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Beauty & Wellness

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Kim Tripp, DO, PhD: She Nurtured Plants, Now Heals People

By Lisa Green

Going back to school when you’re 50 is admirable. Going to medical school at that age is inspiring. Going to medical school when you already have a PhD and one of the highest profile jobs in the world of botanical gardens is simply — well, head scratching?

Kim Tripp, DO, PhD, one of our area’s prominent plantswomen and Director of The New York Botanical Garden from 2003-2007, chose her first career in the botanical garden world based on a seemingly endless enthusiasm for plants and her ability for meaningful scientific research (her PhD is in plant physiology), garden savvy, effective teaching, and local and international plant and garden advocacy. She was always driven by personal goals of understanding plants, growing and conserving them, and inspiring people to enjoy and learn about plants and gardens.

“I loved connecting people with nature and gardens through the delight of plants — they are extraordinary organisms — and when people connect with plants and nature, they invariably connect with their own health.”

So how did the switch to medicine come about in the middle of all her other work? Credit a fall from a horse, and an appointment with a doctor of osteopathic (DO) medicine.

What is osteopathic manual medicine?

“Well, that is an interesting question. Did you know that osteopathic medicine was founded in the good old US by an American MD? His name was Andrew Taylor Still and he devoted himself to the study of anatomy and how the structure of the body is key to the function of the body — like any good ecosystem.

He discovered that by tending to the structure of the body with deep medical knowledge and the precise use of hands-on work, the function of the body would improve — and thus all kinds of medical problems could heal: from musculoskeletal issues (as you might expect) to so-called physiological issues like infectious diseases, gastro-intestinal problems, headache, birth trauma, and on and on.

Osteopathic manual medicine therefore starts with the physics of the body instead of the chemistry. As osteopathic physicians, we use our comprehensive and precisely detailed medical knowledge of anatomy and physiology to promote health and healing in our patients. We work gently with our hands to help your body restore optimal function based on optimal structure.”

“I was fascinated by this hands-on approach to healing practiced by Andrew Goldman, DO,” she says. He’s a fully licensed osteopathic physician in Sharon, CT. “I had always been interested in medicine but found standard medicine less than inspiring and so professionally had found my way into horticulture and botany. And historically, botanical work connects to medicine.”

“I was amazed at how much osteopathic manual medicine helped me personally, and I was astounded that I had never heard about it before, so I became determined to learn about it and in the process I became inspired to train deeply as a physician, go to medical school, and practice this remarkable approach to medicine.”

After extensive reading, learning, and volunteering at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, which has an excellent physician residency in osteopathic manual medicine, Dr. Tripp decided to take on a new challenge and go to osteopathic medical school. It would take six years of training. Some people told her it could not be done.

She smiles broadly. “But that just added to my determination. My work with plants and nature taught me how to see and hear and sense based on subtleties and quiet diligence. Plants don’t speak out loud to us. You can learn a great deal more about the life of a forest by initially sitting quietly and waiting and watching and listening than first charging around digging and disturbing before you have even taken time to get a sense of what is there. I learned that osteopathic manual medicine depends on this same kind of sensibility and became fascinated and inspired by this approach to health and healing.”

And, despite the unfortunate incident with the horse, Tripp says horses (which she still rides) gave her some of her first training as an osteopath. “To be an effective and compassionate rider, you must be sensitive with your hands and body. You learn to converse through body language, incorporating subtle muscle changes.”

Photo: Wendy Brooke, Cedar Crest Equestrian Center

Dr. Tripp graduated from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine with numerous awards and honors, particularly in osteopathic manual medicine, the unique, hands-on approach for a physician that so inspires her. And where did she land after all that medical training? Back here full circle to join the practice of Dr. Andrew Goldman in Sharon and Great Barrington.

Dr. Tripp still indulges in her love of plants and nature at home in Ancramdale, NY and in various gardens around our area. She serves on the Ancram, NY Conservation Advisory Council and includes natural history in all of her teaching work with her osteopathic medicine colleagues and students, as well as offering equestrian clinics in biomechanics to improve the performance of riders and horses. And as if she isn’t busy enough, she also writes poetry and participates in a poetry group, and has a show on Robin Hood Radio called “Your Health.”

“I love bringing together my two professional passions, osteopathy and nature, in the same spirit as Dr. Still, the founder of osteopathic medicine, who was a passionate student of nature. And what better place to do that than here in our beautiful and healthful area where we have the great privilege and pleasure to live and work?”

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/22/14 at 12:47 PM • Permalink