I had the pleasure of interviewiew Dr. Pejman Katiraei, a pediatrician who specializes in integrative medicine. He graduated with a doctorate in osteopathic medicine and ultimately went on to become the pediatric chief resident at Loma Linda University. He stayed on at Loma Linda University for six years as the faculty holistic expert, where he founded their Wholistic Medicine Clinic. He is now in private practice in Santa Monica.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path as a doctor or healer?
In college, I thought because I was good at the sciences and liked helping people, that medicine would be an obvious choice for me. This ideal dream became disrupted upon starting medical school, where I realized the medicine that what I was being taught did not sync with me. I initially entertained dropping out of medical school because of this inherent discomfort. I then had the idea of finishing medical school and going into healthcare administration to avoid practicing medicine altogether. Somewhere along the way, I did my first rotation in pediatrics, and fell completely in love with pediatrics and the amazing children with whom I got to work. Now, 16 years later, I still love and adore every child that I have treated and feel privileged to be able to practice pediatric medicine. I joke with many people and say that I did not choose pediatrics; it chose me.
While in my pediatric residency training, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I wanted to do afterwards. One of my mentors, Dr. Sharon Riesen, suggested that I look into integrative or holistic medicine. I found a local holistic conference and attended it and, just like with pediatrics, I instantly fell in love again. Integrative medicine made so much more sense to me than the conventional medicine in which I was being trained. Intuitively, I knew that this was my future course, so I followed it. That was 2005. And now 13 years later, I still am in love with this model of medicine and enjoying learning more and more every day. Integrative and holistic pediatrics for me is not just a “cool” thing to do. The system allows me to understand my patients and to help the most challenging cases, even when other physicians have told them there is nothing left to do or have turned them away. I am very blessed to have met and been trained by some of the most extraordinary physicians around, including Dr. Kamyar Hedayat. His teachings have taught me to look at the human body in a completely different manner, emphasizing the innate intelligence of the human body itself. Even in most holistic circles, we look at the human body as a passive machine that needs to be fixed through supplements or diet. While there is a lot of power to address gastrointestinal issues and poor diet, it is also critical that we understand what the human body is attempting to do. Dr. Hedayat essentially taught me the language of the human body and how to listen very carefully to understand and appreciate what the human body is attempting to do. When you combine the power of functional medicine with the teachings of Dr. Hedayat, through Endobiogeny, then you have a beautiful medical system that honors the human body yet has numerous tools to support it in its own healing.
I feel extremely honored and privileged to have been taught all of this information and knowledge. I now hope to share this with the pediatric world and allow parents to have the understanding they need to help their children be as healthy as possible.
How have your personal challenges informed your career path?
By my early teenage years, I suffered from impressive anxiety and depression. I spent many days withdrawn and in sadness. While the depression resolved by my young adult years, the anxiety stayed with me to some extent. I look at my suffering as one of the biggest blessings in my life, as it was the impetus for me to open my eyes and to go looking for answers. This journey not only led me to develop a deep spiritual connection and practice, but it was also a powerful driver for me to continue my medical education through the world of integrative and holistic medicine.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other doctors/clinicians/healers to help their patients to thrive?
- The physician must always listen to the patient, even when they have no idea how to understand what the patient is telling them. The greatest breakthroughs I have had in my practice have come from listening to the concerns of my patients, and then taking it upon myself to understand how to make sense of those complaints.
- Despite being trained as scientists, physicians must also learn to trust their own instincts. My intuition and instincts have helped me solve some of the most complex cases I have had.
- Let go of ego. Be humble enough to realize that you can never understand it all and create enough space for new information to always arrive. Spend more time figuring out how to prove yourself wrong rather than obsessing with being right. Through these practices, you will continuously grow and quickly identify and grow past your areas of weakness.
- Allow love and the miracle of life to flow through your practice. You are not The Healer. You can be the instrument for it.
- Have a hell of a lot of fun. It genuinely saddens me to hear of physicians who in their 40s are already thinking of retirement. I love what I do so much that I could never imagine retiring from it, even if money or other factors were not an issue.
Social media and reality TV create a venue for people to share their personal stories. Do you think more transparency about your personal story can help or harm your field of work? Can you explain?
If done with respect and integrity, the sharing of personal stories can be a powerful way to connect people. I think the days of one physician sitting in an ivory tower and talking down to patients are gone. It is time that we all connect with one another powerfully and help one another achieve the greatest level of healing possible. The reality is that we need this more than ever and the only way we can heal and move past current limitations is through this.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant to your life?
I once worked for physician named Dr. Sibley. He was an excellent orthopedic surgeon that had started his own orthopedic rehab program. He had this saying, “Life is like a grinding stone. It can either grind you down or polish you, but it is your choice.” In those moments where I feel the life is grinding on me, I think back to his words and remind myself that I can choose to be polished. I have learned in time that nothing that is meaningful in life comes easily; suffering and challenges are necessary to push us past or current areas of weakness to help us grow. When we embrace the challenge and suffering that we perceive, through that can we grow into a new and stronger person that is more capable of helping others.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Over 10 years ago, as I was starting down the road of holistic and integrative medicine. I turned to my mom and told her that I was worried that in 20 to 30 years we would have rampant illness and disease. Sadly, this prediction that has been shared by many is coming true. While we have more powerful medications and treatments, we have failed in addressing the basic things we need to maintain health. We somehow think that we can pour enough money into fixing a disease and that is all that is necessary, yet we are already coming to the day that we can no longer afford these treatments. So many people are complaining about the ridiculous cost of healthcare insurance, but somehow we don’t understand that it is our own very actions that are driving these costs.
We must come together and quickly understand what we are doing to ourselves and our neighbors. The foods we eat, the toxins we pour into our environment are all coming back to haunt us. The human body has never been under this much strain to function, and the strain is what is causing a myriad of illnesses that we see, including autism. The reason why I created the Facebook page for my practice was to start sharing what we do within the clinic to the outside community. While I feel privileged to take care of the few within my practice, I feel the calling to do a lot more to help the many that could never make it to my clinic.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Originally published at medium.com