As a board-certified Internal Medicine physician, Dr. Fuentes-Valdes adheres to the professional guidelines and standard of care of the USA medical system and as such, recognizes both its value and limitations. Many women experience barriers to wellness and wellbeing that are not in the form of a disease or syndrome as identified by the traditional style of medical training in the United States. As such, other healing tools and philosophical approaches are useful to support women who are experiencing such obstacles and help them learn tools and pathways that will guide them to a personalized state of health and wellbeing. A body-mind-spirit approach to health and healing is based on the principles of Integrative Medicine, empowering others, helping them to make better choices, and providing the best conditions for healing.
Dr. Fuentes-Valdes is from Colombia and fluent in Spanish and English. She attended medical school in her home country then completed an Internal Medicine residency program through the University of Illinois at Chicago program at Advocate Christ Medical Center. Dr. Fuentes-Valdes is currently board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and holds an active medical license in Florida. She started practicing medicine 24 years ago and lives in the Tampa area, Florida.
In 2013 Dr. Fuentes-Valdes was accepted into Andrew Weil's Integrative Medicine Fellowship through the University of Arizona and graduated in September of 2015. She has also completed the Structural Acupuncture for Physicians program through Harvard Medical School's department of continuing education. Her Functional Medicine training has been through both the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) and the Kresser Institute..
Dr. Fuentes-Valdes has researched mind-body-spirit approaches to overcome barriers that women face in achieving a personal state of health. In that process she has studied yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, metaphysics, and spirituality as ways to compliment the healing process. She studied Energy Medicine at MindValley University by Donna Eden and received certifications in Self-Identity through Ho'oponopono ®, Healing sound, Angel, and Reiki among other styles of therapies that her patients have expressed interest in utilizing as part of the therapeutic process.
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My current life adventure took me to Florida, where I came to be closer to my family and start a new Integrative Holistic Medicine and Medical Acupuncture practice, offering services in person and through Telemedicine, based on my experience and knowledge. Prior to this I had the blessing and a joy to work with the team at the Sutter Health Institute for Health and Healing. There I honed my skills and learned so much from the wonderful team of different type of providers and their expertise to their patients. I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve and work with the team led by my friend and wonderful mentor Dr. Maxine Barish-Wreden.
Before to joining the Sutter team, I opened a clinic in Lehi, Utah in 2015 named White Phoenix Medical to create a sacred space and relationship with patients and to provide a care experience that would reflect how it might be if designed from the patient’s point of view. Getting to this point had been a path and a journey with its share of joys as well as bumps and bruises. I'm most thankful to the patients who have participated in focus groups to design this clinic and who have helped me understand the process from their perspective, what they value, and what they most desired in their relationship and experience when visiting with their doctor.
Many of my patients have asked how I came to offer such a different approach to providing care. As the journey was long and winding, I wanted to offer the story to those who were interested.
I am a native of Colombia, South America and grew up in a family where my mother was a dentist, and my father was a physician with administrative responsibilities for the national healthcare plan. I graduated from one of the best medical schools in Colombia, the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, in December 1996 and completed a year of social mandatory service in one of the undeserved areas around Bogota. After a series of events that I called my personal miracles, I was on my way to USA to study for the boards and pursue postgraduate medical training with the goal of becoming a radiologist. I studied medicine intensively for about 5 months, and although I was able to pass the medical exam on the first try, I failed the English exam a couple of times but managed to pass on the 3rd time. Realizing my conversational English needed work, I enrolled in an English class program at Barry University in Miami. and then in several medical observer-ship programs to get some experience and credentials to apply for the postgraduate training. During one of the Radiology rotations, I realized this specialty had become a digitized profession, and, at the time, there was little opportunity to interact with patients. In search of an area of Medicine where I would have more interaction with patients, I turned to Internal Medicine which I considered an excellent opportunity to serve in the way I love, establishing a meaningful patient-physician relationship and getting to the core of their medical problems and cure them! Now, later in my career, I've come to understand that cure is a relative concept and as life itself is a daily path of wellbeing.
