Find an excellent financial planner. Physicians train for 7 to 10 years after college. By the time physicians graduate they often accumulate huge debt with little advice on how to handle money. Financial planning and strategies for paying off high debt are missing from medical school education. Planning for the future and making financial decisions early in one’s career can alleviate stress later in life. Many physicians select employment without thinking about the future including pension plans and disability benefits only to find that when they get ill or retire that their financial affairs are not in order.
As part of my series about healthcare leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Mimi Guarneri.
Board-certified in Cardiovascular Disease, Internal Medicine, and Integrative Holistic Medicine, Mimi Guarneri, MD, FACC, ABOIM is a cardiologist focusing on disease prevention and health creation.
A leading proponent of Integrative Medicine, she serves on the Founding Board of the American Board of Physician Specialties in Integrative Medicine (ABOIM). She has been Co-founder and Medical Director of Guarneri Integrative Health, Inc. at Pacific Pearl La Jolla in La Jolla, California, U.S.A. since 2014, where she leads a team of experts in conventional, integrative and natural medicine. Dr. Guarneri is Co-founder and Treasurer of Miraglo Foundation, a non-profit public charity providing integrative medicine service, education and research; and serving the underserved in the U.S. and globally. She is Clinical Associate Professor at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Associate Clinical Professor of Cardiology and Internal Medicine at California Northstate University. She also is President of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and the Past President of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM). She served as Senior Advisor to the Atlantic Health System for the Chambers Center for Well Being, among other healthcare system advisory positions. She is an accomplished author and the Professor of The Great Courses video series, “The Science of Natural Healing.” Her television special, “Live Better Now with Mimi Guarneri, MD,” aired from 2018 until 2020 on hundreds of public television stations across the U.S.
Dr. Guarneri was an English Literature major as an undergraduate at New York University. Her medical degree is from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York, where she graduated number one in her class. Dr. Guarneri served her internship and residency at Cornell Medical Center, where she later became chief medical resident. She served cardiology fellowships at both New York University Medical Center and Scripps Clinic in California. She is a fellow member of the American College of Cardiology, Alpha Omega Alpha, the American Medical Women’s Association and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition.
Dr. Guarneri was recognized for leadership in Integrative Medicine by the Bravewell Collaborative and served as Founding Chair of the Bravewell Clinical Network for Integrative Medicine. She has garnered numerous awards, including the ARCS Foundation Scientist of the Year. In 2011, she won the Bravewell Physician Leadership Award which honors a physician leader who has made significant contributions to the transformation of the U.S. health care system. She received the 2012 Linus Pauling Functional Medicine Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute for Functional Medicine and the Grace A. Goldsmith award from the American College of Nutrition. Dr. Guarneri also was honored with San Diego Magazine’s Woman of the Year Awards as Health and Wellness Pioneer 2016 for her outstanding leadership. In 2018 she received the Donna Feeley Memorial Award from American Public Health Assoc./ Integrative, Complementary and Traditional Health Practices. In 2020, the board of the Integrative Healthcare Symposium bestowed her with their Visionary Award. For more: MimiGuarneriMD.com, PacificPearlLaJolla.com, www.aihm.org, https://aihm.org/fellowship/fellowship_faculty/1
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! What is your “backstory”?
I started my career as an interventional cardiologist, placing over 700 stents per year. In 1996 I conducted research with Dr Dean Ornish and realized through lifestyle change we can prevent, treat and even reverse plaque in vessels. Lifestyle medicine was not taught in medical school. This was quite a wakeup call. Now through AIHM we teach doctors how to create health through the various global healing traditions and lifestyle change.
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?
There are very few funny mistakes in medicine. I guess the funniest was as a young doctor not recognizing that I can have transgender patients I was shocked to find that the woman I was treating was a biolgic male. Today of course, we are better educated.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
I am very excited to be working on a new heart health program with Food Revolution Network and with the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine on bringing education to our colleagues globally.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I believe we stand on the shoulders of giants. My parents have to come first followed by my grandmother and Aunt Rose. Through them, I learned that a “girl” can be and do anything she wants. I had great mentors along my journey; Paul Teirstein, Dean Ornish. Lee Lipsenthal and many others. A special shout goes out to Rauni King, chair of the Academy International Board. Rauni is the backbone of the work I do in Integrative Health and Medicine. She is a rare visionary who can live at 30,000 feet yet still bring dreams to fruition.
