My Path in Medicine – from MD to Homeopath

Dr. Maria Berger discusses her growing awareness and her path to homeopathy.

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I decided to study medicine because I love people. I was interested to learn about the human body and how it functions and what to prescribe in case of an illness. Also, I love to work with people and I am interested in everyone’s story. I would say, that going to medical school was one of the best times in my life, although it sometimes seemed too technical to me. While it allowed me to build a good foundation regarding anatomy, physiology, etc., there were not enough connections made between the subjects and potential correlations. Ideas about the body and mind connection were touched on pretty superficially, and the word “spirit” wasn’t mentioned at all.

Already at that time, alternative healing methods were in the back of my mind. I was too busy studying for the exams to fully investigate them. Also, in Austria you have to be a doctor in order to practice any kind of medicine. There was no questioning about how to start my medical career.

In retrospect, I feel that I missed out on a broader ethical education, a more philosophical background with discussions, and a better idea about the required skills, talents and personality that makes a good doctor. The one thing I remember is that we were told early on that patients mainly judge their doctors on how good they are at drawing blood. Is this the main thing that a doctor needs to be good at? Is this really what matters most? One can imagine how big an issue blood drawing became for me and what a relief it was to finally become a master of the needle.

I wrote my doctoral thesis about Alzheimer’s disease and worked several months in a research institute. While this was a valuable experience, it was always clear to me that this was not why I studied medicine. Instead, I wanted to be a “real doctor”.

After finishing university I went through residency. What an unpleasant wake-up after several quite romantic years at college. I didn’t feel prepared at all for treating patients, and I was overwhelmed with my responsibilities. I struggled with the inner workings of big hospitals. Over the course of 3.5 years I went through several departments in two different hospitals, and it was a tough time of learning. I remember night shifts at the ER when I felt quite helpless because I saw desperate patients who were sent home after we told them that they were not sick, even though they looked sick and felt miserable. Unfortunately for them, all the lab testing and scanning showed nothing, so in the ER there was nothing I could do for them. And for other patients, I didn’t feel good about simply suppressing their symptoms and then sending them home. During my residency I enjoyed the geriatric ward the most. There we had more possibilities for treating the patients as a whole being. We had physical therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists on the team. Together we would give the elderly the help they needed. As a result, there wasn’t the same rebound effect that we had seen with other patients whose symptoms we would suppress until the symptoms eventually returned. I might have continued working in the geriatric ward and specialized in geriatric medicine, but life took a different direction.

My husband and I had always talked about going abroad to live in a different country and be part of a different culture, for the new experience. So it happened that after finishing my residency and finally being qualified to open my own private practice as a general physician, it was time to go abroad. We ended up in Omaha, Nebraska. Because I was a certified physician in Austria, I was not allowed to work as a doctor in the States without retaking exams and re-doing an internship. I regarded this as a break from medicine and a chance to re-evaluate my interests. I shadowed at the geriatric department in Nebraska and looked into the university programs, but I also took photography classes for a semester. And then I got pregnant and gave birth to three children within 5 years. At that time I also searched for a homeopathy school in the area, but I could only find online options that were not appealing to me.

Why was I interested in homeopathy at that time? This is difficult to answer. I had grown up with homeopathic remedies, and now in retrospect, I realize that it was a very superficial version of homeopathy. In high school I majored in biology and actually wrote a thesis on homeopathy. So it had been on my radar for a long time already. While I was in Omaha, a friend introduced me to a holistic bodywork method called “Freedom from body memory”. Freedom from body memory helps patients to release trauma (both physical and psychological) from the past that are stored in the connective tissue. Classes were held in Omaha and other cities in the US, and after an introductory session I decided to try it. I was quite skeptical as I wasn’t really interested in muscles, bones or facial tissue because these things seemed to be so “dead” when I was studying them in med school. However, Jonathan Tripodi, my teacher, was so convincing that I could see how it might help patients. Learning and experiencing this technique forced me to step outside my comfort zone. At first I intended to learn this system for my own personal growth, and it wasn’t until I had some experience with homeopathy that I first imagined that I could treat patients with Body Memory Release. In fact, I needed to finally take my own homeopathic remedy in order to completely open up to this technique and then feel confident practicing it. On the other hand I know that BMR also helped to open me up for Homeopathy, and this made my own intake interview much easier for me.

