Is love a conversation that heals? Doctor Vyvyane Loh

I was searching for a needle in a haystack, except the needle was a doctor who could help me stitch together a body that was falling apart and the haystack was our complex medical system. Perhaps that’s a feeling to which far too many patients can relate to. But many never find their doctor needle. Luckily for me, I did and found much more.

My doctor needle’s name is Doctor Vyvyane Loh, Founder and Leader of the Transform Alliance for Health and an Internal and Obesity Medicine board-certified medical doctor (M.D.). Dr. Loh was originally my father’s doctor. She helped him lose fifty pounds and keep it off, as she promises in her metabolic health program. She transformed his life. Although my visible ribs and low heart rate (bradycardia) advertised that obesity was not my problem, my dad was so impressed by Dr. Loh’s attentive thoughtfulness and effective care that he encouraged me to go see her myself. She transformed my life and I now affectionately call her Dr. Mom.

Dr. Vyvyane Loh aka Dr. Mom my Doctor Needle
Doctor Vyvyane Loh, “Dr. Mom,” is the Founder and Leader of the Transform Alliance for Health and an Internal and Obesity Medicine board-certified medical doctor (M.D.).

Are you searching for your doctor needle?

If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you or a loved one has faced a similar struggle of finding that doctor needle in the medical system haystack who can truly help you. So, I won’t belabor the journey. Suffice it to say it was longer, more arduous, and soul crushing than I ever expected. I almost gave up. In fact, at one point I did give up. And, it wasn’t even me that found my doctor needle!

Could my illness patchwork be blamed on genetics?

Between birth and age 17, I didn’t have a single medical complaint. My privileged health was exemplified by the fact that, when I finally got a small stress fracture in my shin, it was while marathon training. I felt like the world was coming to an end. But my metabolic health would soon quickly unravel.

Between the ages of 18 and 22, I developed eight more serious fractures and was diagnosed with severe osteoporosis. After coming to terms with the psychological trauma of losing my running career, I was struck with severe pain when I ate and diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel disease). A genetic screen to find the cause of my ailments revealed that I was one of the two- percent of the population who carried the ApoE4/4 genotype, therefore putting me at extremely high risk for Alzheimer’s dementia later in life. There was no mention that this genotype could be severely impacted by nutrition and lifestyle!

Is love a conversation that heals?

I immediately could tell that Dr. Loh was different. She was the first doctor who listened and who saw the whole me. An M.D. that treated me as a unique person with distinct concerns and a right to express them to his doctor. Previously, I had been a patient blamed for his osteoporosis.

I had been told that my colitis was largely irrelevant to my bones. I had been handed drugs for the colitis and told that there was no strong evidence that a change in diet would be beneficial. And, were I ever to bring up my ApoE4/4 genotype and high risk of Alzheimer’s disease, I was admonished for neurotically preparing for a future problem that might never come. It was frustrating to not be treated like a complete person or, at least treated like three torn puzzle pieces that needed weaving into a medical context. I was not until I found my doctor needle

Doctor needle starts my healing journey by listening

Dr. Loh heard me out. She didn’t “patient blame” me. She didn’t jump to her prescription pad. Dr. Mom didn’t shrug off my concern about Alzheimer’s disease. And, she didn’t become intimidated by all the ragged puzzle pieces. Actually, she saw straight through the puzzle pieces to what they had in common: poor metabolic health.

Dr. Loh’s careful needlework stitches me back together

To detail the processes of how Dr. Loh restored my metabolism and basically, if not literally, saved my life was remarkably personalized. My specific journey with Dr. Loh can’t be generalized. She is special because she went above and beyond a set of lab results and office visits and dealt with my bio-individuality. Dr. Loh Skyped me routinely to check my status, answered my questions over text messages, and continually offered me emotional encouragement. She also taught me about nutrition science and metabolism. For her, it was clear, the journey towards health runs parallel with the journey towards knowledge. As my health ascended, with her patient instruction, so did my knowledge about what “metabolic health” really means. Now I feel completely capable of handling my own health. In a sense, I “graduated” the Dr. Loh school of Metabolic Health.

Is metabolic health an acute intervention or lifestyle?

But I haven’t, and will never, graduate from Dr. Loh or, as I now call her, Doctor Mom or “Vyv”. She has become my second mom. She healed my dad first, then restored me to life. How else can you describe that gift of love other than in familial terms? As the love of a mother to a son. She’s also my friend and mentor. Now that the looming specter of serious morbidity has largely left me we get together every week to walk and discuss life’s smaller struggles. We exchange and write scientific papers, and we even have holiday meals as a family.

Dr. Mom fostered me from dependency to independence

Dr. Loh was so successful with my dad and me, that she’s now also caring for my mother and sister. That’s four-fifths of my biological family! Hopefully my brother never gets sick, but if he does, we have our doctor needle. And, perhaps more importantly, we now have our own capacity to quilt our health’s patchwork because she has taught us that lifestyle is the cloth we need to mend and tend.

Is Dr. Loh’s listening and caring a prescription?

In closing, this testimonial isn’t meant to suggest everyone can find their perfect doctor needle. It is also unrealistic to suggest that doctors should commit the sort of time and effort that Doctor Mom did to helping my family. There are just too many patients and too few hours in a day. What I do want to communicate is that more listening and more care is needed. It’s a spectrum. Doctors don’t need to be Dr. Moms, but neither can we think that putting individual puzzle pieces under a magnifying glass is suitable. Perhaps all doctors can’t be a Dr. Mom or Dr. Dad, but maybe they can shoot for that target. It’s my deeply held belief that if more doctors aspired to by like Doctor Vyvyane Loh, the world would be a healthier and more familial place.

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Nicholas Norwitz

Nicholas Norwitz completed his Ph.D. at Oxford University on Ketosis and Neurodegenerative Diseases and is pursuing an M.D. at Harvard Medical School. His passion for Food as Medicine and Metabolic Health comes from his own remarkable story.

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