In Memoriam: Charles Weispfenning, MD

Kindness requires courage, and Doc Weispfenning had plenty of both. When I began my practice on Vashon in 1998, the term "integrated medicine" wasn't known, and Naturopathic physicians were considered quacks. Still are by some. While other doctors shunned and disparaged my profession, Dr. Weispfenning had the courage to be kind. He volunteered to be the doctor I needed for those insurance contracts, in case I ever needed an MD to provide hospital admission services. The occasion never arose, but Doc signed those contracts for over 10 years without blinking, and made my office and professional career on Vashon possible.

It has been said that intelligence requires the ability to consider different opinions while retaining your own. Dr. Weispfenning was not only highly intelligent, but resourceful. He was the best diagnostician I ever knew. He was kind, compassionate, unassuming, and the epitome of a small town doctor.

Doc went to medical school later in life and practiced medicine on Vashon for over 30 years, retiring only when he knew his patients were in good hands. Those who knew Doc, knew he didn't care about money, or recognition, he cared about people. I have said it many times over the years, and will continue to do so; had it not been for the kindness of Charles Weispfenning, MD, and his belief in my abilities as a doctor, I never would have been successful. As I approach my 20th year in practice, I hope to do his memory justice.

Create Health by Supporting Your Community

When I was a medical school student, I was lucky enough to listen to lectures from Dr. John Bastyr, the namesake of Bastyr University. Dr. Bastyr told us that being a physician, especially a Naturopathic physician, was a political profession. At the time, none of us understood how much we would each have to advocate for the acceptance of Naturopathic medicine over the course of our careers. But Dr. Bastyr also meant that the role of physician is critical in advocating for the health in all areas of our patients lives.

Naturopathic physicians believe that health is encompassed by not just our physical health, but our mental health, the health of our families, our community and our environment. At Vashon Natural Medicine, we are thankful for our patients and our community. To that end, since it's inception in 1998 Vashon Natural Medicine has supported many different organizations, from the Vashon Maury Island Land Trust which preserves our local environment, to DoVE that provides support for victims of domestic violence.

This year we are honored to be able to sponsor the Vashon Maury Food Bank's Summer 2017 Picnics in the Park, a program to provide lunches to children when school lunches are not available. This summer the Vashon Maury Food Bank plans to provide 3000 lunches to at least 500 students, and this year they will also be sending home fresh produce and snacks with families for the week. 

Help us make sure that all of our children are healthy, and enjoy their summer without worrying about being hungry. Contact the Vashon Maury Food Bank if you would like to donate or volunteer. We would like to think Dr. Bastyr would approve.

Can a Naturopathic Physician Prescribe Xanax in Washington State?

Naturopathic physicians are licensed by individual states, and abide by their state prescriptive laws. In Washington state, Naturopathic physicians have relatively similar prescribing rights as MDs and ARNPs, except for some important distinctions.

In Washington, Naturopathic physicians can use many of the same medications as MDs excluding the DEA Schedule of Controlled Substances I - V. The DEA list is based on how likely a substance is to be abused and it's potential for harm, from Heroin to Robitussin AC. Within that list, only some types of codeine, marijuana and testosterone are allowed for those who are specifically licensed with the DEA. So while we can prescribe medical marijuana, Naturopathic physicians can not, and do not prescribe Xanax.

Naturopathic physicians try to use the least invasive, and most natural treatments possible. Our first line of treatments is always based in diet, lifestyle changes, herbal medicine or nutritional supplements. As primary care physicians on a small island, we find ourselves using more synthetic medications than other Naturopathic physicians might, such as antibiotics or asthma medication, but only when absolutely necessary.  

Naturopathic physicians do not prescribe medications that have a high potential for abuse, and believe strongly in the power of nature to heal. We know that when the body has everything it needs and obstacles to cure are removed, it can heal itself, and so we try to replace deficiencies rather than mask symptoms.

MDs and ARNPs have a slightly different perspective, and are trained to use medications, such as Xanax, Adderall, and Ritilin. They do have full rights to prescribe them. At Vashon Natural Medicine, though our practitioners have different perspectives and training, they are all highly qualified and skilled in their knowledge and use of prescriptive medication. We have over 70 years of combined experience in primary care, and work collaboratively for our patients. We each treat disease by working with the patient as an individual, spending time with them to understand their issues and circumstances, and establishing a plan focused on healing for each person.

How Does Vashon Natural Medicine Work with Our Teen Patients?

Since Vashon Natural Medicine started in 1998, we have been honored to work with hundreds of teenagers to help them navigate health challenges as they mature. While it is a parent's goal to have a good relationship with their children that will help them navigate the teen years, all families and situations are different. As children grow up, they encounter many issues that challenge them. Despite the best intentions, teens do not always feel comfortable talking to their parents. Sometimes this is because of fear of judgement, or even abuse - but under specific age conditions, Washington State law allows teenagers to seek outside guidance on their own.

At Vashon Natural Medicine, we ask teens to sign releases that allow us to speak with parents when they come into our office for care. However in Washington state, if a teenager asks their medical provider for help, state law gives them protection through confidentiality. This means a doctor cannot speak with the parent or guardian without the teen's permission. It is a highly effective law that has worked well for prevention, and is even implemented in many Washington high schools. King County has a Best Starts for Kids initiative which provides on-campus health clinics in public schools to provide mental and reproductive health care services to teenagers when they need it, without fear of judgement. 

At Vashon Natural Medicine, our goal as practitioners is to spend time with our patients, and only after assessing each individual's situation do we make a determination on treatment. This is true for our teenage patients as well. Is it a situational depression from a parent's divorce or death of a loved one? Anxiety from homework and finals? Panic attacks from being in an abusive relationship? Distress over sexual identity? All aspects of a patient's life are taken into consideration before any treatment is given. 

Vashon Natural Medicine providers start with counseling, diet and exercise, nutritional status and identifying barriers to health. Further treatment may include botanical medicine, nutritional supplements, and even prescription medication depending on the situation. Only when a patient has been fully evaluated do we provide treatment, and always with guidance and follow up. 

The providers at Vashon Natural Medicine believe in treating the cause of disease, that prevention is the best medicine, and in using the least invasive and most natural treatments possible. Our job is to educate our patients and empower them to heal and care for themselves. And sometimes that process requires confidentiality.