Island physician practices health care with a variety of healing options

Dr. Marcie Hamrick is the new physician at Vashon Women’s Health Center. - Susan Riemer/Staff Photo
Dr. Marcie Hamrick is the new physician at Vashon Women’s Health Center.
— image credit: Susan Riemer/Staff Photo

Dr. Marcie Hamrick’s work has taken her from the western edge of Alaska to a village in Costa Rica.

Now, this family practice physician is bringing her approach — combining a range of modalities into the new field of integrative medicine — to Vashon as the first doctor to work at the Vashon Women’s Health Center.

Hamrick relies on a host of medical tools, ranging from surgery and medications to acupuncture and yoga, when working with patients

“I’m hoping to focus on what I find in health care to be often times missing,” she said. “Taking time to know people well and understand what is important to them and include the concept of self care and balance to treatment plans.”

A visit with Hamrick lasts 30 to 60 minutes, giving her time to practice the way she prefers — and the way she believes many patients appreciate.

“In conventional medical practices, providers don’t have time to get to the root of problems and to educate,” she said. “I think people want to know.”

If a patient were to come with asthma, for example, she would leave with more than simply medications and instructions on how to use them. Instead, Hamrick and the patient would explore triggers for asthma attacks, nutrition, stress management tools and quality of sleep, along with medications, which, she added, are a tool, not a cure.

Hamrick’s education and experience reflect her wide-ranging interest in a holistic approach to health care. She attended Baylor College of Medicine in Houston from 1995 to 1999 but was so drawn to complementary therapies that she visited Seattle, where she considered transferring to Bastyr University to become a naturopathic physician.

She decided to stay at Baylor but fell in love with Seattle, she said, partly because of its openness to a variety of health care modalities. As a result, she opted for a residency at Seattle’s Swedish Hospital, which she completed in 2002.

Along the way, she has immersed herself in a number of other practices that she believes contribute to a person’s health: She has practiced yoga for 17 years and taught it for 14 and has studied nutrition and biofeedback.

A member of the Puget Sound Zen Center, Hamrick also meditates regularly and believes that breathing plays an important role in a person’s overall health.

Her study of yoga and Eastern philosophy has shaped her work as a physician.

“I see disease as being an indicator of imbalance,” she said. “What is the imbalance that is underlying this? How can I help that person restore their balance?”

Her variety of work experiences has also contributed to how she understands healing.

She worked for a clinic of Swedish Hospital where she saw 30 to 40 patients a day — something not in her constitution, she said. She also sought temporary work assignments in Bethel, Alaska, Bellingham and on a Native American reservation.

She had a private practice at One Sky Wellness Associates in Seattle, which includes a variety of health care providers, and has worked extensively in community health clinics, such as Seattle’s Pike Market and 45th Street clinics.

She also travelled in Costa Rica and worked for the public health department, going door-to-door, inquiring if anyone needed health care and, if so, providing it or transportation to get it.

“Seeing that culture has informed my belief that health care is a right, not a privilege,” she said.

On Vashon, Hamrick will focus on caring for women, preventing illness and managing chronic diseases. She will lay out all the treatment options, she said, and she and her patients will decide together the best path forward. That way, Hamrick said, her patients will know the best answer to the question, “What can I do today to help myself?”

Dr. Hamrick works Mondays and Wednesdays and will add more days as her practice grows. She accepts most insurance plans and offers a sliding scale for uninsured patients.

For more information, call the clinic at 463-2777 or see www.vashonwom- Ten-minute meet-and-greet appointments are free.

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