Interview: Dr. David C. Korn, DDs, DO, MD, Blending Conventional And Integrative Medicine With A Personal Patient Approach
February 1, 2009 in Interviews by Tina J. Garcia, with Dr. David C. Korn, DDS, DO, MD
It is no secret that, after being shuffled from one indifferent and inane medical encounter to another, Lyme disease patients approach each subsequent appointment filled with increasing anxiety and apprehension. Lyme disease patients experience denial and rejection from physicians on too many occasions and yearn for a medical close encounter of the most exquisitely poignant kind. Such a medical close encounter would include an attentive listening ear, acknowledgement of the patient's symptoms, knowledge of the disease entity or a willingness to conduct research, time for analyzing and a natural compassion for the suffering patient.
I have, in my experience as a chronic Lyme disease patient, experienced the inane medical encounters of the worst kind after which, for relief, I retreated to bed and covered my head with a warm, therapeutic blanket. Fortunately, I have also been blessed to have had medical close encounters of the exquisitely poignant kind. The precious memories of these medical visits with Lyme-experienced doctors have been carefully placed in my golden box of treasures. I hope this adequately conveys the magnitude of cherished feelings held by Lyme disease patients for each of their own Lyme-literate physicians (LLMDs).
Rarely does a patient have the opportunity to sit at a conference table with their treating physician and listen while he weaves thirty years of medical experience and words of inspiration into a practitioner's tapestry that tells the story of his personal journey in medicine. The medical tapestry woven by Dr. David C. Korn consists of his ongoing quest for medical knowledge, personal enrichment, service to his fellow man and most admirably, a medical and scientific evolvement that projects mainstream Lyme treatment back into the Dark Ages.
Tina: Dr. Korn, thank you for the opportunity; it's an honor to interview you today. Would you please share your medical education and experience?
Dr. Korn: Of course, it's my pleasure. I began by attending four years at Ohio State. Now Michigan fans may cringe at that because of the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State, but that's okay. It's all in good fun. I decided to change my major and took dentistry at West Virginia University Medical Center School of Dentistry in Morgantown, West Virginia. I spent four years at WVU and obtained a dental degree. With my dental degree I entered the public health field and performed oral surgery in Virginia.
I was very interested in oral cancer and proposed a program for oral cancer detection which developed into a pilot program that was sponsored by six state and local health groups. This exciting program became the pilot project for the state of Virginia. I had the desire to learn more and realized that I needed additional training. This decision led me back to medical school.
It was pretty funny that one major medical center in the area where I was practicing dentistry told me I was "too old" then; I was 24 or 25. So, I kept that in my heart and was accepted at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. The Dean there also had double degrees, so he was very excited about having me there with my DDS and pursuing my DO.
I taught oral pathology at the medical school. During my internship, I practiced dentistry to help me get through med school and pay the bills. I also had four little guys at the time. Quite honestly, we really had a good time; it was fun. Chicago is a nice town, and even though it's quite cold in the winter, I wanted to do my internship right there in Chicago where I had four dental clinics. I eventually ended up selling the dental clinics, however, because it became too cumbersome for me during my busy and demanding internship.
I had a very good medical practice base from the start, because I already had a patient base from the dental clinics. These patients wanted me to take care of their medical needs, too. So, I practiced typical straight hospital medicine, delivered babies and was involved in just about every phase of medicine. I was as happy as I could be. I didn't even know if anyone owed me money, because I was just so happy to be practicing medicine. It wasn't a very good way to be, though, because certainly you have to be tuned to the business aspects of medical practice. But I'm telling you, I was really excited to be practicing medicine. I was doing obstetrics and gynecology, and even though I wasn't board certified, I was the busiest oral surgeon in the hospital. So, I had a lot of surgical experience and was on the staff of the academic departments in emergency medicine surgery, ob/gyn and family medicine.
