Ashland Natural Medicine is very pleased to introduce Dr. Lisa Hendrick to the Ashland community. Originally from Montana, Dr. Hendrick recently moved back to Southern Oregon to practice at Ashland Natural Medicine. She works with individuals of all ages, assisting those struggling with chronic illness, autoimmunity, infectious disease, hormonal imbalances, and gastrointestinal issues to regain health and vitality. In today’s interview, I speak with Dr. Lisa to learn more about her work and life as a naturopathic doctor.
Hi, Dr. Lisa. Thank you for speaking with me today and congratulations on being a part of Ashland Natural Medicine.
Thank you, I’m happy to speak with you, and very excited to be welcomed by the family at Ashland Natural Medicine. I feel incredibly grateful to be working among such dedicated and talented colleagues, and to be welcomed back to the Ashland community with open arms.
Dr. Lisa, will you please tell us a little bit about your life and background?
I grew up in Whitefish, Montana, where I spent most of my days playing in the rivers, lakes, and forests of the Rocky Mountains. I was raised with a deep respect for nature, and grew up in a family that had a passion for music, tradition, good food, the outdoors, and spending time with loved ones. I was taught to work hard and encouraged to explore the world, discover my own spiritual truths, and follow my heart. Like many healers, I suffered from chronic health issues for much of my life. Though my parents brought me from doctor to doctor seeking to understand what ailed me, I continued to suffer through most of my 20s. It was the combination of feeling abandoned by conventional medicine and my passion for life that led me to traditional medicine. I eventually studied with indigenous healers and quickly fell in love with the plants of the forests and deserts, and the powerful medicines they provide. I apprenticed as a midwife, practiced as a doula, ran an outdoor herbal school for children, and led retreats to Peru to work with traditional healers. After much travel and deliberate adventuring, I decided to follow my dreams and attend a 4-year Naturopathic Medical program at National University of Natural Medicine in Portland. I am humbled that the many facets of my studies and personal experience have given me the tools to support my patients as they journey toward greater health and happiness.
Dr. Lisa, it sounds like you spent many years exploring your own healing journey. What did you learn during this process and how did this lead you to choose a career in medicine?
It’s true that I’ve spent much of my life immersed in my own healing journey, and I continue to be dedicated to the lifestyle, self-reflection, and growth required to maintain health and balance. Over the years, I’ve learned how important it is to listen to and be curious about what our bodies are communicating. After many years of feeling unwell, I discovered that I had a stubborn habit of ignoring my needs and the signs and signals my body sent me. Each time I ignored a sign, I failed to give my body what it needed in order to function optimally, and unintentionally drove the pathology deeper. Once I finally learned to befriend myself and listen to my body with compassion and curiosity, my health shifted. I also learned that it is possible to do “all the right things” and still not feel well. There is no shame in this; it is simply an indication that there is something deeper going on that requires extra investigation and support. Finding an ally, a good doctor who is curious and will spend ample time listening, is essential in being able to unravel these complex states.
What inspires you to do what you are doing?
I am inspired by life on Earth, and I care deeply about this planet, its ecosystems and creatures, my friends, family, and community. As many of us are going through some of the most challenging times any of us have experienced, I believe the world really needs us right now; it needs each of us to show up in our hearts and become the best versions of ourselves. I love cheering for and celebrating patients as they follow their path and discover their unique gifts and talents. It is rewarding to see patients recover; to witness their renewed capacity to play with their kids, be creative at work, get out of chronic pain, or rediscover their passion for gardening or painting or running. It brings me joy to know that they are able to contribute more authentically to their lives, and to life on this planet.
Dr. Hendrick, what do you see that helps to set you apart and make you really good at what you do?
I approach health from the inside out. I spent many years feeling sick and defeated, which made me more vigilant, more pragmatic, and more resilient when it comes to finding answers for my patients. I also know what it feels like to be alive and well through the support of Naturopathic Medicine. I carry this experience with me as I sit with patients, and it allows me to have trust, compassion, conviction, curiosity, and care for what my patients are experiencing, and the potential life ahead of them. I believe that a large part of healing lies in the patient-doctor relationship, and am able to provide a safe and welcoming space where patients feel heard. Together we can ask questions that lead us to the correct answers. Secondly, I have a knack for organization. It’s as if I am able to gaze up at the thousands of stars in the sky, and draw connections between them in order to illuminate a clear, cohesive constellation. I see the whole picture without getting lost in the details.
Sure. My nickname as a kid was Puzzles, as I would sit for hours on cold winter days piecing together 3-dimensional or double-sided puzzles. To this day, I love understanding how things work together to create an intricate, coherent story. Just as there is beauty in understanding how the trees need fungal networks to communicate with one another, and how the removal of a keystone species such as wolves in Yellowstone Park has detrimental downstream impacts, it is amazing to understand how a history of antibiotic use changes the microbiome of the human gut, which negatively impacts hormonal health, bone health, mood, and cardiovascular integrity. When patients arrive in the office with complex life stories, a myriad of seemingly unrelated symptoms and an assortment of habits, genetic backgrounds, and emotions, I am able to use my creative organizational skills, and prior training, to clarify the bigger picture. Instead of needing a different medication for every single symptom, we create an elegant treatment plan that targets the root of the illness, where all of the symptoms overlap.
