Interview With Dr. Rook

  • What excites you about your field today?  

There is an increasing body of information and research about how to maximize performance and longevity.  As we learn more about how the body heals and about ways we can optimize it, we increase the acceptance of more natural, non-invasive and non-surgical methods of healing and restoration available to our patients.  In my opinion, the best practitioner is one who recognizes (and has competent scientific understanding of) when conventional therapy is appropriate, when an alternative therapy can be useful and when both can be advantageous to his or her patient. Most importantly, the field of Integrative/Athlete Wellness largely involves caring for and interacting with motivated and committed individuals (patients) which overall lends to a higher degree of satisfaction and reward (for them and me).

 

  • What is the biggest development currently trending in your particular field?

Regenerative Injection Therapies (RIT).  These include Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and Prolotherapy (formerly called Sclerotherapy) injections into or around various musculoskeletal and/or ligamentous/tendon injuries.  As the name implies, theses types of techniques use various native or non-native substances that, when injected, (a procedure that is done in the office and as an alternative or adjunct to surgery) stimulate normal healing and proliferation of various endogenous growth factors.  There is increasing research into the effectiveness of these techniques for a variety of sub acute and chronic injuries and ailments.  Moreover, there is an exciting opportunity to contribute to our scientific understanding which not only helps our patients in the present, but also future patients.

 

  • What are the biggest challenges in your particular field?  

In some respects, Integrative Wellness is a very passive field – a bit like Preventive Medicine.  Its success (when looking at Wellness, Nutrition, Fitness, etc.) relies heavily on an engaged and motivated patient and less on a prescription.  One aspect of this field is rooted in the tenet of Health Behavior Change – a productive, but time-involved technique that is contrary to our very “I want instant gratification” society.  On the other hand, although I combine conventional and non conventional modalities that are patient-centered and patient-tailored, the complimentary-alternative modalities (CAM) have far less abundant scientific data than some of the more conventional treatments.  Patients and the medical community in general are becoming increasingly open to these strategies, so it is my job (which I take very seriously) to understand the limitations, benefits and risks of any of these techniques when discussing or proposing them as an option in contrast to or in addition to a conventional modality.  

 

  • What would you like people to know about you?

(As a doctor) I am incredibly passionate about the things I believe in and care about.  I do not promote modalities or treatments if I don’t believe there is some type of scientific merit.  It is very exciting to me to work with patients who are dedicated to improving their overall state of health and wellbeing – and tremendously rewarding to see them succeed.  

 

  • When did you 1st think about becoming a doctor? And what experience 1st influenced you to become a doctor?

I took a roundabout way to medicine…despite being very academic through high school; I took about seven years off in between graduating and beginning college.  During those intervening years, I delivered pizza, waited tables, detailed cars, sold men’s suits, played in a rock band and was part of a small, nearly successful start up involving a novel line of high tech proprietary sports sunglasses. It was during that time that I became intrigued with and began collecting articles and books about diseases like HIV and pediatric cancers. I started to keep a journal (which I still have) chronicling my questions about the science and ideas regarding the body’s intrinsic healing pathways/mechanisms (it is interesting for me to go back and read this because at the time I lacked much of the basic understanding of biochemistry and immunology that I have now).  I eventually went back to college (twice, deciding at the last minute to study music) and earned my undergraduate, graduate (MPH) and medical degrees in a 10 year period.  My initial plan was to become a Pediatric Oncologist and bridge the gap between clinical practice and research.  During residency training I made decisions to go another direction with my career but I have never lost the same fervor to seek and combine wellness and scientific contribution.

 

  • How and why did you choose your particular field?