I had applied to several medical residency training programs and a door opened in the Chicago area. I took an opportunity to study Internal Medicine in the Advocate Health program through the University of Illinois at Chicago. Internal Medicine residency was a great learning experience not just from the medical point of view, but to discover more about myself. I learned what it took to be a good internist, to develop the art of assessing a patient as a “whole” and then develop a differential diagnosis with therapeutic options. I also was able to discern the positives and the negatives of the experience in all its different aspects. There is an inherent challenge in practicing in the medical arts in balancing the task of keeping up with the ever-growing amount of information needed to provide the best care and the work of actually taking care of patients, living one’s life, and maintaining one’s own health. I made the same decision that most physicians make which was to push myself as much as I can with the conviction that I was strong, smart and I could do anything! I was strict in my work and obsessed with following the rules of what a great physician and internist should be. It was a lot of pressure and a lot of stress. Not just due to the demands of our profession and the design of a traditional medical practice, but because I did it to myself. I was my worse critic and dictator.
As is happening with many physicians and health care professionals, I started to burn out. I did not feel the way I did about medicine that I used to. I felt sick and my energy was gone, I had palpitations, tachycardia, pelvic pain, bad acid re-flux and dizziness. I kept working and pushing. I underwent several test exams, and all the results came back negative and normal. As the tests became more involved a pattern became more clear - essentially, there is nothing medically wrong with me even though I felt awful. During this whole experience I was pursuing a fellowship in Cardiology, one of the most demanding sub-specialties in Medicine. I did not get in, which has turned out to be a wonderful blessing. I believe in God, and God knows what is best for me. I took an opportunity for a chief residency position, which provided a good work-life balance and allowed me to keep acquiring knowledge, practicing in a rather protected environment, and allowed time for myself. Surprisingly, after years of structured studying and the never-ending responsibilities while in training, I had forgotten how to enjoy myself or what to do with free time. I had been so focused on my career goals since I finished high school that I had little room for anything else. These were stressful times, but the universe again and again put me in the perfect job or situation, preparing the road for me and giving me exactly what I needed at the time. The year serving as a Chief resident provided the needed time for reflection and personal self-assessment. A new opportunity opened to work with a small community hospital in Chicago, Saint Anthony Hospital, focused on the underserved and a mostly Hispanic population in their area. This provided the ability to work in a city clinic for the poor a couple of days a week. I loved helping the patients, seeing smiles, an appreciated both the small and big improvements that they were able to achieve, I loved seeing their hope and witnessed their change, that love I gave to my patients was returned many times over. However, it was still a challenging situation regarding the pressure to see more volume and address all the patients’ health needs in less and less time.
The universe still was watching out for me as it watches out for all of us. Each step was a building block for the next one. The community hospital gave me the great opportunity to nurture another love of my life: teaching. They had a contract and friendship with Rush University, and I was made a clinical instructor and later associate professor of Medicine to teach medical students. While the joys were there, the pace and demands were unchanged and after 4 years, I could sense the similar feelings I had before of getting burned out and losing my passion. Our clinic was so busy that it was being overbooked with multiple patients scheduled for the same time slot. Lots of patients with lots of problems and little time. Then another door opened, my residency program director recommended me to be hired for the University of Illinois at Chicago as associate professor of clinical medicine. In this practice I saw my private patients, patients with residents and I rounded in the hospital few months a year with residents and students. Again, I loved the patient care, I loved the teaching, I loved the staff and colleagues, but the practice style remained - limited time with many patients, lots of paperwork, do more with less. As many physicians do, I made the best out of the situation and tried to do my best and teach by example, serving my patients in a thoughtful and meaningful way. By this point in my career I had gotten married and was having problems getting pregnant. I concluded that work stresses and the effect on my body were a significant reason for infertility. I was hardly able to keep myself healthy let along provide an appropriate environment to grow a baby. I was stressed and if I wanted to conceive and get healthier, I needed balance. There comes a point where after failing to figure things out yourself for long enough, you surrender and finally allow your connection with spirit to shape your life and flow with it.
