Modern Medicine, with Dr. Mary Brittain Blankenship, MD.
As we’ve all been so intently focused on our health and wellness and that of our loved ones over the past couple of months, my hope is the conversation will only continue to grow and deepen. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a larger focus on mental health, physical activity, nutrition (all that cooking at home), mindfulness, and spiritual strength; the big pillars of overall wellness. As we begin to slowly enter our new world post-pandemic, notably with a magnifier on our health and the current state of our healthcare system, I highly recommend my friend and doctor, Dr. Mary Brittain Blankenship, founder and physician at Spruce MD, an Integrative Medicine practice here in Greenville, SC. Her practice is fresh, modern, customized, and truly aims to heal the root cause of illness by treating the overall well being of each patient.
Q: Tell us a little about your background, about Spruce MD, and why you decided to start your own practice?
A: I am a traditional, allopathic-trained physician in Internal Medicine, meaning the letters MD are behind my name. I practiced as a hospitalist for seven years where I cared for incredibly ill patients admitted to the hospital. I was treating a lot of patients at their end point of disease. These were diseases that could have been prevented. While I was saving lives in the short-term, patients’overall health trajectory remained poor and unchanged. I felt there had to be a better way to prevent and reverse the chronic illnesses that were plaguing my hospitalized patients.
During a particular long run following a tough shift at the hospital, I envisioned my ideal clinic for patients. Prevention was the mainstay of treatment, with a focus on lifestyle changes before handing over prescriptions. It was that long run that catapulted me into a two-year Integrative Medicine fellowship through the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) with the ultimate goal of opening my own practice.
We opened the doors to Spruce MD Integrative Medicine one year ago. Spruce MD provides personalized care through physician assessments, registered dietician evaluations, advanced lab testing, direct communication with providers, and individualized health plans. Integrative modalities of treating the body, mind and spirit are utilized.
Q: Integrative medicine has become a much more common term in the past several years. How do you define it, for those who do not know what it is?
A: Integrative medicine takes the best of both the conventional and alternative medical worlds to provide patients with optimal health care. Prescription medications (when necessary), vaccinations, highly advanced lab testing and health screening tools are used in combination with complementary modalities such as lifestyle changes, vitamin and herbal supplements and collaborations with other providers like acupuncturists, behavioral health specialists and chiropractors. There is emphasis on the physician-patient partnership and personalized care.
Q: Why do you think you’ve been growing so fast and well received in Greenville?
A: I find that a lot of my patients are frustrated with the medical care they have previously received. Many do not feel heard, have not received answers to their lingering medical issues or find the communication with their provider’s offices lacking. The American healthcare system is broken. Physicians are reimbursed for how many patients they see in a day, performing procedures and if the “right” drug chosen by insurance companies is prescribed. There is little reimbursement for preventative care and keeping patients well!
At Spruce MD, appointments are longer (first appointments are 60 minutes), our providers intently listen, it is easy to get in for appointments and patients are getting well!
Q: What are the most common health issues that you treat?
A: We treat everything! At Spruce MD, I function as many of my patients’ primary care physicians and treat everything from diabetes to skin issues to upper respiratory tract infections. We commonly see chronic gastrointestinal issues, autoimmune disease, thyroid disorders, hormonal complaints and chronic diseases like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.
Q: What are some of the most dramatic health results you’ve seen in patients that have worked with you?
A: I have one patient (whose story I discuss with permission) that had the most dramatic turnaround from devastating gastrointestinal symptoms. This patient was suffering from chronic abdominal pain and GI distress, resulting in 18-20 trips to the bathroom daily. She had been struggling with these symptoms for three decades and had previously had every invasive GI test imaginable. We discovered the root cause of her IBS, she underwent two rounds of treatment, made specific dietary changes and now lives a very healthy and normal life. She has told me on multiple occasions that she now has her life back! For our team, it is incredibly rewarding to put the puzzle pieces of patients’ complaints together to discover the underlying cause of ailments.
Q: What makes your practice so modern and different compared to conventional health care?
A: We are reimagining what healthcare looks like. Spruce MD doesn’t provide the conventional symptoms = prescriptions approach, but instead digs deeper to get to the root cause of medical issues and then provide a very personalized health plan. We talk about nutrition, physical activity, environmental factors, stress and sleep and how each of those contributes to overall health. In the same way that we are reimagining the way care can be given, we are reimagining where it can be received. Spruce MD has private offices in Venture X, a co-working space in the West End. Our offices are modern, inviting and free of the sterile, stuffiness of traditional physician offices. Virtual visits have also been a part of our care process from the beginning.
Q: What are your best tips for a strong immune system?
A: Diet is of utmost importance:
Whole foods, mostly plants, limit sugar and processed foods
7-8h of sleep nightly
Optimize vitamin D level
If considering supplementation, I recommend probiotics, quercetin and short-
term use of zinc. Supplements can interact with some drugs so before starting
one should consult their physician.
Q: As we’re all confined to home because of COVID-19, what are you suggesting your patients do to maintain optimal health during this time?
A: Get outdoors daily
Exercise in some capacity every day
Implement stress coping mechanisms
Invest in or start a spiritual practice
Q: I know you’ve been set up with Tele-medicine even before the pandemic. Do you treat patients outside of Greenville because of this?
A: We do! Spruce MD already had many patients accessing care from cities throughout South Carolina and other states, but with recent changes in telemedicine laws we can now see anyone withoutfirst establishing care via an in-person appointment. With few having access to Integrative Medicine in other cities, it is wonderful to be able to offer our services to those who are not local.
Q: Where can people find you if they’d like to learn more?
A: Check out our website www.spruce.md and see if Spruce MD could be a good fit for you! We also keep in touch with our community via our Spruce MD Integrative Medicine Facebook page and @spruce.md on Instagram. Our Patient Coordinator, Madia, or myself are also available to answer questions at 864.979.2441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.