Kathleen Scheible, CCH is the current President of the California Homeopathic Medical Society and the founder of the Bay Area Homeopathy Association. In 2011 she started a bi-monthly free homeopathy clinic for senior citizens at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center in San Francisco.
A.S.: You’re the current President of the California Homeopathic Medical Society and the founder of the Bay Area Homeopathy Association. For over a decade you’ve taken very proactive and leadership roles in promoting homeopathy. What first started you on the path to homeopathy, and what led to your passion for it?
K.S. : I got interested in homeopathy – like so many people – after the amazing results my kids had with it. My son had a history of ear infections, antibiotics, surgical tubes and then asthma and eczema. He did not grow out of the glue ear that he developed as his pediatrician thought he should, so I eventually found an osteopath who helped with his ear fluid pressure. However, the help did not hold for long periods of time, so she referred us to a local professional homeopath. Within a month my son’s ears, asthma and eczema were all so much better. At that time my step-son had been out of school for six months with debilitating sequelae of viral meningitis – migraines and nausea every day which kept him out of school, under the direction and care of UCSF doctors. So, after my son did so well with homeopathy, we took my step-son to the same homeopath, and within a couple of days he was back to his former state of good health with no more headaches or nausea, and renewed energy and outlook. This was so impressive to me as a parent. Within a year I was studying homeopathy at Pacific Academy of Homeopathy in San Francisco. The transition for me from Silicon Valley engineer to homeopath was a long one but definitely worthwhile.
In addition to this beginning rooted in my family’s improved health, I think that I align with the Silicon Valley ethos of investing energy in whatever works. This is about aligning energy in the practical technologies, interventions, and practices which work – to produce results. San Francisco is a unique ecosystem in 2019 and many entrepreneurs are disrupting and reinventing longstanding industries for the better. Sometimes not for the better,,, but the culture of innovation has taken on a life of its own in mostly good ways.
A.S. : In 2011 you began a bi-monthly free homeopathy clinic at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center in San Francisco. How did that come about? Was the clinic open to homeopathy from the beginning? What population do you serve there? Are the dynamics different from your private practice?
K.S. The clinic was my idea. I wanted to give back to the community of Bernal Heights where I live and work. I am grateful that we have such a neighborhood center for the benefit of seniors and at-risk youth, focused on social and economic justice in a city with growing inequality and displacement. I stopped in to speak to the head of senior services at the time about the idea for a free homeopathy clinic, and he was enthusiastic about it. He asked that I put together some information for the executive director, which I did. They approved it, and I was coming in, within a few weeks of the proposal.
The clinic is available to the public. It is meant for seniors, and I have mostly served local seniors who are on a fixed income or low income. However, age, residence nor income level are not screened in any way. So, over the years the demographics have expanded to include seniors from every neighborhood in San Francisco, and also Berkeley, the Peninsula, and Marin (within about 20 miles of San Francisco). My clientele includes many first or second generation immigrants, for whom English is their second (or more) language. They are from all over the world, mostly from Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, though some are from China, the Philippines, and elsewhere. More recently I have a higher number of Caucasian people who were born in the U.S. coming in.
The dynamics are pretty different from my private practice. It is a first come, first serve clinic with a sign-up sheet. Usually there are one to three people waiting for me when I arrive at 9am. In the early years of the clinic I did not always have enough people coming to fill the two hours, but now I regularly have people still waiting to be seen at 11am, so often I will extend after my regular hours to see them.
The dynamics are also different depending on the client’s frame of reference for homeopathy. Many immigrants “grew up with” homeopathy in their country of origin, however they might think of it only for natural acute care. If that’s the case, my asking more and deeper questions about overall health is a bit of a delicate dance, and sometimes takes a few visits to build trust and understanding with one another about the constitutional homeopathic approach. So then we might start with a more acute or lesional remedy, such as Arnica or Rhus Tox for specific arthritis pain, or specific seasonal allergy palliative remedy, or cough remedy. I have some clients who are very familiar with classical homeopathy, and even who have seen homeopaths in the past for constitutional care. For such clients, the dynamics are more similar to my private practice. Another difference is that people in the neighborhood center clinic tend to have experienced more trauma and also have more health issues than in my private practice. They tend to be on more medications, many on multiple medications for decades. For the first generation immigrants, many have described to me experiences of institutional racism in dealing with the conventional medical system, as well as over- or under-medication, and other medical trauma.