In 1978, I also worked 24 hours a week in the trauma room, because Olympia Fields, a Chicago suburban hospital, was in those days a Level I trauma room. I really liked that. So, between 1978 and 1980 I worked in emergency medicine and built my family medicine practice. About that time, I became very interested in headache medicine, because I had been a migraine patient for many years. This is very important from a standpoint of Lyme disease, which is today one of my major interests. From the age of 12 to the age of 33, when I met Dr. Seymour Diamond during my internship, I had migraines every day. Dr. Diamond was then the leading headache authority in the world, and he was able to put me in touch with some treatments that helped relieve my headaches greatly. After that, I began studying headache medicine quite vigorously and went to all the lectures I could go to under Dr. Diamond's study group. I then started my own headache medicine practice and began getting many patients with headache problems.
I'll never forget attending a headache conference in Arizona. Everyone was walking around complaining about how awful the weather was. It was January, the temperature was 55 degrees, and it was a little rainy and overcast. I had just come from Chicago where it was 55 below, so I thought it was a pretty good exchange. But the local natives were complaining. It just goes to show that everything is relative.
I brought my family to Arizona when I attended that conference and we really liked this beautiful Arizona climate. I immediately began to formulate a program in my mind to move to Arizona and practice headache medicine. It was a big step, but I wasn't satisfied with my partnership in Chicago, so I did make arrangements with several hospitals here in the valley. From 1980 to 1984, I practiced in Scottsdale as Director of the Scottsdale Center for Headache and Facial Pain. I and a local neurologist, who also had a headache center, made the interview circuit on every local radio and television show for what we called Headache Awareness Week. This endeavor was sponsored by Dr. Diamond's National Migraine Foundation. We closed our offices for a week and gave many lectures on headaches. Then Dr. Diamond and all the other major headache specialists came to town to give lectures on headaches also, and this was very successful.
In 1982, I read a book called Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach. It was written by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw. It was a blockbuster that sold millions of copies. That book became life-changing for me in my medical practice. It presented the possibility of how people might be able to live longer and healthier. I was blown away by the concepts of clinical biochemistry. So, I extensively studied works on biochemistry and cell pathology. This was a very exciting field! I began to practice some recommendations for enhancement of brain performance post injury and stroke. I thought I could help my mother who had Parkinson's disease.
Then, in 1984, my elderly parents in Ohio became very ill. My brother was also in Ohio practicing dentistry, and I made the decision to return to Ohio to help my brother take care of my mom and dad. While in Ohio, I began using what I had learned in the exciting new field of biochemistry by implementing anti-aging principles in my treatment of patients. The Life Extension Foundation sent patients from Florida and the Midwest to my practice in Columbus, Ohio. I treated them for memory enhancement. It was then that I noticed there were two groups of these patients, for the most part.
One group consisted of patients that could benefit from the brain-enhancing nutrients and drugs that I used and a lot of those drugs and nutrients are set forth in a book called Smart Drugs and Nutrients I and II by Dr. Ward Dean. The other group of patients were those who answered "yes" to nearly everything on my history questionnaire. From my observations, it appears that these patients were the early Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) patients and the Fibromyalgics.
The CFIDS and FM patients had tremendous chemical sensitivities, so they couldn't tolerate a lot of the treatment I was giving to others. I began studying the CFIDS and FM patients. At the time, most doctors thought these conditions were ridiculous and non-existent. However, I found it to be quite obvious that there were such clinical syndromes. I investigated them, but it wasn't until long after I moved to and practiced in Arizona, that I explored ways to treat the three main viruses that were involved in the CFIDS syndrome.
I initially thought I might be in Ohio for a couple of years and then move back to Arizona, but as it turned out, I stayed in Ohio for 14 years. I would wake up longing for those beautiful Arizona days. I was finally able to return to Arizona in 1997 and then I opened LongLife Medical in 1999.www.longlife-medical.com I hold two licenses in Arizona, a D.O. osteopathic license and an M.D.(H) integrative medicine license. Getting back to CFIDS and FM, the three viruses I referred to before are Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Human Herpes Virus 6 (HHV-6) and Cytomegalovirus (CMV). Those viruses are bad, but they were not necessarily received by establishment medicine.