With the support of my husband, I cut down my hours to 50% which allow time to learn about other healing techniques that I felt guided to be exposed and able to grow. Wonderful people came into my life, and I started to practice meditation (“to focus on something or to become familiar with”). This exercise provided a deeper understanding of my spirituality and connection with higher power and how faith was aligned with health and healing. I have used yoga asanas and various forms of meditation that resonated with me. One day I received information on the mail about medical acupuncture offered by Harvard medical School. Eager to continue to add to my growing list of knowledge, I enrolled and for 9 months I was dedicated to the study of acupuncture and I have been practicing it ever since. It is a wonderful holistic approach to health and the style perfect complement for my physician practice. After 1 miscarriage and months of dedicating time to learn and heal myself, I was able to get pregnant. It was a joy! I understood so much more about health. Too often traditional medicine treats pregnancy like a temporary disease state but I understood it as a different state of being, I realized that your whole body changes - even your nails! It was a revelation and I felt very apologetic to all the pregnant women I saw as patients before, once I experienced it, my take on pregnancy changed drastically. When I was in my 8th month of pregnancy, my husband took a job opportunity in Utah. We were ready for a change; we wanted to be in a more peaceful place and the idea of being surrounded by beautiful mountains and have a better space for our little one was great. We moved at end of December in 2011 to the beautiful Salt Lake City. Our daughter was born and another chapter of our life started. She is the most amazing teacher I ever had and has taught me so much, the most important teaching I ever received “unconditional love”! a taste of what God's love for us is! After being so busy in medical practice my initial reaction caring for a baby and unable to multitask somehow felt like a waste of my time. After reflection I became present for my baby girl and realize holding her and being there for her, even not much going on, it was the most important thing I could be doing. We had some problems with breastfeeding and required us to supplement her for the first 3 months, then she was fine, sleep was interrupted though. I wanted to give her the best as any parent does, so in agreement with my husband I decided to dedicate my other time to study for my internal medicine boards and stay home.
The time with my newborn provided a lot of opportunity to continue my reflection on healthcare and how frustrating it was with the limitations of "modern medicine". I felt there was still something missing. I was aware of Andrew Weil's teachings and as I learnt more about his philosophy it really made sense to me. It also echoed my first lesson in medical school that "Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". I suddenly realized how far from that ideal our modern style of health care delivery had come with clinics trying to see patients as fast as possible and solving problems pills whenever that was the acceptable option. As with most things in the universe, quick and easy is not always the best way. Wanting to learn more how Dr. Weil incorporated his thinking into a medical practice, I enrolled into his program, the Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona and graduated in August of 2015 with an amazing assortment of new tools to help our patients as well as ourselves to heal. I was also introduced to a new approach to practicing medicine in the way I've always felt that I would love it to be, a sacred space to develop a sacred relationship between the physician and the patient to promote healing.
In 2017 another personal miracle happened, and I was offered a position at the Institute for Health and Healing with Sutter Health in Sacramento, CA. I had the most instrumental and learning experience in Integrative Medicine under the guidance of our Medical Director Dr. Maxine Barish-Wreden who’s vast knowledge of Medicine and Complementary techniques and experience is incredible. I learnt so much from her and my colleagues, Physicians, Acupuncturists and therapists. While I was looking for this opportunity, I was introduced to Functional Medicine and following Dr. Barish’s guidance, I have done some studies with the Kresser Institute and the Institute for Functional Medicine.
After 4 years we decided it was time to be closer to family and moved to the Tampa area in Florida. While settling and taking a sabathic year to replenish and settle the family and help our child to adjust, here we are opening my private practice to offer the best services in Integrative Medicine I can offer. Health reflects our life, the journey, it is maintained, taken care of, not just when there is disease when we want a quick fix. Depending on how you live every aspect of your life is reflected in your state of health, on your well being. It is a mirror of your choices. That is why I decided to change how I live my life and get healthier, feel well and help people to do the same. I've gathered as many tools as I could where guided by the universe and I continue to study and experience to maintain well-being. This to fulfill my life purpose to heal myself and to help others to heal so we can feel better and to attain the best state of physical, mental, and social well-being that we are capable of and as our situation allows us to. Our thoughts, our actions, our feelings, create our health, our life. It’s never too late or too early to make it happen. The first step is to address our believes, to trust our bodies, our inner cell intelligence, the same intelligence we see in nature all the time. As Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world”, transformation is our goal, to create together a healthier us and a healthier world. We hope you join us to co-create this experience and we can grow together. I look forward to walking with you along your own journey towards a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social wellness, addressing disease where needed, and supporting and transforming your approach to a healthy life and wellbeing always.
With Love and Gratitude,
Johanna Fuentes-Valdes M.D.