Interview with Dr. Force, Dr. Conry & Dr. Plank
What brought you to wanting to practice natural healthcare?
Dr. Force: I was very sick as a teenager after contracting mononucleosis that turned into post-viral chronic fatigue immunodeficiency syndrome and, ultimately, ulcerative colitis. Frustrated with being “dropped through the cracks” of the healthcare system, I made friends with a librarian, told her I needed answers, and she started feeding me books that led me to understand what needed to be done to heal. The single most transformative book she found for me was “The Stress of Life” by Hans Selye, MD. It was understanding the stress model of Selye combined with yoga, meditation, fasting, juicing, whole food diet, targeted supplementation, exercise, biofeedback, herbs, and, ultimately, chiropractic and applied kinesiology that healed me. That led me to chiropractic school where I could study the methods that helped me heal. For me chiropractic was never limited to back or neck pain, it was a method for optimizing the nervous system and its regulation of body systems. Peer-review scientific literature continues to build a deeper understanding of the neurological mechanisms of chiropractic care.
Dr. Conry: It was quite a journey for me. Dr. Force is my father, so I grew up around this style of healthcare. I knew my dad could always help me with any health issue I had and growing up I never needed to see any doctor except him. For undergrad I got a degree in finance as a stepping stone to law school. I was accepted to law school and planned on studying international business law when Dr. Force asked if I could fill in at his office over the summer to help with exams and patient education. I loved it so much that I stayed for 10 years! Seeing the work he was doing in action, everyday miracles, was and still is so inspiring. During this time I received my 500-hour yoga teacher certification, became a doula, and worked as an apprentice home birth midwife for 3 years. My plan initially was to become a home birth midwife, but the realization that I would need to cut off care at 6 weeks postpartum lead me to finally make the leap to head to chiropractic school for 4 years with my family in tow to become a second-generation chiropractor. I am so glad I did and so grateful to be working with my mentor everyday.
Dr. Plank: Likewise for me, it’s been a long and crooked path. I’ve always been drawn to healing professions. I read the series All Creatures Great and Small when I was in fifth grade and convinced my uncle to let me work for him over the summers in his small veterinary office. I loved being there, and as much as I love animals, I wanted to be able to speak with patients. When I was 19 I got my EMT certification and was volunteering in a downtown Denver hospital and Boulder ambulance team. Again, I really enjoyed the work, but was dismayed at how little time conventional docs were allotted to listen to their patients. Finally I started doing more social work with teenagers in the juvenile justice system and women and families suffering from domestic violence. This work was so incredibly rewarding, but it was missing the entire physical side of humanity. I’d watch teenagers swig down their Ritalin with a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew, and think we were missing some critical pieces of the equation. Finally, my yoga instructor suggested I look up Naturopathic Medicine, and I felt like someone had created a profession just for me. I got to bring my geeky bio-chemistry science brain together with a deep love of listening to people’s stories. I love how herbs work with the body’s own healing potential, and that spiritual and emotional healing are an integral part of physical healing.
What does natural/holistic healthcare mean to you?
Dr. Plank: I think it means to really hold that the body has this incredibly profound ability to heal, and that if we deeply listen to what it is telling us, that miracles occur.
Dr. Conry: Being your own health expert and knowing that the choices we make everyday have a profound effect on our health outcomes.
Dr. Force: For healthcare to be natural and holistic it needs to meet certain criteria. First, treatment is for the purpose of restoring function and harmony – a catalyst that awakens allostasis (healing) and homeostasis (adaptation to stress). Second, treatment is primarily focused on resolving cause rather than treating effect (symptoms). Third, teaching and coaching self care is essential – we must change the dynamics that caused the problem in the first place and promote self care that supports health and healing. Fourth, effective care leads to measurable and tangible improvements in health based on metrics from conventional medicine gold standards.
What makes the care at The Elements of Health unique?
Dr. Conry: We really focus on combining modern diagnostics with natural solutions and have a great referral network to help get you to the right practitioner if that isn’t us or is needed in conjunction with the work we do.
Dr. Force: Yes, we are a blend of the healing arts. We represent methods from chiropractic, osteopathy, naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, functional neurology (applied kinesiology), and diagnostics from conventional medicine such as lab testing, imaging, and even genetic testing and curation. Our individual strengths are complementary and I’m so impressed by Drs. Conry’s and Plank’s abilities and passion for the work.
Dr. Plank: Between the three of us we have over 70 years of experience, which is a pretty powerful pool to draw from. I love being in the office when an unusual lab result will come in and the next thing you hear is “hey have you ever seen this before,” and hearing the cascade of ideas that flow. Like Dr. Force said, we have such a breadth of healing modalities, we don’t have to treat everyone like a nail because all we have is hammers. So if one thing doesn’t work, we can seamlessly switch to another.
What do you love about practicing in the Rogue Valley?
Dr. Force: My wife and I love the small town culture, the depth of cultural offerings normally associated with larger cities, and the outdoors all around us. To be able to walk or bike to anything we need in Ashland is wonderful and to walk to my office from home is delightful.
Dr. Plank: I love how informed and passionate the people are. I also love the sense of community that is so alive and palpable in the Rogue Valley. It is such an honor to help care for this community that works so hard for each other.
Dr. Conry: The people here are amazing! Everyone has been very kind and welcoming and other practitioners have embraced what we have to offer as a compliment to the work that they do. Also, we are so lucky to be somewhere with such amazing local food and outdoor and cultural activity options.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Dr. Plank: Any day that I can get into water is an excellent day in my book. I love all of the ways that I can fling myself into rivers, lakes, and of course the ocean. I have two boys, a 10-year-old and a 4-year-old, and we love to get ourselves out on bikes and hikes and find cool rocks. On summer weekends, our usual goal is to sleep in tents. Right now our current project is getting set up to have chickens.
Dr. Conry: Experience everything! I love to be out and about trying anything new. I am an avid reader and practice yoga and meditate daily. Any time outside makes me smile (hiking, whitewater rafting, camping) and doing it all with my kids and husband is the best.
Dr. Force: I’ve always felt inspired and restored by the outdoors – hiking, backpacking, skiing, whitewater rafting, climbing and mountaineering… and from reading/study. I also write and teach for doctors around the country who want to practice the natural healthcare approach I use in practice.
Anything you want to add or want readers to know?
Dr. Force: The ideal of health is a sound mind in a sound body (mens sana in corpore sano). Healing, especially from chronic and complex illness, requires focus, discipline, work, and time. Having a sense of mission (i.e. why do I want to be well, what will I do with better health and how will it help me serve others?) lights the “fire in the belly” that gets us to do the work required to heal and be well and whole.
Dr. Plank: I am so honored to get to be in the same practice with Dr. Conry and Dr. Force. The amount of love and compassion that these two healers have is humbling. What patients don’t necessarily see when they are in the office is the amount of research that is constantly going on, and how each of the doctors is still asking, “what else can I learn to better help my patients?”
Dr. Conry: I truly love getting to do the work I do and doing it alongside these two amazing doctors is the icing on the cake.
The Elements of Health
525 A St. Suite 3, Ashland