Yet I treated patients with those viruses who had those disorders and symptoms and I got really good results for a period of time. Unfortunately, patients would return after six to nine months and they would be in relapse. I found later that the reason they were relapsing and I wasn't getting the whole picture was due to Lyme disease. I have worked with hundreds of these patients over the years from 1983-84 to the present.
I am also the Medical Director of Envita Clinic in Scottsdale [www.behealthyamerica.com]. At Envita, I see other types of patients. The majority of patients I see at Envita are cancer and infectious disease, but some patients see me for preventive medicine.
Tina: Would you share with us your unique and personal patient approach? Dr. Korn: One thing that is very important to me is that people are three persons. That means all of us; I don't care who you are or what you do. We each have three parts to our being. We have a spiritual part, a physical part and a mental part. All three parts need to be approached in one's treatment of an individual in order to help them be well. Wellness must occur in all three spheres of an individual's being, in my opinion.
Personally, I have a very deep spiritual faith in Jesus Christ and that has served me well. I am an ordained Chaplain and also a Pastor. Now I don't beat people over the head with the Bible, but I do pray with people in my practice. I pray for them to get better. That's been very helpful to me and I think praying is helpful to many of my patients, also. Not everyone wants to be prayed with. For instance, I had one patient who, after her office visit, went to the front desk and said, "I must be sicker than I know, because that man wanted to pray with me." But that was okay.
So, that's an important part of wellness. Not everyone shares my spiritual beliefs and that's okay. I think, though, that people should eventually come to some sort of understanding of their spiritual essence. To me, there's no question as to what that essence is, but not everyone shares that belief. And I do believe in the Bible as a basis for my spiritual faith.
I think a lot of people become more interested in their spiritual natures when they become very ill. Sometimes they even blame God for their illness and I just try to share with them that this is definitely not correct from a Biblical standpoint. When requested, I will provide patients with a Biblical perspective and how it relates to their sickness, but I do avoid spiritual debates with patients.
I believe the Bible is God's owner's manual for everyone. Sometimes it seems a little hard to understand, because it's written in old English. Truthfully, it's important for an individual to be able to take a step of faith and say, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He died on the cross that we might have eternal life." In doing this, one might be able to establish or reestablish his or her relationship with God. In this way, we are more able to read and understand the Bible.
Many times I tried to be "a better person" and tried to read the Bible, but didn't understand a word in it. In the Bible it says that a natural man understandeth not the things of the Spirit of God. Neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned. What's the natural man? That means someone who hasn't made that leap of faith who says, "I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior." Some may say, "I don't know much about you, Lord; I don't even know if you're true." That's what happened to me.
I said, "Okay. God, I don't know if Jesus is your Son or if you're even real or any of that. I just know that, if you are real, I need a Savior. I need a god that cares about me right now. If you're real, please show me that you're real." I want to tell you that in a very short time, God showed me that He is real. He showed me in a way that only a supernatural creator could show me. Only He and I knew that prayer; I hadn't shared it with anybody else. And the things that then happened in my life in a very quick order, absolutely answered my prayer. I had been an agnostic, and all of a sudden, I became a born again Christian.
Then, just like I always do, I wanted to know as much as I could about it, so I jumped in and studied the Bible. God actually saw to it that I did. I was able to have the time to study the Word. I began to realize that I needed to study the Bible as aggressively as I had studied medicine and dentistry. It was then that I began to understand it. I felt very comfortable with it, and I read as much as I could in the Bible, about the Bible and about the Jewish people. The Bible is a history of the Jewish people. How does that relate to us today and at this time in history? Well, because God's dealing with the Jewish people in the future is going to happen at a time when certain things are going on in the world. And that's what is happening now.
