By Alexander Germanis
From the days of Copernicus and Newton to those of Curie and Hawking, the different sciences have always been evolving systems of theory and practice. The scientific field of medicine is certainly no exception.
Since the first known anatomical studies performed in ancient Greece to the arthroscopic surgeries performed today, scientists and physicians are constantly striving to expand their knowledge of the human body.
At Van Zant Medical Group in Morton, the next steps of the medical evolution are being taken on a daily basis, with the same goal as all those who came before: to improve the health of humankind, one patient at a time.
Delving Into the Whole
Although not a new idea, the concept that the different aspects of health are interrelated has only recently been gaining real traction in the modern medical community. Physical, mental, and spiritual health have been separated into different pursuits of study and, sometimes, one or two of them have been ignored altogether. Founder of Van Zant Medical Group, Roberta Van Zant, DO, came to the realization many years ago that this approach is a truly limited one. Thus began her journey in medicine.
“I have always been interested in the study of the human body and I have a problem-solving approach to life,” shares Dr. Van Zant. “When I was 22, I had some of my own medical issues that could not be answered by traditional medicine, so I found help in the integrative medical world. I also was actively growing in my faith and recognized that people were made of mind, body, and spirit. Soon after that I realized I wanted to be a family practice doctor who could take care of the ‘whole’ person and apply that holistic approach to a patient’s care.”
Focusing on discovering and eliminating the underlying causes of a patient’s health problems rather than treating the symptoms of it is a key aspect of what is known as functional health. This is a term from which Dr. Van Zant chooses to shy away, however.
“It is just good medicine,” she insists. “I can’t imagine taking care of a patient any other way. We listen to our patient’s stories, we take the time to hear their concerns, do a thorough exam, and then employ appropriate testing to figure out what the underlying problem is.” This solving of a patient’s health mystery, so to speak, is why Dr. Van Zant became a physician in the first place.
Unfortunately, the current dominant medical system does not see it the same way, operating instead under what the doctor refers to as a “cookbook” approach. This entails following the pre-determined “recipe” of questioning the patient, nailing down a diagnosis, prescribing medication to address the symptoms, or referring to a specialist who may perform a procedure.
“At our office, our goals are actually to figure out what is making a person unwell and try to fix that in order to return them to a more optimal state of being,” the doctor says. “Listening carefully to a patient’s story and asking the right questions to uncover the important details is key to finding the answers.”
A Bigger Box
As medicine has evolved, so have the instruments and methods used in its practice. Although some have remained relatively unchanged over the years, when something new comes down the pike, some physicians are quick to figure out how to utilize them to produce better outcomes for their patients.
When it comes to evaluating what ails a patient, Dr. Van Zant accesses “a bigger toolbox,” as she calls it. “We use a variety of labs that are considered ‘outside of the box’ only because insurance may not recognize or cover their costs, or because they can’t be ordered through a hospital system or mainstream lab,” she explains.
Although not always recognized by insurance carriers, nontraditional lab companies are reliable, standardized, or well vetted out. With the information they are fed back, Van Zant Medical Group can stay on that cutting edge. “For example, we work with a company that performs next generation DNA analysis on urine and is able to find over 1000 possible infections in the urine, as opposed to the less than 20 that are found on a traditional urine culture,” the doctor declares. “If you were dealing with recurrent UTIs, wouldn’t you want that instead of being told that nothing is being found?”
All Patients Welcome
Nothing can be more crushing than needing help and being turned away. At Van Zant Medical Group, whether you have an infant in need of help, or you’ve just celebrated your 90th birthday, all patients are welcome.
“Patients see us for reasons for which they may see their traditional doctors, but they’re just not getting better or getting answers,” Dr. Van Zant says. These ailments might include but might not be limited to chronic fatigue, dizziness, irritable bowel syndrome, heavy periods, anxiety and depression, rashes, chronic or recurrent pain, or post-COVID issues.
The doctor is, of course, not alone in her mission to help. Joining her is a staff of caring professionals, focusing on a variety of specialties.
“Our nurse practitioner, Renae, specializes in pediatric care,” shares the doctor. “Most importantly we are diagnosing treatable infections, such as streptococcal infections, in children previously diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and OCD. This disorder, abbreviated PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) is recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health, but woefully unrecognized in the traditional medical system. Other infections, such as Lyme, can cause similar problems in children, a disorder called PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome). We also see a lot of kids for digestive disorders who have just been put on MiraLAX as the ‘solution.’ The testing we do at our office often reveals food sensitivities, bacterial overgrowth in the intestine, malabsorption, and inflammatory disorders that are causing these digestive issues. It is exciting to see children recover from medical conditions that they would have otherwise dealt with, possibly, for life.”
Also performed at Van Zant Medical Group is genomic testing to help the providers optimize the outcome of their patients. This genetic information allows the providers to better prioritize the options they provide to the patients, as well as uncover individualized paths to prevent and treat disease specific for that person. Genetic testing is also used as part of Van Zant Medical Group’s The Healthy Heart Program, an advanced and proactive cardiovascular prevention program that identifies all the known risks for heart attack and stroke and then puts a plan in place that will reverse cardiovascular disease. “With our approach, we can prevent a person from ever having a cardiovascular event. We’ve found high risk atherosclerotic plaque in people under 40, that didn’t even know they were at risk! Our program can put a person at ease by giving them an actionable approach that will give them a long and healthy life.”
Starting in 2023, Van Zant Medical Group will be adding a craniosacral therapist to their team. “They will be available to augment healing for patients with gut issues, pain, migraines, and chronic illnesses,” explains the doctor.
With advanced testing options including salivary, urine, stool, and blood, the staff has a better chance to discover the underlying causes of problems and either reverse them or eliminate them altogether. “And as genomic testing continues to advance and becomes more available and more usable,” Dr. Van Zant adds, “it will become the standard of care for medical practices. We offer that now and are continuing to expand our services in that area.
The Future Is Now
Every so often a science experience leaps forward. Sometimes this sudden surge stems from a negative experience. “I believe the COVID era has forever changed medicine,” Dr. Van Zant postulates. “Because more than ever, people are looking for answers to questions about what is going on with them. They no longer are accepting the limitations of the ‘traditional’ approach. ‘Holistic’ medicine is how most people want to receive care, and they are actively seeking out providers who will talk with them, listen to them, and work with them to find answers.”
Certainly, with easier access to knowledge, patients are learning about medicine and health both easier and far faster than ever before. In many ways, some medical providers are in competition not just with other doctors, but with the patients themselves. “As our culture moves forward to the personalized medicine approach,” warns the doctor, “the providers who do not realize that will be left behind. Because personalized care is the future of medicine, we are the future of medicine.”
Indeed, in order for any science to grow, evolve, and improve, it requires the ideas and efforts of those willing to take the next, necessary steps. Dr. Van Zant and her colleagues know the only way to move into the future of medicine is to take those first steps into it right now.
Van Zant Medical Group is located a 104 East Queenwood Road, Suite 202 in Morton, Illinois. To schedule an appointment, please give us a call at (309) 621-9580. For more information on the many medical services we provide, please visit us on the web at www.vanzantmedicalgroup.com.