Personal Insights: Q&A with Dr. Mason Wallace


Personal Insights: Q&A with Dr. Mason Wallace

At the age of 18, Dr. Wallace became a combat medic in the Army National Guard and began his undergraduate training while working part time as an EMT. After graduating as a respiratory therapist in 2007, he focused in the pediatric intensive care unit moving to Seattle to obtain a lead therapist position at Harborview Medical Center. Through multiple channels, he was inspired by natural medicine and began training in naturopathy at Bastyr University in 2011. In this time, he has made it a goal to bring western and holistic medicine together in a way that is most beneficial to the patient.

Dr. Mason Wallace specializes in primary care and community medicine as a resident for Bastyr Center for Natural Health.QUESTION: From national guard EMT to resident naturopathic primary care physician. How did that happen?

Dr. Wallace: I first found naturopathic medicine when my sister became ill and we didn’t know what was going on. She saw a naturopath in Colorado who ended up diagnosing West Nile Virus. He, as a competent diagnostician and physician, altered her diet and gave her a few herbs. Not only did the West Nile Virus symptom improve, but she felt better in other aspects of her life. That was an eye-opening experience that introduced me to the gray area between diagnosis and pharmaceutical treatment.

Why specialize in naturopathic primary care?

I started in the medical world when I was 19 years old as an EMT. It was just a fun undergraduate experience, but in the back of my mind, I could not stop noticing that a lot of these diseases were preventable. Then came a turning point where I had to choose between furthering my career at the time and making a drastic change. Luckily, I was introduced to naturopathic medicine, where prevention is foundational and evidence based medicine can still be applied.

What roles do you play as a resident?

We have three primary roles at the clinic: learning medicine, helping to teach students, and treating patients. Depending on the shift, I could be seeing patients myself, taking a role as the student’s primary supervisor, or playing more of an observing role if I’m not familiar with the material. We also field urgent phone calls from patients, similar to a nurse hotline, which can be quite difficult but rewarding at the same time.

What does your day-to-day look like?

Most day-to-day operations we start the night before. I'll review the patient's records that are coming in to see us the following day, review their entire health history, and provide possible solutions to their problems with the preemptive list of possible diagnoses and treatment strategies. Before we start seeing patients, the supervising physician, students, and I preview the cases and agree on an approach. Then, with three rooms at a time, we start making rounds to see patients with students in the role of the primary contact. Depending on how busy the day is, we could see anywhere from five or six, to eighteen patients with hour long visits.

What role does awareness play in your profession?

Awareness is a big part of what brings somebody in to see a naturopathic physician. They have to know that we're out there and that we exist. Sometimes we have people that come in and say, "Oh my gosh, you guys are what I've been looking for.” We are practitioners who can take the picture of the western medical field, make sure it's safe and reputable, and then dabble in the grey area between having to watch and wait with a disease and suppression with pharmaceutical medications or surgery.

What do you consider to be the main focus of naturopathic medicine?

The main factor that differentiates a naturopathic physician is how we support the body’s ability to heal itself. I know that sounds hokie, but we prove that philosophy every day. Imagine how you’d feel after a year of regular exercise, good sleep, good food, and being in a supporting environment. It’s simple to talk about, but incredibly challenging to follow through with in real life.

What makes naturopathic medicine unique compared to other medical disciplines?

Accepting a variety of perspectives is a unique aspect of our training. Many of my colleagues excel using evidence based medicine in the manner it was intended to be used. This means treatment options are a combination of evidence, physician experience, and patient preference. Aligning these three perspectives in a way that makes the most sense can be seen as controversial, but the more I see patients being treated here, the more I am open to learning different philosophies in medicine.

What has been your largest take away from your residency?

This medicine, this practice. It can change somebody’s life and it’s awe-inspiring. The students, doctors, and patients here at the Bastyr clinic are some of the most motivated people I’ve ever met. Yes, the busy schedule offers us a lot more experience to draw from, but I wake up every morning excited to walk the same halls as this inspiring group of individuals.

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 initiatives like residency programs, universities, and clinics, 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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