Is there a particular book that made an impact on you? Can you share a story?
My life changed when I read Wayne Dyers book the Sacred Self. This book opened me up to spirituality.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would start a health seeker consumer driven movement that demands healthcare for all. A movement that recognizes the choices we make on our planet has a huge impact on human health. A movement that brings back the importance of community health and wellness. A movement that awakes in each and every one of us the importance of unity, connection, tolerance and love.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Rauni King and I created Miraglo Foundation a 501c3 dedicated to underserved health and education. Our work has supported clinics in the United States, India and Nepal. Our work has provided scholarships for health providers all over the world to be trained by AIHM.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant to you in your own life?
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. MLK
I have always followed my guidance and intuition. I have always trusted in a Divine plan. This has enabled me to make changes in my life when it would be much easier to just stay put. In 2004 I made a huge decision to no longer practice interventional cardiology. Instead, I focused on disease prevention and with Rauni King successfully created the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. After practicing within the Scripps hospital system, I realized that acute care and health creation are totally different philosophies and that prevention and health will always take a back seat to emergencies. This is not a judgment; it is a fact. That propelled me to take another risk in creating my current practice Pacific Pearl La Jolla.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that will help people feel great?
1. Have compassion for others and have compassion for yourself.
2. Do something for someone expecting nothing in return; it will make you feel terrific.
3. Love can and will make the world a better place. Make your words and actions come from love
5 Things you wish you knew before you became a doctor?
- Almost all disease is preventable through lifestyle change. Medical schools teach you to diagnose and treat disease after it occurs. While this is important for individuals who have a health challenge there are little to no courses on disease prevention and health creation. While the science of disease is taught, the science of health is ignored. This leaves a young physician with a limited toolbox of drugs and surgery. Western Medicine also teaches to treat a disease but not to ask why does an individual have a particular health challenge. Why is someone hypertensive or diabetic? Getting to the root cause of health challenges allows for a personalized approach to reversing the disease process.The courses taught by AIHM help fill the gap where medical schools fall short; nutrition, mind-body medicine, disease prevention and the wisdom of all global healing traditions..
- Learn meditation to transform your stress response. Medical school can be a grueling experience filled with sleepless nights and enormous stress. The pressure physicians experience to study in depth disease processes and the need to cram enormous amounts of information in short periods of time is emotionally and physically exhausting. Learning to meditate would transform the health of healthcare providers. and should be a mandatory course throughout medical school and training. Meditation has been shown to decrease anxiety, improve sleep, decrease blood pressure and improve the enzymes of longevity.
- Find an excellent financial planner. Physicians train for 7 to 10 years after college. By the time physicians graduate they often accumulate huge debt with little advice on how to handle money. Financial planning and strategies for paying off high debt are missing from medical school education. Planning for the future and making financial decisions early in one’s career can alleviate stress later in life.Many physicians select employment without thinking about the future including pension plans and disability benefits only to find that when they get ill or retire that their financial affairs are not in order.
- Practice self care and don’t be afraid to say no. Physicians are taught to handle all problems as they occur. Setting boundaries, saying no and caring for one’s needs are not taught or valued. We are taught to take care for others, not ourselves. Patients would be shocked to know that their caregivers are frequently exhausted and burnt out. Self Care strategies including proper nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise and mind-body skills should be mandatory in medical schools and training.
- Western Medicine is only one of the many Global Healing Traditions. Medical school provides all the information to diagnose and treat disease using surgery and pharmaceutical therapy.after disease occurs. Creating health and preventing disease is missing from medical school curriculum. Also missing is the wisdom of other global healing traditions such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, Homeopathy, Chiropractic, Naturopathic Medicine and others.Western medicine is the only framework that does not focus on disease prevention. Learning about other traditions would broaden the western clinician’s toolbox from surgery and drugs to a host of healing wisdom which includes evidenced-based practices such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, mind-body medicine and many others. The Academy of Integrative health and Medicine is dedicated to training clinicians from all global healing traditions to learn and work together with the goal of bringing patients the wisdom of all traditions.
Thank you so much for these wonderful insights!