Our Pohala Clinic practitioners represent a wide variety of experiences and approaches to medicine. Choosing a naturopath is an important decision. We believe that knowing how a person thinks about health makes a difference in the naturopath and client relationship. We hope you enjoy these thoughts on life and medicine from Lisa Del Alba:
How do you approach a new client?
When I see a client for the first time, my hope is, more or less, to get to know them as an individual. Rudolf Steiner once commented that there is as much difference from one human individual to the next as there is among different species of animals! My favorite part of my job is sitting face-to-face with my clients and hearing about their unique lives, and feeling amazement about how incredible it is that there can be so many different ways to live a human life. How do we all do it? My ideal patient is someone who is interested in learning about their health, and co-working with me towards better health.
What led you to a career as a naturopath?
Starting out my higher education with a combination-type of degree in physics, electrical engineering, and mathematics left me with a propensity to want to think things through. I heard lectures from physicists and mathematicians that left me with a sense of awe and wonder at the workings of the world and the universe. As a young mother, I remember worrying about my children when something unfamiliar would come up health-wise. For example, at one point, one child had persistent diarrhea, and another was chronically constipated. Like a ‘good mom’, I carted them in to see a local pediatrician. His brief explanations and suggestions were unsatisfying and didn’t seem to help anything. So, I started researching on my own.
After months of experiences, wondering, and researching, the questions only led to more questions. The whole process led to a sense of wonder and reverence for how the human being lives in their body, and how we all live in connection with the broader world. The human being was every bit as complex, fascinating and wonderful as I had felt the entire world and universe to be during my university studies! I remember thinking to myself; ‘Wow, this could be a full-time job’. A career change was in the making.
Tell us about your early life:
I grew up in a household that, in some ways, held fairly conventional beliefs. I am fortunate to have had a supportive and fruitful upbringing with parents who were interested in life and taught and shared their interests. My dad grew up as a cowboy on a Colorado ranch, and was a practicing psychologist who also taught at a local college. My mom founded and directed a pre-school while being a full-time mom who cooked, sewed, knitted, etc. She eventually went back to school, received her doctorate, and worked for the University of Maryland. Both parents loved art, adventure, travel, the outdoors, and human diversity. They eventually went their separate ways, and I became a teenager.
With such a wonderful preparation by my life circumstances and my parents, I then proceeded to make many mistakes! I learned to work my way out of and through many and varied errors along my life path. These life experiences, among others, have deepened my ability to feel understanding for where a client finds themselves in their life situation.
What is your medical philosophy regarding natural medicine and the concept of Eastern and Western medicine?
My scientific education has trained my thinking capacities, and my interest in the world keeps me learning and open to new possibilities. Anthroposophical spiritual science has provided an indispensable lens for a feeling and understanding which helps towards putting all of these various pieces together
When asked what my views are on ‘eastern’ and ‘western’ medicine, some people are surprised by my answer. In popular culture, many people think of allopathic (conventional or institutionalized) medicine as western, and almost anything else such as ‘alternative’ or naturopathic medicine as ‘eastern’. Actually, this is not a completely accurate picture. I think of ‘eastern’ medicine as medical systems arising out of ancient Eastern cultures – a few examples being Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. The Western world also has its older medical traditions. Naturopathy has its roots in nature-cure practices in old-Europe and the Americas. Anthroposophical medicine has its origins in Central Europe and included an effort to bring ancient Eastern wisdom into the Western culture in a form that could be more understandable for Western constitutions and modes of understanding.
What are your office hours at Pohala?
I work regularly in Portland at Pohala on Wednesdays from 9-5, and Thursdays from 9-1. (In Eugene, I work 9-5:30 Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, and 2-5:30 on Thursdays.) Occasionally there are temporary changes in my schedule as needs arise. I am the school doctor at the Eugene Waldorf School, and teach seminars to prospective Waldorf School teachers in the WTEE teacher training program. I find great value in working in a collegial way with teachers and other health care providers.
Thank you to Lisa Del Alba for her thoughtful answers. To make an appointment with Dr. Del Alba, please call the Pohala Clinic.