Let me explain how I see Lyme disease in this scenario. I believe that Lyme disease is an end-time plague. Now, the world isn't going to come to an end, but rather, according to the Bible, the world as you and I know it is going to change markedly. I think my belief in the Bible has made me a more caring and sensitive individual. In medical school they sometimes teach students not to get involved with patients. I don't believe that's right. I do believe that if you care about people, you can't help but be involved in their lives.
I've had my own suffering and having Lyme disease is a pretty awful situation. A person can become isolated and sometimes, when you think about your own mortality, it makes you wonder what everything's all about. What are we even here for, you know? I think we're here to choose whether we believe in God and Jesus Christ or not believe in them. If we had gone through the torture that Jesus Christ endured, and if you've seen the movie The Passion of the Christ, it showed the horrible brutality of the torture inflicted by the Romans.
If we had gone through all of that, we would at least expect someone to believe that we did indeed go through it. I know I would. I would probably want a lot more than that. Hey, bowing's great to me, you know, so many times a day and all that, but that isn't what Christ wants. He wants us to just believe that He did that, so we can have a relationship with Him and pray to Him. And He is a prayer-answering God, I'm tellin' ya. So when I pray with my patients, I truly believe that God's going to work with them. And I've seen miracles!
Tina: Dr. Korn, I'd like to ask your perspective about my experience with healing. My own chronic Lyme illness has taught me something about healing and the Atonement. At first I thought that just having faith and believing in Him could effectuate healing. But it's gone beyond that for me. I've since come to realize that I need to have the willingness to undergo such agony, whether it's from an emotional affliction or having a chronic illness. The willingness to embrace and endure the affliction allows the healing to occur, because it's a blending of the Atonement. Knowing that Christ already suffered that affliction for me places a responsibility upon me to be willing to endure it, too, just as He did. Would you please speak to patients about this?
Dr. Korn: That's a great question. I don't have all the answers, but I'm certain we will find out all the answers. It says if we love Christ, we will be with Christ as soon as we leave this body. In that instant, we will be in the presence of the Lord. It says that to be absent from the body is to be instantly in the presence of the Lord Jesus. Then we will have the mind of Christ. That's why I think that 90 percent of our brains aren't even being used yet. They're to be used in the future. We're not going to be floating around on a cloud playing harps; it's not going to be like that at all. We're actually going to be on this earth helping the Lord Jesus adjudicate His kingdom here. So, we'll be in human form walking around, but we'll be immortal and helping Him administer His kingdom.
Back to your question about suffering, it says in the Bible that we are to carry His cross, and to carry the cross of Christ is to undergo suffering. To suffer is really part of walking with Christ, just as he suffered. If we just blaze through life and have the best of everything, we really don't learn much. And we certainly don't prepare our children properly for life if we spoil them by giving them everything to avoid hardship. Life is hardship and this world is difficult.
Tina: I so much appreciate your spiritual perspective. I believe your words are very inspiring to those suffering from chronic illness. Dr. Korn: I've had a lot of wonderful training and am very grateful for the training I received at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. It provided me with invaluable preparation. However, as I work in medicine, I now realize how much we still have to learn. Now I'm not young anymore, but I attend all the advanced seminars and courses that I can, and no one ever taught me a thing about Lyme disease. I do believe that it will be proven that Lyme disease will increase to higher epidemic proportions than any other disease.
I gave a lecture in Utah that was very well-received by a group of about 200 scientists from the Tesla Society in which I compared Lyme plague to the plague of 1300. If you read the Bible books of Daniel and Revelations, you will see the correlation to this being a plague of the last days. It's on six continents. As much as 50 percent or more of all patients who have been diagnosed with a chronic illness actually have Lyme as the cause.
Tina: Are we getting it only from tick bites? For not everyone reports having been a meal for a tick. Dr. Korn: I have a few hundred Lyme patients that are Western blot positive and some who are not. We know that five insects have been indicted for carrying Lyme. They used to state only the deer tick, but now we know it's all ticks. Then there are fleas, horseflies, mosquitoes, and the worst of all for Arizonans, dust mites. However, I've seen patients who had no recollection of being bitten by anything other than relating their sickness to the onset of symptoms that occurred within a year or so following the bite of red ants or a spider. This is especially pertinent to people in Arizona, and by the way, Arizona is the only state in which I have treated Lyme patients.
