Our editor interviews Dr. Ann Swartz, Dr. Shelley Epstein, Dr. Larry Bernstein and Dr. Sara Stieg about the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH), and the Pitcairn Institute of Veterinary Homeopathy (PIVH)
Dr. Ann Swartz is the current President of the AVH, Dr. Shelley Epstein is a former President of the AVH, Dr. Larry Bernstein is a board member of AVH and Sarah Stieg DVM is Director of the Pitcairn Institute of Veterinary Homeopathy.
AS: What is the AVH and when was it founded?
Dr. Larry Bernstein: In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Dr. Richard Pitcairn held seminars and classes in veterinary homeopathy. He decided to create an actual multi-session course in 1992. At an advanced meeting in 1995 in Eugene, Oregon, the concept of a member based organization took form. The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy was incorporated as an organization with the original three “founders’ Dr. Richard Pitcairn, Dr. Jana Rygas and Dr. Christina Chambreau and a steering committee. In 1997 the AVH held its first Case Conference in San Antonio and was opened to membership. The original Board was expanded to include Dr. Larry Bernstein, Dr. Stephanie Chalmers, Dr. Wendy Jensen and Dr. Lori Tapp. There was no conference in 1998 as there was so much work involved in creating the structure for a strong, yet flexible organization, creating levels of certification and building our membership. The 1999 Conference was in Charlottesville Virginia and we have had an annual conference every year since.
(Editor’s note : See our interview with Dr. Richard Pitcairn : https://hpathy.com/homeopathy-interviews/dr-richard-pitcairn/
AS: Dr. Swartz, you’ve been a veterinarian since 1988 and you are the current President of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy. What was your personal evolution to homeopathy?
Ann Swartz DVM : As occurs for many of us, my first exposure to homeopathy was connected to ear “infections” of one of my children. I was very fortunate to have a veterinary colleague in my area who had taken Dr. Pitcairn’s course. Again, as occurs with us all, it took numerous conversations over time to finally facilitate a big enough change in thinking that I signed up for Dr Pitcairn’s classes. The rest is history!
AS: What are the functions and services of the AVH? Who can be a member? Why should veterinarians join?
Ann Swartz DVM : The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH) functions as a guiding body for veterinarians interested in the Hahnemannian practice of homeopathy. The AVH provides for certification in this kind of practice and encourages members to adhere to a Standard of Practice, thus ensuring a certain standard of care. To members, the AVH provides continuing education in the form of annual meetings, monthly webinars, electronic journals, and an email forum for discussion. Members may be listed on the website (www.theavh.org) as either
Accredited (certified), Affiliate, or Student members.
The feedback we get from member veterinarians is that they enjoy being a member of a like-minded group and value the support. Often, practitioners are far from other homeopaths. This organization provides a feeling of community as well as a way to communicate and to share ideas.
AS: Dr. Stieg, you are the Director of the Pitcairn Institute of Veterinary Homeopathy. Can you tell us something about that organization?
Sarah Stieg DVM : The Pitcairn Institute of Veterinary Homeopathy (PIVH) (http://pivh.org/) is an educational organization dedicated to teaching veterinarians the science and art of classical homeopathy. The PIVH offers courses, seminars, mentoring, and annual meetings for course participants and graduates. The PIVH is the only approved teaching organization that qualifies veterinarians for national certification through the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, and offers the highest quality standards in post-graduate education. The next module of our year-long foundation training program, the Professional Course in Veterinary Homeopathy, begins in June of 2014 in beautiful Portland, Oregon.
Dr. Larry Bernstein: There are many ways to first become exposed to homeopathy. For veterinary training, following whatever a person’s exposure is, there is really only one “best” way to go, in my opinion. Dr Richard Pitcairn has been training veterinary homeopaths for a long time. That training is now being facilitated by the Pitcairn Institute of Veterinary Homeopathy. Basically, the course meets 4-5 four day sessions during the course of a year and covers acute and chronic prescribing, as well as detailed coursework to aid students in understanding classical homeopathic theory and prescribing. The course prepares and encourages students to become certified by the AVH. The AVH also has an introductory lecture or two in conjunction with our annual meeting. These introductory lectures are aimed at the newly interested and/or practicing veterinarian. Our next AVH meeting will be held in Portland, Oregon in Sept 2014.
AS: How many courses have been held so far and how many people trained? How many members do you have at this point?
