Personal Insights: Q&A with Dr. Mikhail Kogan

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Personal Insights: Q&A with Dr. Mikhail Kogan

Born in Moscow, Dr. Kogan emigrated with his family while still in his teen years, first to Israel and then to the United States, where he obtained his medical degree from the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He completed a Primary Care and Social Medicine Track Residency in Internal Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, and a Fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at The George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., which led to his joining the faculty there as an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Care. As Medical Director of GW Center for Integrative Medicine, Dr. Kogan sees patients, practices integrative medicine, and consults the DC Veteran’s affairs hospital. Additionally, Dr. Kogan has multiple research and teaching responsibilities at the GW Medical Center, including, Associate Director of the Geriatrics and Palliative Program, and the newly established Interdisciplinary Integrative Medicine Fellowship Program.

Question: What was your path to integrative medicine?

Dr. Mikhail Kogan specializes in geriatrician, palliative care, internal medicine, and integrative medicine. Dr. Kogan: I grew up in Moscow with a very different, very archaic medical system. I did experience some positive sides of that system, namely universal healthcare access, yet I had to drop out of vet school because I had horrible animal allergies from all the toxins in Russia: chlorinated water and mercury teeth fillings. That’s how I found integrative medicine; I was searching for a better way to ease my suffering than a cocktail of meds. After about 10 years of dealing with toxins, my  allergies resolved and have since become my  inspiration for my work and mission: to find more effective ways of taking care of chronic health issues.

Tell us about your approach to healthcare.

We run our center with a simple philosophy: “Healthcare is a right for everyone.” We will never be an expensive concierge practice as long as I’m around.

The GW Center for Integrative Medicine is more than ‘integrative’ on paper; we have providers from many different modalities, and they don’t work in separate rooms and worlds. Sometimes we even bring patients into weekly group discussions to go over their cases and hear our different points of view.

For some patients, we are their primary care facility. They come to us with all of their health problems, and we find a way to either address them or refer them to someone who can. Very often it means a conventional medical doctor. We try to take insurance when we can, but that’s difficult to do when you offer 60-90 minutes per initial visit and 30-60 minutes per follow up.

A few years ago we started AIM Health Institute, to try to bring integrative medicine to DC underserved communities. We are currently offering free integrative consultations, massages, acupuncture, and osteopathic treatments at the Bread for the City, one of DC free clinics.

What needs the most fixing in our current system?

Except for vaccinations, all this talk about ‘preventative medicine’ in conventional healthcare is just lip service. So-called prevention tools like mammograms don’t actually prevent breast cancer; they simply detect it.

If you’re not talking about nutrition improvement, stress reduction, and environmental health, you’re not actually talking about prevention.

Conventional docs prescribe drugs all day long. They may prescribe blood pressure pills 10 times a day. I do it maybe once or twice a week.

Pharma drug reps don’t even bother with me anymore.

What message do you want to give patients?

What scares me most is when I see new patients and before I say anything, they pull out a list of the 60 supplements they’re taking. I cannot serve those patients well.

I had a patient bring in two suitcases full of the different supplements they were taking. It took me several days to figure out what was going on. It was a mess.

If you’re spending a ton of money on organic food, why turn around and buy s**tty supplements? Don’t read something about a supplement and say “I’m gonna try this” and then go out and buy a cheap version.

What is unique about your practice?

We are one of very few places in the world that’s teaching integrative geriatrics to future doctors. Older adults deserve alternatives to medications or what are sometimes unnecessary devices that can cause pain and diminish their quality of life.

They want simplification. Patients recognize that they’re taking a variety of medications as they age, and seeing a lot of different physicians. One patient I worked with saw 105 doctors before coming to me! They begin to question if it’s all really necessary. Older adults deserve an alternative.

Personal Insights is a series of profiles on the people and institutions leading the movement forward, breaking down the barriers between integrative care and everyone who needs it. Integrative Therapeutics is committed to supporting these initiatives, because we believe everyone deserves options to choose their ideal path to health and happiness.

All opinions expressed are those of our subjects.

 

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