Expert Profile - Vanessa Wong
Dr. Vanessa Wong’s Bio:
Vanessa went to medical school in Hong Kong and graduated in 2004 with an MBBS. She then spent six years obtaining her specialist in psychiatry degree from the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists. She has 15+ years of clinical experience and has published several articles in indexed journals. Vanessa was in the first ADAPT Practitioner Training Program combining her conventional medical training with a functional medicine approach. She uses nutritional therapy, meditation, stress management, herbal and nutrient supplements, and health technologies in a systematic way to achieve lasting health outcomes for her clients.
Dr. Vanessa is a registered practitioner with the Integrative Medicine for Mental Health, a Certified Functional Genomic Analysis Practitioner, serves on the Medical Advisory Board of Chris Kresser, Co-founder at Ananta Well-being, and Co-host of The Wellness Doctors podcast.
What life events or challenges that you’ve experienced (could be minor, could be major) – whether you’ve experienced them directly or via someone close to you, have had any type of impact on your desire to pursue a career in psychiatry?
I have always been fascinated by human behavior and the psychology behind it, so naturally I gravitated towards the specialty within medicine which allowed me to pursue this intersection between science and humanities, not just academically and as a career, but also to understand myself and my relationship with others better. I was trained in conventional psychiatry and practiced as such until a turning point in my life, when I began to experience multiple physical symptoms that did not fit with any neat “diagnosis”. The chronicity of the illness was exacting a toll on my mental well-being, to the point where I thought I needed to take an antidepressant! I then discovered a whole new arena of recovery through lifestyle changes, functional medicine and other modalities of healing, which helped me regain my health and thus sparked my passion to bring this way of care to my patients as well.
How did those events impact you emotionally/morally? How, if at all did those events impact the way you view how our current system teaches us to treat patients with mental health challenges?
I realized the way that mental health was taught to psychiatrists and how it is still being practiced in most places is fundamentally based on the “label and prescribe” model, and not about understanding why someone feels “not quite right”. I believe that my conventional training has equipped me well to be methodical, analytical and systematic in my approach to helping others, and I believe that certain medications, used judiciously, can be helpful to kickstart the recovery process. However, there then needs to be a consideration of whether the medications are still necessary, and our current system does not do enough to educate doctors on the importance and holistic methodology of tapering off medication.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on practicing Integrative Psychiatry, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
Whilst struggling with my own chronic health issues, I distinctly remember sitting across the table from my physician, feeling helpless, vulnerable and scared at the thought that I might not ever get better. A couple of the doctors I consulted dismissed my symptoms as psychosomatic, without questioning if there was any biological basis for how I felt. From those experiences began my journey to learn about nutrition, relearn biochemistry and expand my horizons to other modalities of treatment outside of allopathic medicine. And I made a promise to myself that I will never dismiss someone offhand no matter how medically implausible it may sound, because to that person it is as a real and genuine concern that has clearly been distressing enough for them to seek help.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
My approach to mental health focuses on balanced nutrition and nutrient repletion, healthy sleep patterns, physical movement, and achievable ways to manage stress by creating new habits that re-educate our autonomic nervous system. I also apply my training in functional medicine and lifestyle medicine to help individuals find a tailored recovery plan for their specific issues, which includes looking at the whole body not as separate systems but as an interconnected ecosystem that influence each other, and how our mind, our emotions, our interactions with the environment and our social connections all play a role in our mental and physical well-being.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
In Hong Kong where I practice, the concept of functional medicine and integrative psychiatry is almost unheard of, and many of my colleagues think of me as just having an interest in nutrition (and supplements) “on the side”, without perhaps being curious to explore these avenues themselves. The reactions I get from patients range from “You’re the first person to connect the dots and explain it to me” and “It all makes so much sense!” to “Why are you asking about my bowel habits” and “I heard you were a bit woo woo”. I take these as compliments, and confirmation that I am bringing treatment strategies to this part of the world which I truly believe will make a difference to how mental healthcare can be delivered better, changing the current system one small step at a time.
Organization: Dr. Vanessa Wong Integrative Care For Mental Health
Location: Central, Hong Kong
Address: 1205/6 Car Po Commercial Building, 18-20 Lyndhurst Terrace
Tel : 2116 4896
Fax : 3585 2244
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org