Going to a naturopathic or conventional doctor is not always an either/or decision, according to Dr. Robin Russell, a new pediatric doctor at Whole Health Associates.
Naturopaths are trained as primary care physicians, Russell said.
"Both medical and naturopathic doctors are similar in that they both want to help improve the lives of their patients," Russel said.
Doctors in both fields receive "similar medical education, but when it comes to treatment, medical doctors are primarily trained in pharmacy," she said. By comparison, naturopathic doctors are "primarily trained" in treatments involving "diet," "nutrition," vitamins, "minerals," herbs, amino acids and other natural remedies, she said.
“There comes a time when there’s a need for conventional medicine and there are other times when you can apply naturopathic medicine,” said Russell, who started at the Avon medical practice more than a week ago.
Russell practiced medicine in the Seattle area for seven years before moving back to her hometown, Torrington recently to be close to family. As a naturopathic doctor who specialized in "pediatrics," in Washington, she saw newborns and children for check-ups and sick visits.
“I like actually being able to resolve children’s problems,” Russell said, giving chronic ear infections as an example. “I enjoy kids.
Parents often come to naturopaths for “preventative care” for their children against things like allergies and eczema, said Russell, who can also treat things like infant reflux, colic, ADHD, and sensory processing disorder. Naturopathic doctors “try to identify the cause” and work at “eliminating the cause,” she said.
“I like when parents come in and they’re so appreciative of what I do for their children,” Russell said. “It’s a rewarding thing to make changes in people’s lives that have an impact on their health.”
Russell also specializes in women’s health, including breastfeeding support, hormone imbalances, post-partum depression and anxiety.
“I look at a baby and mom as a diad,” she said, adding, “I’ve had a lot of successful cases of women who were infertile and got them to conceive.”
In Washington, Russell got many referrals from conventional doctors, including pediatric dentists, and has also referred patients to traditional doctors as needed.
Naturopathic doctors are authorized to prescribe medications in Washington, but not in Connecticut. However, Russell said that naturopathic medicine is recognized in Connecticut whereas it isn’t in many other states.
“We’re actually lucky. We’re one of 16 states that are actually licensed,” Russell said.
Whole Health Associates also does regular lab work, blood work and imaging. If a child has a chest cough, the practice can run an X-ray if needed, for instance, Russell said.
One of the most common questions parents asked her during patient meet and greets in Washington was her stance on vaccinations for their kids and she told them it was ultimately up to them. Russell administered "early childhood vaccines" in Wasthington, but Connecticut naturopaths cannot. While Connecticut only allows medical or religious exemptions from vaccines, Washington state parents can also opt their children out of vaccines for personal reasons, she said.
Russell graduated with a major in biology at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire in 1999. She studied naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University, in Kenmore, Washington, graduating in 2005.
In medical school, Russell had her daughter and brought her to a naturopathic doctor. Raising two kids gives her a lot of firsthand perspective on her field.
“I enjoyed seeing my daughter’s healthcare by a naturopath,” Russell said.
She did an internship in naturopathy in the Seattle area and previously taught chemistry at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury.
Russell is now taking new patients at the Avon practice on the second floor of the Healthtrax Wellness Center building at 100 Simsbury Rd. She is available for appointments Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
She also will be leading two talks in February at the Bishops Corner Whole Foods in West Hartford from 6 to 7 p.m. – one on Feb. 6 about “natural solutions for stress and fatigue” and the other on Feb. 13 about “natural solutions for ADHD,” she said.
To reach Russell, you can contact Whole Health Associates at 860-674-0111.
Corrections: Dr. Robin Russell graduated from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire in 1999 and Bastyr University in 2005, not 2009 and 2007 as originally published, respectively. The typos have been corrected. Also, Connecticut is one of 16 states to be licensed in naturopathic medicine, not 15 as Patch was originally told. While Russell specialized in pediatrics in Washington, she was not a pediatrician, as originally stated.