Another way one can contract Lyme, and I have had this personal experience in my family, is through the placenta of an infected mother. Then another way is getting it from an infected mate through intercourse.
Tina: It would be great to hear about your own experience with having Lyme disease.
Dr. Korn: I had no medical school, internship or post graduate training in Lyme disease. Nor has any other doctor for the most part, until Dr. Burrascano and others presented their experience and research.
In 2001, I suddenly became ill with a disease entity that none of the top physicians, University-affiliated institutions or neurological centers in Arizona could figure out. I knew that I was very sick -- and dying. I ended up in the hospital and recall watching the attacks of 9/11 on a television from my hospital bed. After never having been ill with anything other than the migraines, I was suddenly so ill with serious symptoms that I, even with all my knowledge and various wonderful treatments, couldn't break free from. I saw every doctor that should have been able to help me. When all was said and done, out of all those top physicians and centers, not one of them tested me for Lyme disease.
My chief symptom was fatigue, and surprisingly, I had no joint pain or sleep disturbance. However, I had hyperpigmented lesions on my bilateral lower limbs, and my legs and feet felt like someone had thrown hot, melted Crisco onto them. I had four qualities of pain to my lower legs and feet. I had a pain that was a very deep and vice-like pressure, a sharp and stabbing pain, an electrical-like pain that felt as though I was being jabbed with a cattle prod, and a fiery, burning pain. All of this pain was screaming, crying pain. It developed suddenly and then got worse and worse.
I was in one doctor's office for only fifteen minutes when he told me I was finished. He offered to prepare disability papers immediately. He diagnosed my pain as RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) and prescribed very strong pain medicine. He was right on with the pain, but the diagnosis didn't add up, so I researched all these different syndromes. One place told me my legs and feet looked like I had suffered from diabetes for thirty years. But that couldn't be, they said, because you do not have diabetes. Nor do you have a family history of such. I went from clinic to clinic and center to center and no one could figure it out.
So, I turned to my faith and prayed to God. Actually, I tried to bargain with God, as we oftentimes do. I said, Lord, I've helped all your people and all of that. I look back on it humorously in some respects, because of course, God doesn't work like that. He did answer my prayer, though, by sending me to a lecture series that I attended every year presented by Hemex Laboratories, owned at the time by David Berg.
Now, David Berg should receive thanks from a lot of people, because he came up with the ISAC Panel which tells you whether or not you have thick blood. That thick blood was the basis for so many women being unable to take their babies to term. So he and a practicing obstetrician came up with that understanding and women were given heparin during their pregnancies. And lo and behold, they were able to carry their babies full term!
So, in the Hemex Laboratory waiting room, the walls were splashed with photos of all these little babies who, through their knowledge and treatments, had been able to come to term. That is a very wonderful thing and David Berg should receive recognition for that. He recently retired and sold Hemex to a larger company. You can still order the ISAC Panel to test for thick blood. This is very important for Lyme patients, because people with Lyme disease and other autoimmune-type diseases have thick blood.
Getting back to my diagnosis of Lyme, I was so sick I could barely make it to the lecture. I do remember seeing one of the top physicians in integrative medicine in Arizona at the lecture, and he asked me how I was doing. I told him I was really sick and that I was afraid I was dying. He responded with something like, "Well, we're afraid of that, too." That comment really jolted me. I wasn't upset by it; because he was right. My colleagues were also afraid I was dying. I had lost thirty-some pounds and I was afraid I had cancer, but no one made that diagnosis. My body was ravaged.
At the lecture, a doctor from Missouri who, I think, had the largest Lyme practice in the country, made a presentation on Lyme disease. While listening to his lecture, I realized that Lyme disease was exactly what I had! I spoke to him after the lecture; he is a very fine gentleman and a wonderful doctor.
