Q: Dear Dr. Dattner, I'd like to see you for an appointment, but I’m a bit reserved (not about your fees by the way… I am HAPPY to pay them), but after 25 years of seeing Harvard, Dartmouth, and Georgetown-educated Dermatologists, I am just kind of curious as to why no one else utilizes this holistic approach, at least where I live, which is only 90 miles above the medical centers of Boston… please understand my concerns.
Respectfully, and best regards,
A: Dear Sam, I must say that your reply set off quite a spark in my head, and got me really thinking about the answer.
It's a great question. Why would I have a more effective method for helping certain people with skin disorders than other dermatologists from some of the most prestigious academic centers in the country, if not the world? And if I did, why wouldn’t they be doing what I am doing? For a variety of reasons well beyond trying to engage you as a client, I feel compelled to answer this question. And since you asked it, I think you deserve to hear the answer. It's an answer that will also help you understand my mission in life and how it relates to your skin condition.
The first reasonable question, which you may not have wanted to state outright might be whether I am delusional about my professional abilities. Can I really help some people who my well-trained colleagues cannot? Could my methods really be so different? I know that many dermatologists are brilliant, well educated, and help a lot of people. I also know that I have helped people who have not been helped by a string of dermatologists and other practitioners.
Recently, I saw several patients with challenging and potentially dangerous skin conditions. They had been prescribed toxic drugs to take for several years, as this was the best available treatment from highly-respected, well-intentioned dermatologists. Using only diet changes and supplements, I helped them clear their complex skin conditions. They were elated to have clear skin and also to be able to stop using the drugs they were prescribed. I cannot deny the feedback that I get about their dramatic improvement; in fact it's what gets me up in the morning. My methods are vastly different from those of my dermatologic colleagues who follow an allopathic model, and I will describe them below.
I abhor the use of medications that suppress inflammatory responses because, it is dangerous. As the medicines get stronger, the collateral damage caused by weakening the body’s defense system can be very costly or even fatal. What do I know about the immune system? I started getting involved in tumor immunology 51 years ago at Sloane Kettering in Rye with Dr. Lloyd Old, who is often called the "father of tumor immunology." I took off time to do research in medical school and chose the most vibrant researcher I could find, Dr. Barry R Bloom, turning down an offer I had from Harvard. Barry later became the head of the Harvard School of Public Health for ten years. My sixth immunology lab was at the Dermatology Branch of the National Cancer Institute, where we discovered aspects of the nature of how the immune system recognizes foreign presence in the body. The insights I gained from what we learned form our incredibly productive nearly three years of research confirmed what I had heard from the “alternative” medicine world about the ability of foreign substances such as food, chemicals or microorganisms to set off a very specific response by the immune cells against particular targets in the skin, manifesting as skin disease.
I look to find and remove the cause of skin problems rather than stop the outward manifestation of the problem by suppressing them. It takes a lot of time to probe and find out the network of causes underlying a rash, choose what tools to use (supplements, diet, lifestyle changes, etc.), explain it to the patient, and them motivate them to make difficult lifestyle changes that will benefit them beyond improving their skin. This way of working is resource-intensive; it takes a lot of time and energy, which I am happy to spend, in order to solve and clear mysterious conditions. However, if I were to accept health insurance, I could not afford to practice this way unless I had a huge trust fund to support my practice.
Most dermatologists use a generally effective allopathic approach to help a large number of patients, and could not do that if they spent the amount of time I do, either with patients, or studying the various alternative methods I have pursued. They are likely not versed in botanical medicine, nutritional medicine, Functional Medicine, and numerous other alternative modalities that I integrate into the way I hear a history and create solutions. Even if they educated in this way, and they spent the time I do, under insurance payments, they would quickly have to close their offices due to negative bank accounts. Unfortunately, as you shared with me, the allopathic approach was not effective for you, and likely also not effective for a percentage of the population at large.
Living my approach as part of the integrative medicine world, along with dermatology and the scientific world of immunology for 35 years has given me a rich background of diagnostic and therapeutic tools that are not part of forefront allopathic dermatology. I have also developed some proprietary treatments in the course of all of this that would not be known by other dermatologists, which I am not positioned to reveal. So I guess that is why I can fix problems like yours.
I am about to write the 4th revision of my chapter on Seborrheic Dermatitis on in Rakel’s Integrative Medicine, and I have written the review on the same topic for the American Academy of Dermatology’s Integrative medicine task force. So I guess I am somewhat of a national expert on the subject of integrative treatment–combining conventional, alternative, and scientific methods to treat this condition. If you saw anyone else from Harvard with this perspective and these qualifications, I would very much like to interview them for my latest revision.
I hope that I have answered your question, and am happy to hear your comments.
Dr. Alan M. Dattner, MD
Holistic Dermatology & Integrative Medicine