After four years in Omaha, we moved to New Jersey, and right away I looked for a homeopathy school. This time I was successful. There was one in New York, close enough for me to manage family, classes and logistics. My gut feeling told me right away that that was the place for me. I was invited to attend a sample class at the New York School of Homeopathy (NYSH) and discovered that my intuition was right. I was “blown away” and I knew that this was the school where I should learn about homeopathy. Our teacher Susan Sonz glows for homeopathy and her teaching is amazing. How to understand remedies, how to capture the complex picture of a substance- I was thrilled (and I still am). Until then I didn’t really have much knowledge about classical homeopathy and how it was intended to be used by the founder Samuel Hahnemann, but soon I found out. And needless to say, I loved it. All the principles of totality, individualization, the minimal dose– at last I found what I was missing in my previous medical training.

I am so fascinated by Samuel Hahnemann’s “Organon of the Medical Art” and the philosophy and principles that he set forth. Of course, sometimes my analytical brain kicks in and I question how these little sugar pellets, as my teacher calls them, can actually work. Today unfortunately, we don´t have methods to prove the efficacy of homeopathy accepted by the entire scientific medical community. But there are many clinical trials as well as primary research efforts, which investigate the effect of homeopathic remedies on the human body. Many aspects of our body, mind and spirit we only begin to understand at a slow pace- about how energy flows and communication systems in our bodies work together, and about how everything in the universe is interconnected. Still, in 400 BC, I think Hippocrates was accurate in saying “he who heals is right”.

Not only have I been really fortunate to experience for myself my own case being taken and receiving “my remedy”, I also see homeopathy work in our school clinic. Our patients who experience profound healing are proof enough for me. Healing through homeopathy is truly profound- it deeply and permanently changes how patients perceive themselves in the world.

I remember one specific moment at school when Susan gave us a lecture about our attitude towards patients and how to treat them. It was exactly the same I had learned from BMR, so for me the right attitude of the therapist/doctor/homeopath really makes the difference between healing and merely fixing problems. So, our most important task is to be open about our patients, to not judge them, to see them through the light of love, and to give them the space to find the true healing in themselves.

There is another quote I came across in my reading, which really struck me:

How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers.                (Isaac Asimov)

If you want to be successful in healing you need good tools. At NYSH we learn different methods for case-taking. We not only learn how to take a case in a very traditional way by using the repertory and our learned materia medica, we are also taught how to take a case by matching the big ideas of a patient with the big ideas of a remedy. If the patient allows it, we are given the tools to take the case in a more experiential way. The best way is to have many tools to choose from and to have the flexibility to treat every patient individually. I am really grateful that life brought me to this path of medicine. I feel really devoted to learning about holistic ways of healing. I can’t wait to use homeopathy to help my patients because I am convinced that homeopathy offers what many patients need today. More and more patients are interested in finding profound healing, and homeopathy is the perfect tool to help them achieve real health and happiness so they can re-discover who they really are.

About the author

Maria Berger

Maria Berger

Maria Berger attended medical school in Austria, wrote her MD thesis on Alzheimer's disease and was certified as a general practitioner in 2009. Then she and her husband moved to the States, eventually settling in New Jersey where she is currently raising their three kids. She has always been interested in holistic healing. In 2015 she became a certified BMR (Body Memory Recall) practitioner. Maria is an enthusiastic third year student at New York School of Homeopathy (NYSH).

2 Comments

  • This is a very interesting and facinating conversion of an unsatisfied practitioner to her satisfaction in prescribing. Welcome to homeopathy.

  • I love, nay envy, her style of writing and command over English language. We can expect great things from her when she becomes an experienced and committed homeopath. Good luck Maria!!!!!

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