Dr. Mimi Guarneri
Board-certified in cardiovascular disease, internal medicine, nuclear cardiology, and Integrative Holistic Medicine, Mimi Guarneri, MD, FACC, ABOIM is deeply committed to expanding integrative medicine, education and research globally. A leading proponent of Integrative Medicine, she serves on the Founding Board of the American Board Physician Specialties in Integrative Medicine (ABOIM). She is Cofounder and Medical Director of Guarneri Integrative Health, Inc. at Pacific Pearl La Jolla in La Jolla, California, U.S.A. since 2014, where she leads a team of experts in conventional, integrative and natural medicine. Dr. Guarneri is Co-founder and Treasurer of Miraglo Foundation, a non-profit public charity providing healthcare and education to the underserved in the U.S. and globally. A Clinical Associate Professor at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), she also is President of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and the Past President of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM). She served as Senior Advisor to the Atlantic Health System for the Chambers Center for Well Being, among other healthcare system advisory positions. She is an accomplished author and the Professor of The Great Courses video series, “The Science of Natural Healing.”
Dr. Guarneri was an English Literature major as an undergraduate at New York University. Her medical degree is from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York, where she graduated number one in her class. Dr. Guarneri served her internship and residency at Cornell Medical Center, where she later became chief medical resident. She served cardiology fellowships at both New York University Medical Center and Scripps Clinic in California. She is a fellow member of the American College of Cardiology, Alpha Omega Alpha, the American Medical Women’s Association and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition.
She co-founded the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine and served as medical director for 15 years. She began her career at Scripps Clinic as an attending in interventional cardiology, where she placed thousands of coronary stents. Recognizing the need for a more comprehensive and more holistic approach to cardiovascular disease, Dr. Guarneri pioneered the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine where state-of-the-art cardiac imaging technology and lifestyle change programs are used to aggressively diagnose, prevent and treat cardiovascular disease.
Her new book, “108 Pearls to Awaken Your Healing Potential,” was published by Hay House in April of 2017. Also the author of “The Heart Speaks,” Dr. Guarneri’s work has been featured on television with NBC Today and PBS. She is co-author of the book, “Total Engagement: The Healthcare Practitioner’s Guide to Heal Yourself, Your Patients & Your Practice,” published in 2014.
She is an international speaker with multiple engagements, annually. She was an invited presenter in November of 2017 for two international conferences on integrative health and medicine in Brazil and at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences’ 3-day conference on global health. She is a featured speaker at the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine’s annual conference in San Diego, California, among many others. She continues to advise and lead annual, national integrative healthcare conferences in San Diego.
Dr. Guarneri was recognized for her leadership in Integrative Medicine by the Bravewell Collaborative and served as the Founding Chair of the Bravewell Clinical Network for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Guarneri was honored as the ARCS Foundation Scientist of the Year. In 2011, she was the winner of the Bravewell Physician Leadership Award which honors a physician leader who has made significant contributions to the transformation of the U.S. health care system. She received the 2012 Linus Pauling Functional Medicine Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute for Functional Medicine and the Grace A. Goldsmith award from the American College of Nutrition. Ranked as the number one female physician practicing Integrative Medicine by Newsmax in 2015, Dr. Guarneri also was honored with San Diego Magazine’s Woman of the Year Awards as Health and Wellness Pioneer 2016 for her outstanding leadership.
Below, we spoke with Dr. Guarneri to learn more about her background, passion, and dedication to integrative health.
After the success of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, what initiatives are you focused on as you continue to deliver the message about integrative health?
Most professionals are trained through a conventional medicine funnel and never educated about Traditional Chinese, naturopathic, osteopathic, or Ayurvedic medicine.
I founded the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine (AIHM) in 2014 to transform how clinicians are trained. Why isn’t everyone in healthcare learning together? Once you start to learn together, titles and silos are naturally broken down. The Academy offers inter-professional education through fellowship, online learning, and conferences and summits. We bring clinicians of all types together who believe in one philosophy: prevention is the best intervention.
The AIHM administration office is housed within the Pacific Pearl La Jolla wellness center, which I also founded. When you have an appointment here, you’re in the room with a seasoned naturopathic doctor and an MD. If you have muscular or skeletal issues, there’s an osteopathic physician onsite. We have Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, healing touch, and hypnosis practitioners. We treat the whole person.
People from virtually all over the world are seeking something different. My goal was to create the go-to center. When people want integrative health and medicine, I want them to come to us.
Is healthcare finally starting to shift in the direction of integrative health?
I’m pro-Western medicine. There’s a time and place for everything. But I’ve been through many years of criticism for getting back to basics like clean air and water, nutrition, proper food and micronutrients, and good sleep. We need to take a root-cause approach to treat underlying problems. What’s causing your arthritis? What’s the cause of your depression? We need a new model of care, and it’s a big ship to turn around. Good healthcare involves a multi-disciplinary chain and a team-based approach.
There are 70+ medical schools that offer integrative medicine classes, which is a huge step. When we started this work in 1996, there were zero. The cadence began to change in the late ’90s. During that time, Dr. David Eisenberg and his associates published the Unconventional Medicine in the United States—Prevalence, Costs, and Patterns of Use study, which indicated that more people went to alternative care providers (629 million) than to primary care physicians (329 million). Western medicine can get you to a certain point, but there’s no path to good health creation. People are saying, “I don’t want back surgery. I want to try a chiropractor or acupuncturist first. When I can’t walk, then I’ll have back surgery.”
How do you deal with people who don’t agree or align with your approach?
If we see something we think we can make better, we’re obligated to do our best to do so. That’s how I live my life. You have to have thick skin.
Nurses would walk into my office at the Scripps Center and say, “Want to know what Dr. So-and-So said about you?” They’d relay negativity. But if I jumped at every piece of negativity, I’d be pulled from my mission. You have to put blinders on and keep moving. If someone wants to discuss my approach or see what we’re doing, they’re welcome. The minute you approach someone upfront, they usually back down.
After the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine began, people were saying, “Your lifestyle change program is teaching people meditation, but that doesn’t make us any money.” Maybe it didn’t, but these patients were also having stress tests and echocardiograms done at the hospital. Look at how much we’re referring and the financial impact we’re making. When they said they couldn’t consider that data, I put technology into our own center instead. I brought in a PET-CT scanner and started early detection to detect diseasebefore it occurs.
When you look back at the path you’ve taken and what you’ve accomplished, what are you most proud of?
The outcome of my patients. Getting letters from people saying that their lives have been transformed. A patient at Scripps Center once wanted to donate $250,000 because we helped him select his heart surgeon and get a bypass done. Instead, I encouraged him to keep that money and use it to complete the lifestyle change program, spending a year with me doing yoga and exercising. Everyone thought we were crazy when we turned down that money, but it was more important that he experience life-changing medicine for his own health. After his involvement with the program, he gave us $2.5 million.
We can learn to think differently and embrace these approaches. The battle isn’t over. The stronger we get, the more forceful our opposers become. We have to move slowly and steadily. We won’t win by emotion but by perseverance. If we keep showing people what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, we will break through.
What advice do you have for this year’s graduating class?
Value relationships and how you make people feel. Keep the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing at the forefront: Remember your passion and why you chose this profession. Take care of yourself. You can’t heal or take care of anyone if you are not whole. Don’t be afraid to reach out and seek support if you need help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know everything.