Dr. Mary Colfer. MD, is a new practitioner recently added to our Health Team and it’s been such a pleasure to get to know her and learn about her unique training and areas of holistic expertise. Dr. Colfer graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Tech with a double major in biology and animal sciences. She attended medical school at the Medical College of Virginia at VCU, and after completing her residency in Emergency Medicine at the University of Virginia, she practiced emergency medicine for 14 years. She also spent two years serving as the medical director for the Fan Free Clinic. She completed a Fellowship in Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine offered in partnership between The George Washington University and the University of South Florida. During her lengthy appointments with her patients, she incorporates nutritional therapies, lifestyle adjustments and natural medicines into her personalized treatment plans.
Tell us a bit about your practice and what influenced your decision to incorporate metabolic and functional nutrition in your medical practice?
My goal is for you to obtain optimal health. The approach is personalized, not algorithm driven. The cause of your health concerns is the focus of treatment. In my conventional training the symptoms were the focus and the goal was to alleviate them. However, this never addressed the cause and the only treatment was pharmaceutical. Now the treatment may be pharmaceutical or more likely it will focus on nutritional or lifestyle management. My expertise is on hormone balance, but with my training in functional/integrative medicine I am always holistic about your treatment plan.
I have always had an interest in alternatives to conventional medicine. I sought these myself for infertility, PCOS, irritable bowel syndrome and general aches and pains. Now that I am knowledgeable in integrative medicine I feel I could have saved myself a lot of trouble as my diet and lifestyle directly and adversely affected my health. Now I feel great.
What makes your approach different from a typical doctor's approach to patient care?
I have an interest in and an ability to offer plans of care for hormone imbalances (including thyroid and cortisol dysfunctions), irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, migraines, insomnia and many other issues that conventional medicine frequently struggles to address. I am also happy to review your supplements and eating habits to make sure you are optimizing your health. In addition to what I mentioned above, I spend an hour to an hour and a half with patients on the first visit and 30-45 minutes with patients in follow-up. I am unable to take insurance because of the time I spend with patients. It is important to realize that I am a consultant in addition to your family doctor or gynecologist so you won’t get your physical exam at my office.
Who do you feel benefit most from your expertise and practice? (i.e – What sort of symptoms or health concerns do people show up with when they come to see you?)
Anyone who is frustrated with the results they have gotten with a conventional doctor. I can help with irritable bowel syndrome, hormone balancing, migraines, fatigue, weight loss, reviewing supplements, mood problems, and many other symptoms.
Who are your favorite people to work with?
Because my original training was in Emergency Medicine, I really like working with a variety of patients. My patients have had great success with improving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and hormone imbalances. The only patients that aren’t a good fit with my practice are those that are looking for pharmaceutical treatments or aren’t willing to work on lifestyle and nutritional changes. Having said that I am very patient with the process of change and I expect it to take 1 to 2 years for some people to make sustaining lifestyle changes. Others have no problem changing right away.
What can people expect from their first appointment with you?
They can expect an hour to an hour and a half of talking about their concerns and their history. This includes a plan to find the cause of their symptoms. The plan may include hormone salivary testing, traditional blood work, food intolerance testing, or stool or urinary testing. We then meet to follow up on the results and create a treatment plan. Many times on the first visit there are obvious treatments that we can start right away like a natural sleep aid or nutritional recommendations.
How do your nourish yourself holistically and what do you do for your own self care?
For me the most important things I do are work on optimizing my nutrition with a lofty goal of 8-10 servings of vegetables per day, daily meditation, and regular exercise. Optimal sleep is also critical. When needed I augment this with acupuncture, massage, reiki, or yoga. Since my patients many times have tried other alternative treatments I am open to trying other things as well. I have many tricks to help incorporate lifestyle changes as my habits as an ER doctor were horrendous and all of these healthy changes have been new for me in the last 5 years.
To Learn more about Dr. Mary Colfer’s practice, visit her website at Revitalize or call 804-740-WELL.
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN | HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com