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Dr. Joel Warsh: “If you build it, they will come”

I frequently share this story because it is the case that inspired me to learn alternative modalities and integrate them into my medical practice. During my Pediatric Residency, a young child was brought to the hospital for chronic issues. That day, I happened to be one of his physicians. I looked around the room and […]

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I frequently share this story because it is the case that inspired me to learn alternative modalities and integrate them into my medical practice. During my Pediatric Residency, a young child was brought to the hospital for chronic issues. That day, I happened to be one of his physicians. I looked around the room and noticed bags of junk food and sugary sodas. I suggested that this child’s diet may be the cause of his chronic health issues. This notion was dismissed and they even laughed at me. Following the visit, the child’s grandmother, who happened to be in the room at the time, approached me. She shared with me that no doctor had ever mentioned her grandson’s diet. After the family implemented the dietary changes, the child never returned to the hospital again.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Joel “Gator” Warsh, an Integrative and Holistic Pediatrician in Los Angeles, California. He earned his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson Medical College, his Master’s Degree in Epidemiology and Community Health at Queen’s University, and completed his Pediatric Residency at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA).

He founded Integrative Pediatrics and Medicine in 2018, where he works today. Dr. Gator has studied Holistic and Integrative Medicine. In an effort to provide superior patient care, he incorporates various methodologies into his allopathic medical practice. Dr. Gator is a certified Integrative Medical Practitioner by the American Academy of Integrative Medicine and has published research in numerous peer-reviewed journals on topics including childhood injuries, obesity, and physical activity.

Now, Dr. Joel Warsh has teamed up with filmmaker Rob Herring to co-host a 5-day interactive wellness summit that will provide pediatric tips and wellness information from top practitioners, business owners, celebrities, and parents. Each day of the Integrative Pediatrics Summit will feature 3–5 expert interviews covering the top concerns for parents trying to raise healthy, active, well-rounded children in today’s chaotic, fast-paced, toxin ridden world. Celebrity Guest Panelists include Hilary Duff, Haylie Duff, Emilie De Ravin, Daniella Monet, Sarah Wright Olsen, Elisa Donovan, Cerena Vincent, Matt Cohen, Caitlin Crosby, Tyne Stecklein, Anna Schaffer. Featured Medical Experts include Dr. Aviva Romm, Ocean Robbins, Kimberly Snyder, Schuyler Grant, James Maskell, Zen Honeycutt, Razi Berry, Dr. Taz Bhatia, and many others.

The Integrative Pediatrics Summit series will be FREE to the public via Livestream on https://integrativepediatrics.com/summit/ from May 13th — 17th, 2020.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

For as long as I can remember, I have gravitated toward working with children. As a teenager, I coached baseball and hockey. Over the summers, I worked as a camp counselor. Before pursuing my medical degree, I earned my Master’s Degree in Kinesiology. My thesis explored ways in which to reduce injuries in child sports. There has always been something truly meaningful to me about positively impacting health and promoting longevity. We cannot truly impact the future of our planet unless we start by teaching children proper habits.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

The Integrative Pediatrics Summit has taken on a life of its own. When I first started this mission, I was not sure if others would back me up and support my endeavor. To my surprise and excitement, top wellness experts and celebrities have shown support like I could have never imagined. The summit will run on IntegrativePediatrics.com/summit on May 13–17. We have interviewed celebrities like Hilary and Haylie Duff, Emilie de Ravin, Elisa Donovan, Daniella Monet and so many others. I never imagined interviewing all of these amazing people for our first summit. It is so cool!!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Well, it’s not really that funny but when I first started my practice, some people’s voicemails were being routed to a different voicemail box. I didn’t learn about this until several potential patients complained that my office did not return calls. I couldn’t understand it because we always promptly return calls. I did not even realize this other voicemail box existed. Oops!

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Today, children are sicker than they have ever been. The CDC reports that over 25% of children have a chronic disease and many other reports have that percentage being even higher. There are a number of identifiable factors attributable to the astronomic rise in childhood diseases. That these numbers do not sound the proverbial alarm is simply appalling. As a medical professional who has sworn to uphold the Hippocratic Oath, I have devoted my practice to the prevention of disease. Yet, this is insufficient. I cannot possibly make a significant social impact by treating just the patients in my practice, alone. This information must be made available to all parents throughout the world, across all socio-economic backgrounds. To this end, I have put together a Wellness Kit, which provides parents with the tools to combat and hopefully prevent childhood illness. The Wellness Kit gives parents access to top experts and practitioners in various fields. A Nutritionist, an Acupuncturist, a Naturopath, to name a few — to whom many parents would not otherwise have access — share their knowledge. A mother in Kalamazoo, Michigan may have a child who suffers from eczema, digestive problems, and allergies. This child’s diet may primarily consist of pasta, bread, cheese, milk, and fast food. This mother may have taken her child to doctors, dermatologists, and other specialists, to no avail. As her child continues to suffer, she feels frustrated and hopeless. She does not have access to an Integrative Pediatrician. After listening to the Nutritionist segment in the Wellness Kit, this mother may perform some independent research, she may have a meaningful discussion with her child’s Pediatrician regarding diet, she may even decide to altogether eliminate wheat and dairy from her child’s diet. As a result, eczema, digestive issues and allergies may clear. It is my mission to change the statistics — to reverse the rate of childhood diseases, by teaching all parents about the SEEDS of health or the foundations, Stress, Environment, Exercise, Diet, Sleep,

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by your cause?

