knowing it was the weirdest injury ever, and not wanting to get a horrific procedure done, I went to Thrive and got acupuncture in my toe along with these funny electrode shock thing in my leg. The nail fell off naturally (lovely) and I didn't have to get any surgery that literally everyone I told about the storm door insisted I would need. And yes, I think you should definitely make an appointment with them; they can fix just about anything.

The best part about acupuncture is the effect on your mind. I remember having the feeling during acupuncture that all of my thoughts (at times my enemy) were falling into a bucket on the floor, and in the bucket, I didn't care about them, they just existed like blades of grass - interesting, moving, not mine.

I remember as a 10-year old, feeling completely fascinated by Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, a 90's tv show about this powerful person that defies all odds to be a female doctor in the Wild West. And she wears really cool hats and pinafores. However, when people referred to her in my town, it was often in a mocking way, not the way people spoke about Michael Jordan when I was 10 - there were no Dr. Quinn posters on the wall, or Dr. Quinn dolls or exploding hi-tops, yet Jordan was everywhere. But Dr. Quinn was healing people...and she was so smart...it's was strange that she was a part of jokes but not a role model. The show had incredible success at the beginning, but gained its true fame in re-runs...as if people weren't ready for the female doctor and all that she represented, they had to keep watching the show over and over until it felt like an old, wonderful sweater. Perhaps Jana is our Dr. Quinn of Athens, Georgia but cooler, calmer and with a doctorate in Acupuncture. And soon Eastern Medicine will be normal - at first it's a little shocking, and different, and but then it becomes the best re-run ever, forever.

Here is my interview with Jana. I learned a ton and I'm transcribing it here!

KB: What are some successes you've had where people have really gotten better?

JG: Oh, you mean treatment...we'll talk about composting later I see. Yes! The earliest patients I see I would remember better because it's like your first love...so impactful. I remember the first patient I ever stuck a needle into. When we learned acupuncture, you have to practice on each other, which is only fair. I was treating a patient and being observed, and this was a patient who was a middle aged surfer. It was Santa Cruz (California) and surfing was his life. He had gotten hurt and damaged his Achilles tendon and couldn't surf which was this thing that he loved. He had fallen into a depression, he was having intense cravings, and was concerned about relapsing altogether. He had gone to Western doctors, and physical therapy and all they wanted to do was give him pain killers, which he couldn't have because of his addiction. The professor told me to put a needle right in the heel, the leg and then do electro-stimulation. I did it, and it felt like going into wood...it was so thick. It was less rubber-band like and more hard because of inflammation. He came back the next week after one treatment and was so happy and back to surfing! I had first hand evidence that I could heal someone, and change their life so profoundly...there's no better payment, I could do it for free for the rest of my life. Sometimes the change is slow, and arduous but sometimes it's just one miraculous treatment and the pain goes away. People think you've performed a miracle, and in a way, it is a miracle!

KB: What type of patients have you seen in the past couple of months?

JG: I've been finishing up my doctoral degree in Chinese medicine and Acupuncture, and haven't been seeing as many patients, but the other staff has been seeing acute neuropathy, allergies, breach babies...we can use something called Moxa to increase the chance of a baby flipping from 50% to 75%.

KB: Do people come in for years and years?

JG: We have a lot of people who get one treatment, get healed and they are good! Then we have another group of people who come in once, it's not fixed yet, and they give up. We have found very few insurance companies that cover acupuncture in Georgia. Then there are people that really want to do preventative care, or achieve higher-level health goals once other health goals are taken care of. There are also some clients with chronic pain, for which there is no healing, it's ongoing pain management.

KB: I noticed recently that Chiropractic care is covered by insurance, why is that?

JG: Chiropractic care has been around longer in the United States. There's more chiropractors, there's more lobbying; acupuncture is the oldest medicine there is, but newer in the U.S. Georgia is definitely behind on this.

KB: Do you think if more insurance companies covered acupuncture, more people would use it?

JG: That's hard to say. I would say that multiple times a day people call, we tell them research shows we can help them, they are for it, then they ask if insurance covers it, and when the answer is no they hang up. And I get it! It's a lot of money.

KB: To me, it doesn't seem like that much money because if you look at the real cost of going to the Western doctor...so many different people, so many machines...the per visit cost is so much more expensive with Western medicine.

JG: When I lived paycheck to paycheck before kids, I was a waitress, but I still got massages, acupuncture and ate organic food...that was my health insurance. So I remind myself that when people say they can't afford it, what they mean is they don't choose to spend their money on it...they might have a cable bill that costs more than this. And then there's half of the population in Athens that truly can't afford it.

KB: How has your role as a business owner changed from when you opened?

JG: I'm not sure it has changed! I think you and I have been small business owners for the same amount of time. We bought the building in October/November of 2012 and we opened the doors in February. My role is like a mom...it's my other baby. My feelings around it have changed. There's some fear...buying the whole building, not feeling sure we wanted to put our roots down. Now I just feel general joy! I feel confident that Athens has showed up to take what we're offering, and is liking it!

KB: Did you find that there were already people that wanted this medicine or were you the educators?

JG: More the latter than the former. There are some people who say "do you really believe in that?" like it's a religion. You would never say that about your pharmaceutical...do you believe in that? It's not a religion, it's a medicine. And I can see why...the media portrays it as a voodoo thing with needles in the dolls and witches brews. I get it but the place where I think there's a lot of work to be done is educating Western Practitioners...so that we can refer to one another and work together with one another. Showing them research that supports Eastern medicine and handouts...that would be helpful. It takes a good bit of swallowing our pride to try to prove yourself, instead of them saying "sure! let me send over the bloodwork!"

KB: Are you able to look at bloodwork and see it as a tool?

JG: Absolutely! It's one of my favorite things! It is not widely known how much Western Education we've gotten and part of that is that there's no national standard for Acupuncture. You can go see 4 different Acupuncturists and one is a Doctor of Acupuncture, and another one got a certificate over the weekend. Some schools don't teach herbs, some do. There are 3 states: Florida, California and New Jersey where you have to be educated as a primary care physician to be an acupuncturist. We were trained in California and still maintain those licenses. While in Georgia, we're still seen as just having a technical degree, but in California we can legally read labs, order labs, diagnose with Western Terminology. Whereas here, even if I can read your bloodwork, I'm not legally allowed to tell you what I see in Western terminology. Most acupuncturists in Georgia haven't been educated as primary care doctors.

JG: My opinion is that people should be given the choice not to be a primary care doctor and acupuncturist if they don't want to, but there should be a distinction with the level of education.

KB: When did composting become a big part of your life?

JG: Composting had been important to me...almost 20 years ago when I was living on my brother's farm...living in his field and helping him pick strawberries for him...and we composted! I have tried to compost in my yard over the years, but that beautiful magic of composting is not something I've ever learned, but I couldn't see sticking it in a bag in the ground or throwing it in the ocean forever. When we opened the building, we thought about the least waste, and decided to use paper towels and use less water for our clients. So it was more for that than food that we use your service! We just got solar panels last year!

KB: Have you seen your power bills go down since getting the solar panels?

JG: Yes! Especially with the air conditioner in the summer! We try to use all natural cleaning products, and balancing being a medical clinic that is sterile, but not feeling sterile and having a homey feel! Like the paper on the beds, we could compost it but who wants to lie on crinkly paper? We use sheets.

On a final note, from me, Kristen, sheets are SO much better than crinkly paper! Go to Thrive to experience medicine in a soft, happy environment that works!

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