I used hypnosis to help patients while I was practicing as a pediatric pulmonologist for 15 years at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY. In my last few years in Syracuse, I split my time between practicing pulmonary medicine and medical hypnosis. I enjoyed both aspects of my practice, but hypnosis and counseling felt the most rewarding because I was able to teach patients how to help themselves without reliance on additional medications, and they frequently improved quickly and dramatically. Further, as no one else in Syracuse offered hypnosis therapy to children, I was inspired by being able to make a unique contribution to health care in Central New York.
When my family’s life journey took us from Syracuse to La Jolla, CA, I decided that I would take the opportunity to recast my career by focusing entirely on hypnosis and counseling, as this was the most fun and rewarding part of my work as a physician. My initial idea was to explain to administrators at the local children’s hospitals about the unique and essential way of how I could help children in their communities. However, the administrators were only semi-interested. As one of them said, “We don’t know what to make of you. Are you a pediatrician, a pulmonologist, or a psychologist?”
I replied, “Yes, I’m all three of those things.”
“Well,” said the administrator. “We can’t fit you into a box, so we can’t offer you a job.”
I was nervous about the idea of opening up a private full-time practice specializing in pediatric hypnosis and counseling because this had not been done frequently in this country. I had always worked for hospitals, and was guaranteed a salary and benefits, which provided financial security. What would happen to my family and me, I thought, if my private practice did not succeed?
My wife was so very helpful in encouraging me and allaying my fears. First, she pointed out that I had succeeded in many of my previous life endeavors. And later she gave me an ornament bearing the inscription of a saying attributable to American naturalist John Burroughs: Leap and the net will appear.
I ended up following the advice I often give my patients regarding how to react when something does not go your way. I quote Alexander Graham Bell: When one door closes, another opens.”
I reasoned that since the door for working for a hospital was closed, I would go through the open private practice entry. I knew only two pediatricians in San Diego when I arrived. The first was a pediatric gastroenterologist whom I knew since I taught her as a religious school student in Boston in the 80’s. The second was a pediatric allergist who was a former medical student from Syracuse. Both doctors introduced me to some of the pediatricians in San Diego, who served as the first referral sources of patients once I opened my practice.
Setting up a private practice from scratch seemed like a daunting, and almost overwhelming task. Once again I was inspired by a quote I have shared with my patients from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
I picked the name “Center Point Medicine” as I viewed my work as teaching patients how to find their spiritual center. At first, I looked for office space that would accommodate a consultation room for me and a waiting area for my patients and secretary, which would encompass approximately 500 square feet. However, such a space was unavailable in my desired La Jolla location at that time. Instead, a 1000 square foot area was offered to me, which encompassed an additional two office spaces. After some consideration I decided to enter that open door. I reasoned, perhaps this indicates that I will need to hire additional staff.
Within two years, and two additional staff members, we outgrew our space, and after 5 years and two expansions, we have grown to a footprint of 3000 square feet and a staff of 11. Naturally, the practice growth reflected the ever-growing number of patients we have been privileged to help in Southern California.
My experiences in developing Center Point Medicine recall one final quote that I share with my patients by inspirational writer William Arthur Ward: If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.
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