Dr. Hendrick, you listen deeply and trust your patients even if previous lab results fail to point to a diagnosis. Please say more.
Yes, absolutely. I have a willingness to truly listen to what a patient tells me, and have the courage to dive in to investigate. If labs come back normal, yet the patient feels unwell, I listen again, ask more questions, and dive even deeper. It’s not uncommon that basic labs are normal, while the patient continues to suffer. Although laboratory testing is useful, it should never be an excuse to overlook or discount the patient’s own experience and symptoms. I had two patients just this month who came to establish care after being told by other doctors that their labs were normal, and there was nothing that could be done for them. In listening to their stories, it was apparent to me that a) the patients were sick and did not feel well, and b) there was a lot that could be done for them! For example, one of my patients was turned away from her doctor without treatment or further support after being diagnosed with subclinical hyperthyroidism. She arrived in my office with complaints of hair loss, chronic fatigue, menstrual irregularities, mood swings, headaches, food cravings, palpitations, shortness of breath, weight gain and insomnia, among other things.
We completed further workup which revealed multiple vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, significant hormonal imbalances, mold toxicity, a gut infection and iron deficiency anemia. She will likely benefit from optimization of diet, sleep, exercise, and hydration, as well as specific botanical and nutritional supplementation.
Walk us through your process of working with new patients in your practice.
I welcome new patients with a thorough intake in order to adequately understand their story, concerns, and intentions. Although it can seem like a long visit, we often laugh, or cry, and enjoy our time together. In this visit, I introduce Naturopathic Medicine, and make sure we both have a clear understanding of what to expect of the therapeutic relationship. We begin the visit by exploring the chief complaint – what is it that brings them into the office? I understand this chief complaint as the tip of the iceberg. It is our job to uncover the rest of the iceberg: what is hiding beneath the water? After the initial visit, I take time to organize the information we’ve collected, drawing pictures and schematics in order to find the clear path forward and understand the next steps. The patient receives an initial treatment plan that includes lifestyle and diet modifications, and a request to complete labs so we can illuminate other factors that may be contributing to their imbalance. We check in again after a few weeks to review lab results and establish the plan moving forward. At this point, the treatment recommendations can be tailored even more specifically to their individual condition.
Healing can oftentimes take a long time before someone has a breakthrough. Please say more.
Because every human is unique, and illness often arises over many years due to a multitude of factors (dietary and lifestyle habits, genetics, environmental exposures, chronic or latent infections, stress, etc.) it can take time to re-balance and harmonize the body. There is rarely a single cause of illness, so it requires patience on both our parts to sort through the various factors contributing to health or illness. While it is true that it can take a long time before completely recovering vitality, I often point out to patients at follow up visits that the symptoms they initially complained of are no longer present. This is one of the reasons I like to have regular checkups with patients. It can be difficult to recognize change and progress while we are in the midst of healing, so having the opportunity to check in with our progress can be supportive.
How does your big picture view of life and the world change the way you practice medicine?
I have studied with the Q’ero shaman of the Andes, and something about their worldview that resonates with me is the concept of reciprocity. Reciprocity is the state of being in balance with the forces of giving and receiving. Reciprocity holds that we are all connected; we are not separate from nature, instead, we are an essential part of nature. I believe that health is also a state of balance between the forces of giving and receiving, between nourishment and detoxification, yin and yang, wakefulness and rest, warmth and cold, dryness and moistness, etc. There are many polarities in the universe, and illness or disconnection often arise when we lean too heavily towards one side. In the Andean worldview they describe two forces, which they call Sami and Hucha. Sami is clean, life-giving, love-filled and organized energy, while Hucha is heavy, dark, fear-driven and disorganized energy. Simply put, I believe that healing is a process of transmuting Hucha to give way for Sami.
Tell us more about your practice philosophy.
My philosophy aligns with the basic tenets of Naturopathic Medicine, which focus on harnessing the healing power of nature, treating the whole person, uncovering the root cause(s) of illness, doctor as teacher, doing no harm, and prevention as the primary treatment for illness. I implement this philosophy by first understanding the environment in which the person is situated (physically, culturally, socially, psychically,) then opening the organs of elimination (gastrointestinal tract, liver, skin, lungs, kidneys, emotions,) and nourishing the whole person. I utilize advanced diagnostics based in modern science to help me to select the most appropriate and effective treatments.
Additionally, I have found through my own healing and that of my patients, that health is actually a state of balance, instead of a final destination. While we can cure and eliminate certain diseases permanently, life on earth requires us to constantly fine-tune our daily practices in order to bring about and maintain balance, health, and harmony within our bodies and within our lives. Again, it’s about balancing polarities, and allowing Hucha (disorganized and stuck energy) to transform into Sami (life-giving energy.)