I frequently share this story because it is the case that inspired me to learn alternative modalities and integrate them into my medical practice. During my Pediatric Residency, a young child was brought to the hospital for chronic issues. That day, I happened to be one of his physicians. I looked around the room and noticed bags of junk food and sugary sodas. I suggested that this child’s diet may be the cause of his chronic health issues. This notion was dismissed and they even laughed at me. Following the visit, the child’s grandmother, who happened to be in the room at the time, approached me. She shared with me that no doctor had ever mentioned her grandson’s diet. After the family implemented the dietary changes, the child never returned to the hospital again.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Our world has grown so increasingly divisive that, ostensibly, practitioners of western medicine must seemingly castigate any medicine they deem to be “alternative.” Practitioners of alternative or eastern medicine deeply distrust the pharmaceutical industry. As a result, ironically, it is the patient who suffers. As a society, we must dispense with this divisive terminology. Whether they practice eastern or western medicine, all healthcare providers are committed to healing the patient. Medical doctors should learn about alternate modalities and focus on the prevention of disease, not just its treatment. Alternative practitioners should work together with medical doctors to come up with optimal treatment plans. If the mutual goal is patient health, then all practitioners — whether western or eastern, allopathic or functional, should work together as a team to effectuate that goal.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is a privilege. It also carries with it tremendous responsibility. It involves organizing and mobilizing a group of individuals in furtherance of a cause. Leadership is a component of change. Without a leader to organize a movement, we would not witness significant societal progress. A number of individuals could share a mutual idea. Unless a leader brings these people together to spearhead a movement, true change cannot be effectuated. Just by way of example, Martin Luther King Jr. was one of several leaders who paved the way for massive civil rights reform.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Fear precludes accomplishment — As a relatively young Pediatrician who took the terrifying leap of starting his own practice and online business, I never thought I would have so many amazing patients or that anyone would agree to participate in my Summit or Wellness Kit. I most certainly never believed that highly coveted and well-respected experts or celebrities would volunteer their valuable time to be — a veritable “nobody.” I wasn’t famous. I am young. Most others would have allowed fear to prevail. I had to silence my fear of rejection and simply ask. I was pleasantly surprised by the response. Had I allowed my fear to dissuade me from asking, the Summit and Wellness Kit wouldn’t exist and I could not have helped thousands of children and their parents.

2. Pure intentions win the day. One of the earliest practitioners of ancient Indian medicine, or Ayurveda, as Charaka Samhita. He is quoted as having said, “A physician, although well versed in the knowledge and treatment of disease, who does not enter the heart of the patient with the virtue of light and love, will not be able to heal the patient.” I believe I was able to start a successful practice because my intentions have been and remain to prevent disease and to augment the existing paradigm of medicine. I feel so strongly that medicine is broken. Our children’s health and the survival of our planet depend on implementing serious changes. We need to re-evaluate the way we approach the treatment of disease by focusing our attention on its prevention.

3. If you build it, they will come. I was not entirely certain whether opening a Pediatric office would be a success or a total bust. My wife and I designed a unique space and a concept — a medical office that she and I would personally want to attend, precisely because it in no way resembled or felt like a medical office. Nothing like this had ever been done before — at least not of which we were aware. There is always a risk involved in doing something novel and different. It turns out others were seeking the very same thing as were my wife and I. Although there was a risk involved in deviating from the mold, our vision and faith birthed a space that attracted a beautiful community.

4. There is never a “right” time. Leaving a well-paying salaried job was difficult, particularly when starting my own practice meant obtaining loans and earning zero income. My wife and I owned a home. We had a mortgage to pay. I didn’t feel right placing the entire burden of our family’s support on her. At the time, we did not have a child. Our responsibilities were relatively minimal. Now, we have a child. Accordingly, we have additional responsibilities. While I did not think it was the right time to start a practice when I did, I subsequently realized that now would be a far worse time. It will never seem like the “right” time to take a drastic and terrifying leap. You just have to believe in yourself and go for it.

5. Your support system is everything. The stronger your support system, the more successful you will be. There is true no “I” in “team.” A winning team consists of strong players. Hire staff that believes in your mission. If you need help, ask. My practice could not succeed without the practitioners with whom I share the space or my nursing and office staff.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

I would ensure that every neighborhood and school had a local garden. We are so reliant on grocery stores. Our food, even if organic, is shipped or sits for long periods of time on store shelves. Overproduction of food places such a tremendous strain on the environment that our soil and, consequently, our food is depleted of essential nutrients. Our current model isn’t sustainable. Nor is it optimal for our health. When the fruits and vegetables we eat aren’t delivering the nutrients we need, we are in big trouble. If we truly wish to achieve optimal health and not completely destroy the earth, we must return to a sustainable ecosystem model. I believe small scale community gardens is where that all begins.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This Hippocrates quote is actually proudly displayed in my office: “The greatest medicine of all is teaching people how not to need it.” Hippocrates is considered to be the “father of medicine.” As physicians, we take the Hippocratic Oath, swearing to uphold the principles Hippocrates taught. The father of medicine taught that it was the physician’s role to prevent disease, not to treat it. As a physician, I believe it is my principal duty, and it has become my mission to teach others to prevent disease.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Elon Musk. He is actually a fellow Queens University alumnus! I don’t think there has been a single human being who has more selflessly devoted himself to saving humanity than this man. Not only did he build an extraordinary automobile with the intention of eliminating our reliance on environmentally toxic oil, but he is using his own money to man a space exploration program that will allow the human race to continue to thrive long after Earth becomes uninhabitable. I literally cried when I watched his space launch.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@drjoelgator

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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