Dr Larry Bernstein Dr. Richard Pitcairn taught his first vet homeopathy course in 1992 in Eugene, Oregon. To date, he has personally taught 16 courses and provided course materials for Dr. Karen Komisar to teach one on the East Coast, and for Dr. David Evans to teach 3 in Canada. Each course was 3-4 days, 4-5 times a year. Dr. Pitcairn says a total of 472 vets have completed his course.The AVH maintains around 150 members, a third of whom are certified. Lists of members and of those who are certified are available on our website.
AS: Here’s a clinical question. Some homeopaths say putting remedies in an animal’s food will work just fine. Others say remedies must be given on a clean tongue. What do you say?
Dr. Larry Bernstein: Regarding remedies on a “clean” tongue, or with fasting, most vets do not worry about that so much, and the remedies still seem to work. It is almost impossible to fast a grazing animal, very impractical to try to do so. Having said that, I think most of us advise trying NOT to give the remedy actually in food. Many times we advise giving the pellet in water or milk or half and half (since the pellet is milk sugar). Sometimes there is no practical way to give the remedy orally other than in a water trough, or misted from a spray bottle.
AS: A veterinarian once told me that he vaccinates animals on the leg, so when cancer develops as a result of the vaccination, the leg can be amputated to save the animal. What is the AVH position on vaccination?
Dr. Larry Bernstein:The AVH does not have a “policy” regarding vaccination. Instead, we advocate evaluating each individual’s risk/benefit according to their health and their situation. It can be a tricky thing to navigate between federal and state law, as well as working with other veterinary colleagues who might also be seeing our patients. It is safe to say that veterinarians who practice homeopathy, trained by PIVH and associated with the AVH, tend to educate clients that there may be unintended effects of vaccination.
AS: Recently the AVMA House of Delegates proposed a policy stating that homeopathy is an ineffective practice and that its use as a veterinary therapy should be discouraged. Did the AVH respond to that?
(Cartoon: https://hpathy.com/medical-cartoons/donquixote/ )
Shelley Epstein VMD: Actually, the AVMA House of Delegates (HOD) did not propose this policy. The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, without consultation of the two certified veterinary homeopaths in that state, passed this resolution and submitted it to the AVMA HOD which was then obligated to consider it. The AVH found out about this anti-homeopathy resolution about a month or so after it’s submission to the AVMA. The AVH immediately began educating our colleagues in the AVMA HOD and the feedback was highly favorable. Most delegates outright disliked this policy for many reasons, including concerns that most of our conventional therapies have weak “evidence” to back them up. It turns out that many other delegates either practiced a CAVM modality, had someone in their practice who did, or referred to a practitioner who utilized a CAVM modality. You can read some of the documents we submitted at
AS: Homeopathy is being systematically attacked around the world. U.S. Homeopathic pharmacies have been sued and individual homeopaths persecuted. In the UK, 5 of the 7 homeopathic hospitals closed, due to propaganda from critics. In a survey recently, British veterinary surgeons denounced the use of homeopathy. (VetSurgeon.org) What is the best way to respond to these attacks?
Shelley Epstein VMD : Since the pet-owning public and organic farmers here in the U.S. are increasing their demand for qualified homeopaths, the AVH has decided to take a very positive approach to public awareness about homeopathy. The AVH has, as part of its mission, to educate the public and the profession about homeopathy. To this end, we provide webinars, lectures at VMA meetings as well as at holistic meetings and constantly update our Facebook page (Holistic Care for Animals, https://www.facebook.com/healthypetcare ) with the latest findings. We also have taken a very active role in ensuring that the AVMA’s questions regarding homeopathy are fully answered.
AS: Is there much call for treating livestock homeopathically in the U.S.? What are the most common problems on the farm where homeopathy is called for?
Ann Swartz DVM: There is growing interest in this country in the ability of homeopathic remedies to address health issues in organic herds. As with companion animals and the human animal, almost any illness can be addressed by homeopathic prescribing. Examples include mastitis, infertility, retained placenta, grain overload, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, cystitis, injuries, respiratory issues, ulcers, warts. The biggest challenge facing producers at this time is finding a veterinary homeopath near them. The AVH referral list on the website does mention species preferences of members.
AS: Can you estimate how many homeopathic vets are practicing in the U.S.