Language can be a barrier, and at times clients have brought a friend or relative in with them to translate. For a while I had a Spanish speaking client who volunteered to translate at clinic for others, which was nice but only worked out for a few months.
A few people have transitioned into my private practice from the clinic because they have the means to pay for homeopathy and prefer the convenience of being able to schedule an appointment. They indicate that they are grateful to be able to begin at clinic, to see if I would be a good fit for a health care practitioner before investing in my practice.
In earlier days of the neighborhood center clinic, I would schedule it to coincide with the day that bags of free food were being distributed. This was a good strategy for more people finding out about the clinic who need it and are interested. However, it’s very chaotic on that day and space is very limited. Now that the local seniors know me, they come in on a different day when I have my clinic and it’s a calmer environment.
A.S. : For your clients who are on allopathic meds, is it ever necessary for you to communicate with their doctors? For instance, if a they need to be gradually weaned from a drug as the remedies relieve the symptoms. If so, how do you handle that, and what reactions do you get from doctors?
K.S. : In general, I always emphasize to my senior clients at the clinic that homeopathic treatment does not mean that they should stop their allopathic medications. However, if their symptoms improve over time, it is up to them to approach their doctors about potentially weaning off of medications. This is a delicate issue, and many conventional doctors do not support coming off of medications even in the event that the patient is better and would like to taper off. Some medications are easier than others to approach doctors about, such as anti-anxiety medication and again, this has to come from the patient. I have on occasion spoken with doctors about the homeopathic approach, and what our mutual client/ patient is experiencing. I am always open to this kind of communication and potential collaboration. A few times I have had very positive response from doctors. Mostly I believe, the doctor may say something like “great you found something that works for you but I don’t know anything about that…” and so don’t necessarily want to communicate about the patient. One of my senior clients who had such a dramatic reduction in his back pain from homeopathic treatment was adamant that his doctor should know about me, and homeopathy. His doctor said something along those lines and was not interested to know more, even though this person had suffered a stroke from steroid injection due to his back pain in the past and thanks to homeopathy has a much better quality of life.
A.S. : The FDA currently is threatening to abandon Compliance Policy 400.400 which has protected homeopathy for many years. That could require millions of dollars in testing for each of our remedies. Are you involved in opposing that issue?
K.S. : Yes, I have been one member of a homeopathy advocacy working group facilitated by the National Center for Homeopathy over the past year and a half or so, who are working to have a unified voice to the FDA on this issue amongst the various homeopathic organizations and interests. I represent the California Homeopathic Medical Society as well as the Bay Area Homeopathy Association in that collaborative group. Some of us more recently will also join the Homeopathy Consumer Council to be a more visible, accountable team in this effort. We have, in collaboration with Americans for Homeopathy Choice, put together a number of white papers on various topics of homeopathic medicine research in support of homeopathy. I have written two of these papers, on homeopathy for allergies and homeopathy in the reduction of over-use of antibiotics.
I have supported AFHC’s Citizens Petition to the FDA on this issue, seeking to reinstate the CPG 400.400 as well as to establish a homeopathic advisory council to the FDA, made up of consumers, practitioners, homeopathic pharmacists, and other stakeholders from the homeopathic community. As a member of the HCC, I hope to continue to advocate in a very targeted way for homeopathic medicine in the United States.
A.S.: I’m glad the fight for homeopathy in the U.S. involves multiple organizations as well as consumers. In 2015, then Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB277 which ended personal belief vaccine exemptions for children in public and private elementary and secondary schools and daycare centers. Not everyone can homeschool their children. How are people coping with that? Are medical exemptions being honored?
K.S. : Well, this is a huge can of worms and could be the topic of an entire article! And I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer it, as nowadays kids are maybe 20% of my practice, and I don’t work with vaccine injury specifically. Having said that, I have seen some mild to moderate vaccine reactions. Perhaps the consequences would have turned out to be worse if not for the homeopathic remedy and other healing therapies that parents pursue after the fact. One thing that’s for sure in my practice is that parents feel put in a huge bind, and they do seek out holistic support to help strengthen their kids, sometimes before vaccination, or after if there is a reaction. What I find curious is that maybe half the time (in my practice) when a reaction occurs, parents are not contacting their pediatrician about, even if they are very scared or blaming themselves. I try to be supportive, and to encourage them to let their pediatrician know in as much detail as they are giving to me.
A.S. : Thank you Kathleen for all your wonderful work with the disadvantaged and your various leadership roles in homeopathy. It’s been a pleasure.