Some personal experiences while I was in residency training helped change my focus from a pediatric subspecialty.  Before and during medical school I was (as I remain) very interested in the body’s innate healing characteristics.  As a medical student I conducted some of my training in an alternative health clinic – this allowed me to see patients who sought a doctor not so much because of an illness but rather because they wanted to find health.  After my training I largely experienced the opposite while working in Emergency Medicine and Urgent Care.  The amalgam of my personal and educational experiences together with an increased awareness of the importance of balance in all aspects of our lives helped me realize that I could have a rewarding career in medicine by focusing on a practice and patients seriously committed to achieving and remaining healthy no matter what age chronologically they are (I always say, we’re all 20 years old in our minds, but at some point our bodies do have to accept reality).  Integrative Wellness allows me to apply my analytical scientific tendencies with a very patient-centered approach so as to blend general conventional medicine with holistic strategies to derive successful patient outcomes.

  • What are you most proud about in your personal achievements as a doctor?   

From an academic standpoint, I have been involved in and/or authored some important contributions in the scientific/peer-reviewed realm.  From a personal standpoint, I believe I do a very good job of relating to and interacting with my patients.  In my experience, patient outcomes and satisfaction improve greatly when the physician reaches the patient on their level.  I strive very hard to break the physician-patient barrier while simultaneously maintaining professionalism

 

  • How do you stay fresh and renew yourself as a doctor? And as a person?  

As a doctor, I love to learn and then apply.  Ultimately seeing something work and a patient healthy and happy is, for lack of a more clinical phrase, very cool!  As a person, it’s achieving the same balance in life that I promote for my patients.  My wife, kids and I are very active and most of us find ourselves doing something outside as often as possible.  Most of my hobbies involve lots of adrenaline and occasional injuries.

 

  • What would you like people to know about you?

Before and also during college I was in rock band – we even tried to release a demo and get signed. Thankfully there are no pictures of me in spandex!

 

  • What would you be doing if you were not a doctor?  

Tornados have always fascinated me and when I was a kid I thought meteorology would be the field I would go into.  Part of me would love to spend the months of spring and summer chasing tornados through the Midwest.

 

  • What are your hobbies pastimes, personal interests?  

At any given moment, mountain biking and soccer flash through my brain about 1000 times.  I try to mountain bike as often as I can each week (I prefer steep rocky terrain – what we call enduro riding) and I routinely still play competitive soccer.  If my garage were big enough I would probably have 10 or more mountain bikes.

 

  • What are you most proud about in your personal achievements as a person?

I hold myself to a very high standard of moral ethics.  I think this allows me to be very transparent so that people in general (and my kids) see that I practice what I preach.  That mentality as well has been crucial when I have faced adversity in the past.

 

  • What do you learn from your patients?  

Resilience – it is fascinating to me to see how people respond to challenges and overcome them.  

 

  • What can patients look forward to in being a patient of yours?  

Overall improved sense of well-being.  Coming to see me (unless obviously it is for an acute illness or injury) should be a pleasant experience.   My (and HVVMG/HLF) goal is to redefine what the clinic/patient-physician experience is and ultimately to reshape the process of getting and keeping people healthier, happier and more active.

 

  • What are your feelings about fitness, nutrition and diet as a new medicine in patient health?  

Well, as the Integrative/Athlete Wellness physician and pioneering this approach along with our Heritage Life Fit department here at HVVMG I find this to be extremely important and valuable.  There is more understanding today than previously how nutrition and exercise affect acute and chronic wellness and disease.  There is a significant neurochemical connection between the brain and gut and very simple modifications to one’s way of eating can make remarkable changes in both healthy and chronically ill individuals.

  

  • What do you do to keep up and stay on track with patient’s expectations?

I constantly look to see what is changing in the scientific trends with respect to treatment and wellness in general.  I also am committed to contributing to our scientific understanding so that patients beyond just those who I care for directly can benefit.

 

As a doctor or person how do you contribute to the community?

For almost 16 years I have participated with or been on the board of directors for a southern California based non-profit organization devoted to keeping young people out of gangs.  This organization was founded and is run by a former gang member who turned his life around and is now a very successful critical care nurse (in addition to leading this organization).  I also have volunteered in various medical activities for at risk/underserved populations both here in the US and in other countries.