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Profile:

Shila Mathew, MD – Co-Founder, Holistic-online.com

Shila Mathew MD is a board-certified psychiatrist. She is a staff psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente Health Plan in North-East Ohio. Kaiser Permanente is one of the oldest and the largest Health Maintenance Organizations in the United States. Before the popularity of the managed care, Kaiser was dedicated to providing quality health care to its members. Shila has one of the largest providers at Kaiser in terms of the number of patients she sees. She is often sought by other providers at the system – the glowing testimonial that she is regarded as one of the most reputed provider in the system.

It was while working for Kaiser that Shila came face to face with the growing popularity of alternative therapies, especially herbal medicine. Patients started telling her the benefits of taking herbal supplements. Some even gave her herbal preparations to “test.” Shila started to investigate these herbs. To her horror, she discovered that many of them have severe side effects if taken in combination with prescription antidepressants and other psychiatric medications. Shila was very concerned. She made plans to develop a website to inform her patients about alternative and integral medicine. Holistic-online.com is the outgrowth of these efforts. Although the initial idea was to provide an herbal medicine site, the visitors started pleading for more information on therapies, nutrition etc. Before long, Holistic-online.com became one of the most comprehensive health information site on the Internet.

To Shila, the journey into mind-body medicine was quite natural. She was born in India, the birthplace of Ayurveda, yoga, meditation, therapeutic massage and oriental herbalism. In India, there are several Ayurvedic medical colleges that train students on ayurveda. They co-exist with medical colleges that teach modern western medicine. A majority of the population still relies on traditional (in this case ayurveda, homeopathy, massage, etc.) treatments. Shila’s own uncle was a famous Ayurvedic practitioner. People would travel long distances to consult him and to obtain his herbal preparations. Her grandfather was a Christian priest who constantly reminded her of the “power in belief” and the power in faith and spirituality.

Shila completed her university education and joined a prestigious medical college and obtained her MD degree in modern western medicine. But she was convinced that mind plays a great part in the healing of a person, probably more than the medication itself. It was up to her to harness this often overlooked healing aid. So, when she came to the United States in 1980, she applied for and got admitted to pursue residency training in Psychiatry, a field where she has an opportunity to treat the whole person – the mind, body and the spirit.

Shila had undergone training in Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, Hammond Medical Center in Philadelphia and later in Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. While at Henry Ford Hospital, she got an opportunity to be trained in Hypnotherapy. She also had taken full advantage of getting trained at one of the few sleep research centers in the world at Henry Ford Hospital.

After completing her residency, Shila joined North Coast Behavioral Center as a staff psychiatrist. She also worked at CIT Mental Health Center and Nord Center. Later she joined Kaiser Permanente Health Plan in Cleveland as a staff psychiatrist.

The job at Kaiser provided an opportunity to offer wholistic treatment to patients. The patients are encouraged to attend several support groups and participate in group therapy. Regular patient education is encouraged and the patients are encouraged to ask questions to the physicians. With the advent of the Internet, Shila has noticed that her patients come well prepared. Most of her patients are well educated. They research through Internet for the medications they are taking and alternate treatments before they come to see the physicians. Shila says that she learn as much from patients as from other channels. “You learn to listen to your patients when you are a psychiatrist,” Shila says.

Shila has made several presentations on alternative and integrative medicine and mind-body medicine to her colleagues at Kaiser. She also makes it a point to attend seminars and symposia dealing with mind-body medicine to remain up-to-date on the field.

For Shila, it is not too tough to keep pace with medical advances in various medical specialties. The help is in the corner. Her own immediate family has 3 doctors trained in western medicine and her husband’s family has more than 70 doctors in different specialties. For Shila, developing holistic-online.com was quite natural. It gave her another opportunity to provide service to the mankind. It also allowed her to go back to her roots and integrate the modern western medicine, mind body medicine and eastern wisdom and herbalism into a website that was never attempted before.

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