Ann Swartz DVM :The AVH has approximately 150 members, one third of whom are certified. There are certainly other veterinary homeopaths who are not members. Many of these might be members of the AHVMA (http://www.ahvma.org/ ). Others might be newly exposed and are just trying things like post surgical arnica. Some veterinarians use more of a combination remedy approach, or homotoxicology. When the AVH and the AHVMA are advocating for veterinary homeopaths at the AVMA, we do include all of us in the vision that is the practice of homeopathy
AS: How do you perceive the future of veterinary homeopathy in the U.S.?
Ann Swartz DVM : This has been a very difficult question for me to answer. I belong to and try to be active in the AVH precisely because I see this organization providing for the future of veterinary homeopathy in the US. Certainly, there are loud voices calling for eradication of a variety of “alternative” practices within the veterinary field. I honestly believe that the average veterinarian is not so closed minded, but if only the naysayers are heard, those who make policy decisions could be misled. The AVH provides a professional framework for coordinated dissemination of accurate information to our veterinary colleagues as well as to the public. The veterinary profession is struggling to ensure a certain standards of care, no matter the modality. I think we are in a growth phase of figuring out how to include homeopathy (as well as American Herbs, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, etc.) in the practice of veterinary medicine as we move into the future. So, all things considered, there remains an encouraging outlook for veterinary homeopaths!
AS: Thank you all for contributing to this interview and for your work in helping promote veterinary homeopathy. It’s a critically important job and it’s clearly in good hands.
Dr. Ann Swartz
Dr. Ann Swartz DVM CVH, is President of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH). She graduated from Oregon State University in 1988 with a DVM and has worked in a mobile capacity since then, with a mixed animal practice. She began studying homeopathy with Richard Pitcairn DVM in 1997, became certified by the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy in 2007 and served on the AVH Board of Directors since that time, serving as president in 2013. In 2014, she will serve as president of local Rogue Valley Veterinary Medical Association.
Dr. Larry Bernstein
Dr. Larry Bernstein has been a veterinarian since graduation from the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school in 1977 and has been using alternative medicine since 1991. He is certified by IVAS in Acupuncture, the AVH in homeopathy and has taken the AVCA training in chiropractic. His first love, although, is homeopathy. He studied with Dr. Richard Pitcairn in 1993 and was one of the earliest veterinarians certified in homeopathy by the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy. He served on the AVH national board since its creation in 1997 until 2004 and is the past-President and an honorary lifetime member.He is a graduate of both the Dynamis School of Homeopathy (3 year training) and the New England School of Homeopathy (2 year course). He is a lifetime member of the National Center of Homeopathy and current president-elect of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. He presently has a 100% holistic practice in Florida where he both sees clients and does telephone consultations in homeopathy all over the world.
Sarah Stieg, DVM MRCVS is the Director – Pitcairn Institute of Veterinary Homeopathy. She completed a BS in Animal Science at Cornell University N. Y. in 2001 and Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences in Ca, in 2009. She also completed the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy’s qualifying program: Professional Course in Veterinary Homeopathy through Animal Natural Health Center (ANHC) Education Programs in Sedona, Arizona. Dr. Stieg began assistant teaching the ANHC Professional Course in Veterinary Homeopathy in 2010. She has presented at ANHC Education Programs Annual Meetings and published a homeopathic equine case report in the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. In January 2013, she became the Director of the Pitcairn Institute of Veterinary Homeopathy. Currently, she is practicing as an integrative veterinarian with a primary emphasis on classical homeopathy and nutrition, in her own mobile mixed-animal veterinary practice in North Yorkshire, England.
Two days after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1985, she was at work at Wilmington Animal Hospital. She’s been the owner of the clinic since 1994. “I love seeing the correct homeopathic remedy turn around an animal’s health. This is especially rewarding when the condition has been deemed ‘incurable.’ I also enjoy mentoring prospective veterinarians and showing them everything we do and how fulfilling it is.” Dr. Epstein’s interest in holistic medicine includes homeopathy, nutritional therapies, herbs, laser and ozone therapy. Dr. Epstein is a member of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (a past president, chairperson of six annual conferences and currently serving on the Board of Directors), American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, Delaware Veterinary Medical Association, Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, International Association of Veterinary Homeopaths, and National Center for Homeopathy. She also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. She has lectured throughout the U.S. and abroad, including Japan, England, and Israel, on homeopathic and holistic medicine.