Beth Reiss, D.O.
A PHYSICIAN WITH THE HUMAN TOUCH
by Melissa Sands
The concept of "wellness," defined as taking responsibility for your health with good nutrition, proper exercise, stress reduction and avoiding risks such as smoking, has become a buzz-word in healthcare journalism.
"Few realize that wellness has been practiced by Osteopathic physicians for the past hundred years since the profession was founded by Andrew Taylor Still, a country doctor," says Dr. Wesley Beth Reiss, D.O., a Board Certified Family Physician with a practice in Huntington specializing in Osteopathic medicine.
In the seminars Dr. Reiss presents on Osteopathic medicine, she recounts Dr. Stillís dissatisfaction with the philosophy and treatments which were standard in his time. After losing three of his children to viral meningitis, Still began to study why some people get sick and not others.
Today this enigma is known as the immune system. That all body systems operated in unison was a conclusion that led Still to a holistic approach-treating the whole person not just the disease symptoms. Believing heavy metal and morphine medications did more harm than good, Still added the option of manipulative therapy. Restoring motion to the body's musculoskeletal system helped the body heal itself without drugs.
"A Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.)," Dr. Reiss explains, "is a fully licensed physician, who undergoes four years of pre-med, four years of medical school and postgraduate specialty training just as M.D.s. In addition Osteopath receives 600 to 1,000 hours of training in the manipulation of the spine, joints, fascia and muscles. A D.O. passes state licensing examinations and practices in fully accredited hospitals."
"Although D.O.s use diagnostic procedures like X-rays, prescribe medications, give injections and recommend and perform surgery, it is their focus on holistic health which distinguishes them. D.O.s focus on the body as a whole. They use their hands to diagnose imbalance, and listen to the patient. D.O.s assist and guide the body so it can manifest its inherent potential for good health." Wesley Reissí interest in medicine dates back to her childhood. She reminisces, "As far back as age six I was fascinated with healing. I remember childhood fantasies of seeing someone fall and I would be the one with the doctor bag running to help. I recall being glued to a televised operation. I spent hours pouring over the encyclopedia page, the one which showed anatomy. You could peel back the layers to look past the skin into the muscles and organs. I thought how smart one had to be to learn all those terms and if only someday I could do that." Dr. Reiss wasnít born into a family dynasty of doctors. Her parents were from immigrant stock with humble beginnings, but they did take her medical aspirations seriously. They supported her in every way possible as she strove towards a goal never attempted before in her family.
Wesley graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from the State University of New York at Buffalo where she was a pre-med major, but then deviated from her goal. As she explains, "In Buffalo I was discouraged by the competitive values of my pre-med peers. The whole system which made life miserable for the medical student combined with the social consciousness of the era made me reconsider becoming a doctor. Instead, after graduation I went to work for a consumer and research advocacy organization, the New York Public Interest Research Group."
"However, I was drawn to public health issues. While attending a convention on genetic engineering and dining with Harvard professors my inner voice was telling me to go back and become a physician."
She did just that. In 1983 Wesley received her D.O. degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. Post-graduate training or rotating internship was done at Massapequa General Hospital, followed by Family Practice Residency at JFK Medical Center in New Jersey.
In 1986 Dr. Reiss became an Emergency Room Physician at Massapequa General Hospital where she worked for 8 years, six of those as Director of the Emergency Department. However, a process of personal and professional evolution led her in a new direction, to go into private practice.
Dr. Reiss explains, "Emergency room medicine was high tech and high stress. I missed the continuity of caring for patients, the human touch. I needed to be something more. And I was reaching a time in my own life when I wanted time to take care of myself as well as others. The ER schedule was extremely time-consuming. I was looking for a balance in my life. Deciding to go into a family practice setting was my way of meeting both my professional and personal needs. Delivering Osteopathic care is more consistent with my values and my interest in the natural approach to healing."
Dr. Reissís healthcare philosophy dovetails with the publicís evolving expectations of doctors. Many are seeking broad-minded physicians according to Dr. Reiss. "In my seminars Iím often asked about the value of nutrition and homeopathy among others. I am open-minded to the belief system of my patients, interested in supporting them in researching whatever they think may contribute to their health and assisting them in making informed decisions."
Listening to a patient, to their bodies as a whole, to their hearts as well as what's inside their hearts is all part of being a good Osteopathic doctor. The hands-on approach practiced by Dr. Wesley Beth Reiss is healthcare with a human touch.
Networking Newspaper, January 1995