A lifelong seeker of reasons and causes, Susan G. Murrmann, MD, FACOG, has found in integrative medicine not an answer but a way to find more answers to better serve her patients.
Co-founder of the McDonald Murrmann Women's Clinic in 1996, and the McDonald Murrmann Center for Skin, Laser & Healthy Aging in 2003, she regards the businesses' transformation into the current McDonald Murrmann Center for Wellness and Health as a natural evolution.
As medicine changes and research reveals new findings and new possibilities, Dr. Murrmann -- already recognized for her strides in pioneering, innovative care for women -- is exploring and embracing the practice and the promise of integrative medicine, which combines alternative medicine with evidence-based medicine to effectively treat the whole person, making use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.
She said she regards the businesses' transformation into the current McDonald Murrmann Center for Wellness and Health as a natural evolution. Murrmann, along with her partners, Dr. Mary McDonald and Dr. Heather Donato have channeled their passion for women's health into a new team-focused practice on the concept of complete and comprehensive patient care.
Murrmann said the decision to make the transition was unanimous among the three.
"It is a team effort," she said. "We started this practice by focusing on the practice and fighting the obstacles of separating from partners in this day and age. Now we all have faith in what we put into this concept. We have focused on building a better model - a well-overdue concept of patient care, and genuine love of what we do."
Dr. Murrmann's early history at the Women's Clinic reflects a commitment, even then, to reinventing gynecological care to include physical, mental and aesthetic aspects of women's health, and to recognize the often unaddressed factors that impact patients' wellbeing, such as stress, relationships, financial worries, etc.
These factors can be the underlying causes of symptoms like pelvic pain, Dr. Murrmann said. "Just being able to talk to the patient and get a better perspective . . . helped me figure out the right solutions for her."
"I've always been very curious and I've always asked why," she continued. "Coming out of residency, you're excited and you have all this knowledge, but you realize over time there's still a lot more to learn. I was tired of seeing patients and just treating them. I wanted to know why they were getting endometrial cancer and having other hormonal issues. Getting to the root of the problem has been one of my main interests."
Blanche Petty, ARNP, Susan Murrmann, MD, Heather Donato, MD, Mary McDonald, MD, Mariana Rizzo, ARNP
Introducing the tenets of integrative medicine into her practice will allow her and her practice partners to take gynecology to a new level, she said, by "looking at our patients as more than just an organ -- taking into consideration other factors that might be contributing to their problems that are female-related."
Gut health, for instance, is regarded as the root cause of many disorders, she has learned during her current pursuit of a fellowship in functional and metabolic medicine offered by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) in conjunction with the George Washington University Medical School.
A4M was established 25 years ago and has had its share of naysayers and detractors within the medical community, she admitted. But things are changing and many more physicians are listening--and participating-- including the Cleveland Clinic, which also has a functional medicine clinic and a recently added fellowship program.
"I think it's what patients are looking for," Dr. Murrmann said. "Because I see so many patients on so many drugs for so many different causes, and the drugs are making them sick. We want to offer more services to help them be more proactive with their health, as opposed to being reactive."
The A4M fellowship is based on disease prevention and lifestyle choices and offers what evidence-based medicine believes our bodies need at various stages of our lives, she explained. "One aspect, epigenetics, teaches that individuals can actually change the way their genes behave."
The fellowship, which takes two to three years to complete, explores every organ system and all available research, Dr. Murrmann said. She likens her current studies to layers of knowledge and estimates that she penetrated only one-fourth of the way in medical school. "Now I'm studying the other three-fourths ... a tremendous amount of knowledge and scientific research that has developed since I went to medical school. This has been the biggest learning experience of my entire life. It's been eye-opening."
"I'm not sure that healthcare has been progressing in a very positive way," she continued. "Insurance has forced a lot of us to see more patients, shorten the amount of time, address the problem, and that's it. That is not conducive to a healthier patient or a healthier nation. It's actually working backwards."
Her solution -- spending more time with patients and offering additional services that make the Women's Center more of a "one-stop shop" for patients -- is not necessarily better from a payor's perspective. "But I didn't get into medicine for the insurance reimbursement. I wanted to help people."
The transformation of the practice is physical as well as philosophical. Renovations to the 7205 Wolf River Blvd. location were to begin Feb. 1 and will re-adapt existing space to accommodate new imaging and mammography services. Skin and laser will expand to offer more health-related services, and Dr. Murrmann and Dr. McDonald, both experts in biodentical hormones, are interested in also expanding that area. Other features include weight loss and lifestyle counseling, andropause healthcare and an intuitive, patient-friendly portal integrated with each fitbit, which shares sleep pattern, heart rate and step information with doctors. An on-line dispensary allows patients to order doctor-recommended probiotics or supplements based on their shared information.
Maintaining their own health profile through the portal puts patients in charge of their own health -- and equips them to deal wisely with it.
A helper by instinct, Dr. Murrmann served as a lifeguard and hospital volunteer, but "doctor was just not on my radar" due to a lack of role models in the small town south of Chicago where she grew up. After two years of undergraduate focusing on her major in psychology, she began exploring pre-med classes alongside a friend, which pointed her toward medicine as a calling, and OB/GYN as her specialty.
The first to bring minimally invasive surgical options and robotic surgery to Memphis for women, Dr. Murrmann was also recognized as the Memphis Business Journal's first female Healthcare Hero in 2005.
An enthusiastic supporter and promoter of Memphis music, she also serves on the Memphis and Shelby County Film Commission, and supports the efforts of independent film makers.
Her advice to other healthcare professionals? "Never stop learning. Never stop asking why. Don't believe everything you're told -- and always do your homework."