I enjoy working with patients who are willing to ask questions, engage with their health in a new way, and take responsibility for following through with treatment recommendations. I work with individuals of all ages struggling with complex and chronic illness, autoimmunity, infectious disease, hormonal imbalances, and gastrointestinal issues. Such patients often present with symptoms like gas and bloating, fatigue, sleep disturbance, depression or anxiety, painful menstrual cycles, acne, headaches, sore throats, foggy brain, and joint pain, and have been dismissed or not helped by the conventional medical model. These patients discover that they have an enormous capacity for healing when approached from a Naturopathic model. I love working with women and menstrual cycle troubles, as well as hormonal transitions such as puberty, post-partum and menopause. I also work with families to support highly sensitive children who are experiencing challenges such as sensory processing, emotional processing, and ADHD.
You really love working with children. Please tell us more.
It brings me great joy to work with young people. I love how responsive they are, and how quickly they heal. The level of intervention can often be simple and subtle, such as implementing a routine sleep schedule, or decreasing time on screens and iPads. For example, I recently had a child who was diagnosed with ADHD whose doctor wanted to start them on medications. After cutting out refined sugar from the child’s diet, creating routine opportunities for exercise and play, and providing customized herbal support, the child was able to function well at school and home. As a sensitive person myself, I am especially interested in supporting highly sensitive children to thrive in the world; to help them discover who they are and what their passions are. Although it can be complex to understand the underlying physical, emotional, mental, social, and environmental influences, as we pay attention there are so many ways to tailor the environment, routine, diet, and nutrition to each meet a child’s unique needs.
You also love working with women. Please say more.
I have seen so many women in my office who arrive feeling depleted, exhausted, overwhelmed, sick, overburdened, and completely unable to show up to their lives, work, children, and families in the way they would like. Many women have been programmed by their environment to become Super Woman, and have placed unreasonable and unattainable expectations upon themselves. I love helping these women to not only sort through the physical imbalances such as menstrual irregularity, hair loss, fatigue, and mood swings, but also understand how their relationship with food, their bodies, their menstrual cycle, and their own needs might be shaping their health. I love providing a deep, nourishing, safe, and inquisitive space where women can return to themselves, their bodies, and their own true needs.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that my work is never stagnant. Each day is different, and it all centers around people and relationships and nature. I have the opportunity to be a friend, a sister, a teacher, a detective, an educator, and a guide. People share some of the most vulnerable parts of their lives with me. They trust me to listen. I get to care for the tender places in peoples’ hearts, and to help them discover life in a new way – with more inspiration, vitality, health, beauty, joy, and love. On top of that, I get to satisfy my dorky inner Sherlock Holmes by solving puzzles, and cracking some of the most difficult cases. It truly is the most amazing job to have.
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What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Most of all, I love to be in nature. I enjoy walking, hiking, sitting, running, biking, cross country skiing and snowboarding, because it means I get to breathe fresh air and enjoy the beauty of the natural world. I spend many hours harvesting herbs and making medicine, dreaming up ways to use plants to help people. I love baths. I enjoy spending time with friends and connecting with the community. I enjoy making good food, camping, ceremony, playing music and singing songs. I do my best to be present in my life so that I get to enjoy all of these riches.
How do you continue to learn and grow in what you do?
I am grateful to have been given an insatiable curiosity about life and the cosmos. This curiosity leads me to have an educational book on every hard surface – in the bathroom, on the kitchen table, in the living room, in my purse – just in case I have a spare moment. Once a week I sit down with Dr. Chris Chlebowski at Ashland Natural Medicine to go over cases and reflect on treatment approaches from a new perspective. I also engage in a monthly round table with the other two doctors at the clinic, Dr. Chlebowski and Dr. Ajana Miki, in order to support our mutual learning and growth. I dedicate myself, with each new patient, to take ample time to look over cases, read new research papers, review old notes, pick up books, listen to webinars and podcasts, and reach out to mentors and teachers.
What is the biggest challenge of being a naturopathic doctor?
It requires a lot of presence to show up for patients as they are going through challenging life experiences. In order to do this, I need to walk my walk, which translates as listening to my own body, my own needs, and finding balance in my own life.
Dr. Lisa, is your practice currently open for taking on new patients and if so, what are the next steps?
Yes, I am accepting new patients. We are currently running a new patient special in which new patients are offered a 35% discount. Those who are interested in establishing care can call the clinic with any questions or to schedule an initial intake visit. The number is 541-414-7230.
Dr. Lisa, thank you so much for speaking with us today. Do you have any last thoughts or comments you might like to share with our readers?
Thank you for speaking with me. And thank you to the greater Ashland community for helping to welcome me back to town. I am delighted to be here, and excited to work together towards greater health and vitality.
Ashland Natural Medicine
180 Lithia Way, Ste. 103, Ashland