CLINICAL DIRECTOR, GENERAL & INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE
MBBS, FRACGP, Dip. IM, MACNEM
After 15 years as a partner in a medical practice in Clifton Hill, Dr Hickey realised general practice had to evolve further and faster if it was to serve patients effectively.
“A competent and caring family GP is our first line of defence in the battle against illness and injury we all face in our own way” she says. “General Practice has always been incredibly important. It began to dawn on me about 20 years ago however that the explosion in medical knowledge, the trend to increasingly narrow specialisation, and one unintended consequence of the noble idea that was Medicare, meant that I was being forced to spend less and less time on more and more specific aspects of human ill-health. I was in danger of losing sight of the whole, complex human coming to me with their sickness and symptoms. Put more simply, I was in danger of ‘failing to see the wood for the trees’.”
Dr Hickey’s interest in broader approaches to health led her to undertake Australia’s first diploma in Integrative Medicine and to take some subjects in Naturopathy at Melbourne’s Southern School of Natural Therapies.
In 2000 Joanna left the 100-year-old general practice of which she was a part and began her professional life again. At Wellness Medicine she is building a new model of practice that continues to offer high quality general practice but combines this with the most advanced Integrative Medicine available in Australia.
As she explains the model, “if someone comes with a broken finger or a headache, let’s first fix the finger or heal the headache. Let us then ask however ‘why did your bone break?’ ‘why does your head ache?’ These types of questions, asked with empathy and compassion, lead us to true underlying causes and ultimately better treatments.”
Joanna believes it is very difficult, and becoming more so, for a GP working alone or an Integrative Medicine specialist working alone, to deliver true quality patient care. “Our best work for our patients comes when we collaborate with one another” she says. “That is what we try to do at Wellness Medicine”
Early training in biochemistry and psychiatry led Joanna to an interest in the relationships between physical and mental health. Through her continuing education and research at the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, the Walsh Research Institute in America and the Institute of Functional Medicine in the United States, she has broadened this interest to include the management of cardiovascular health, hormone imbalances, chronic fatigue and reversing cognitive decline.
She is also integrating new medical knowledge in genetics, biochemistry, nutrition, targeted dietary supplements, and epidemiology for better diagnosis and treatment of different patients.