After the lecture, I was so ill that I couldn't even make it home. It was an extremely hot day and the traffic was bumper to bumper. I couldn't drive any longer and thought I was going to die, so I stopped to rest in a motel until I could drive home later. I've often thought about that experience and have wondered what people do who don't have a credit card or other means to stop and get a room. It breaks my heart for all these people. Dear God, there are so many of them I can't even tell you.
Tina: It's apparent from what you just shared that Lyme disease has had a tremendous effect upon you. Having a personal understanding of Lyme suffering, is there anything you would like to share with your colleagues?
Dr. Korn: If I would say anything to my colleagues out there in the medical field, it would be this: Please learn the truth about Lyme disease. Open your minds, dear God, and learn about the truth of Lyme disease. It causes over three hundred separate diseases and it acts like all the autoimmune diseases that rheumatologists see today, every single one of them. And if we could learn that and provide the treatments for Lyme, we could even stop people from dying of scleroderma, because I've already done it! We could stop people from needless suffering, pain and terrible death. I know that my pain was just horrible.
Tina: I have to tell you, Dr. Korn, I'm sorry that you had that painful experience, but how thankful we are for your help.
Dr. Korn: Well, I'm thankful, too, because I wouldn't change it for anything to be honest with you. It's interesting, Tina. I had a lady who had been down on doctors for many years tell me, "Dr. Korn, isn't it wonderful that the Lord allowed you to have Lyme disease so you could help so many others?" I looked at her and thought for a moment and said, "Well, I suppose, but I wish He had sent me a letter." The truth is that she was right.
Tina: Have you ever had the good fortune of connecting with Lyme patients in the acute phase of their illness when you were able to treat the infection easily?
Dr. Korn: No, I have not, not one.
Tina: Is that because patients don't recognize it because the symptoms are so easily attributable to other causes?
Dr. Korn: I think they might end up in other settings, such as the emergency room or their primary care doctor. I'm not a primary care doctor; I'm a specialist in integrative medicine. In Arizona, there are two ways to have the M.D.(H) degree. The first is that of classical homeopathy, which is not my way. The second is the pathway of integrative medicine, and I am an integrative medicine homeopathic physician. My study of anti-aging medicine is what initially led me down the integrative medicine pathway.
Tina: What are some of the most important clinical observations you have made with regard to chronic Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease) infections?
Dr. Korn: A major clue for me is patients that come to me who say that they have gone to the emergency room multiple times and nothing is ever found to be wrong. I know that these patients are not crazy. I've rarely had a crazy patient that wanted to be sick or wanted to be in my office. Referring to patients as crazy, malingerers or hypochondriacs is very sad. Those that do this have not really become mature medical practitioners. If they could step outside of their self-righteousness or arrogance, they might see the situation differently.
They would see that patients are a lot smarter than they give them credit for. Patients are not interested in being in my office for four to six hours trying to get an antibiotic or something else out of me. Patients are just trying to get well and have some enjoyable time with their families. In the thirty years that I've practiced, I've not seen people that really liked being sick.
In closing, the truth is, time will prove us all right. Time will prove that all these people are sick from infectious disease that is being missed by the majority of establishment medicine. I see a correlation between infectious disease and rheumatology, and that probably won't make me very popular with rheumatologists, but that's the truth also. I haven't found an autoimmune disorder yet that did not have Lyme bacteria at the heart of it.
About the author
Visit Dr. Korn's website at www.longlife-medical.com.
About the author
Tina Juliette Garcia is a freelance writer, Lyme disease patient and advocate who founded Lyme Education Awareness Program, L.E.A.P. Arizona, a non-profit that provides education about Lyme disease and co-infections. Visit her website at www.leaparizona.com.
Tina is currently focusing her service to the chronic illness patient community through Massage Therapy, Aromatherapy and Life Coaching. Tina is offering COMPLIMENTARY LIFE COACHING sessions to introduce patients to a new perspective on wellness through the MIND-BODY-SPIRIT CONNECTION.