Pediatric Associates of Jacksonville Brings Integrative Medicine to The First Coast

More and more people are seeking a more comprehensive approach to their healthcare and that includes parents seeking the best care for their children.

Aylin Ozdemir, MD, FAAP, ABIHM, principal physician at Pediatric Associates of Jacksonville provides integrative medical care to her patients, from well visits to more serious concerns. Her approach is embraced by more and more parents who seek her out, particularly when they feel other doctors rush from appointment to appointment and just treat symptoms.

“People don’t want assembly line care anymore; they don’t want a prescription drive-through doctor’s visit,” said Ozdemir. “They want a physician to care for the whole person.”

Dr. O, as she’s fondly called by the children and parents of her practice, has embraced integrative medicine since 2010, a practice supported by what she describes as the five pillars of healing: mind, body, spirit, nutrition and education.

“We provide traditional pediatric care along with an integrative approach, which uses traditional Western evidence-based approaches to medicine and complements that with Eastern approaches such as nutrition, fitness, yoga, homeopathy and other practices,” said Ozdemir. For example, “let’s say a patient has a brain injury, meningitis or encephalitis; not only will we employ the traditional medicines, [we might then] complement their care with cognitive control therapy.” According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), approximately 38 percent of US adults 18 years and older and approximately 12 percent of children used some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), an increasing trend.


Maura Hoffer takes her 14-year-old son Ethan and 10-year-old daughter Anne to Dr. O. “When I saw the integrative medicine practice I was excited about that. This is what I love,” said Hoffer. “She is so receptive to new ideas and she really listens. She is 100% yours. Sometimes you feel the doctor is just not listening, but [Dr. O] is. [When there is an issue,] she checks every avenue. Is there a preservative that might irritate an allergy? She checks blood work and diet and so many things. I just feel like she doesn’t stop until she finds the problem.”


Pediatric Associates of Jacksonville has three clinics including the main center in Ponte Vedra Beach, which offers traditional medical services, onsite therapy and education in a fun environment. The cruise ship themed nutrition kitchen is perfect for teaching about healthy cooking and proper nutrition. The yoga room has plenty of space and sensory processing therapy toys for kids to play with when they visit.


“They are doing [many] types of therapy,” said Hoffer. “And she has classes in her nutrition kitchen. Anne’s taken a lot of classes. She’s really into making healthy shakes [with vegetables]. Anne loved making pizzas [with plant-based whole foods].”


Another of the therapies offered at Pediatric Associates is BRAINJOGGING, which combines one-on-one sessions with at-home computer-based training to help with a variety of issues from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to language processing disorders.


Anne loves the program. “It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “You get to see words that you’ve never seen before and you get to spell them and pronounce them. Before when I really struggled, I couldn’t write a story and couldn’t read a story. I would get frustrated and cry. When I started BRAINJOGGING, I started doing a lot better. I got higher and higher grades and keep doing better and better. Last year, when I was in 3rd grade, I got A/B honor roll three times.”


With integrative medicine, both the physician and the patients, in this case children and their parents, work as a team to heal the whole person, not just treat a particular disorder, disease or other issue; hence the term “complementary” treatments, which enhance the effectiveness of –but don’t replacea traditional treatment plan.


“I do a lot of research; I’m a very involved parent,” said Michaele Harried, whose children are Jack, 10, and Marissa, 8. “My daughter has loved to read since she could open a book, but something wasn’t right with her reading. She performs very well at school and that, I think, speaks volumes to the teachers. In second grade, prefixes and suffixes and then they come out with bigger words her brain was so tired when she came home from school. She really wants to please the teacher and loves school, it delayed some of that learning.”


For Marissa, BRAINJOGGING now helps with her dyslexia. “It really helps her focus on her letters as she is reading the word,” said Harried. “One part is done on your computer at home. The other part is tailored to what the child needs during the one-onone sessions.”


When Harried’s son Jack developed sleeping difficulties last year, Dr. O employed a combination of diet with vitamins and BRAINJOGGING. “We saw an immediate success with Jack,” said Harried. “The BRAINJOGGING is really good with focus and attention. I have [recommended Dr. O] many times over. I have four or five friends that are going there now because she is such a wonderful diagnostician. I’m so thankful to have her.”


Ozdemir is Board Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is also the first pediatric practitioner in Florida and Georgia fellowship trained at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine under Dr. Andrew Weil, a renowned leader in this area. In another example of how integrative medicine works, she explains that while genes play a significant role in an individual’s outcomes, the environment and other triggers may set some issues in motion.


Understanding the effects of nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, stress and other factors is key to healing and positive outcomes. This holistic approach is applicable from disease management to cognitive issues. “Genetics do not necessarily have to be your destiny,” said Ozdemir. “Kids can be born perfect, but because of environmental factors, they may perform poorly on IQ. [We must consider both] full scale IQ and performance IQ or achievement IQ. What is their capacity and what can they achieve with their capacity to optimize the child’s learning in the school system. You have to understand the body and its relationship with food, with the environment and the psychological impact. The emotions. If you are anxious, you can’t learn. There’s no kid that I know of that learns when they are anxious.”


Other healthcare professionals are embracing Dr.O’s approach. Among the Jacksonville Speech and Hearing Center’s many services, the staff works with young children with speech, language or hearing disabilities by providing one-on-one therapy that helps the child directly and then teaching the parent or caregiver to better communicate and work with the child.


“We are very interested in what Dr. O is doing with brain development; we’re very supportive of that,” said Bill McQuilkin, executive director of the Center. “Another aspect of brain development is the issue called auditory processing disorder. It’s a situation that involves an audiologist and speech language pathologist and others. It’s where the child appears to have a hearing problem. But when their hearing is tested, it’s not a hearing problem. It’s an information processing issue between the ear and the brain. That’s where Dr. O is focused. It’s a neurology or maybe even medical problem between the hearing sensors in the hearing area and the brain. The whole process of integrative care is a part of that.”


In addition to caring for children, Pediatric Associates also performs research studies in integrative healthcare, in partnership with universities, laboratories, and other researchers. A recent pilot study looked at Bio Regulation Therapy (BRT), which employs safe, low-intensity electromagnetic signals to stimulate cells that trigger the body’s self-regulation and healing process.


“We worked with 17 autistic children for the last four months,” said Ozdemir. “We used a combination of very low intensity pulsed electromagnetic signals and biofeedback technology with LENYO BRT Systems. We observed a reduction in anxiety. Many of the kids showed significant improvement with this nine-week study. This is very cutting edge. With behavior problems in young children, we can’t put them on antidepressants and other drugs and things like that. As long as there is no harm, I’m open.”
Dr. O’s approach to care is unique in that she blends pioneering integrative medical practices and research with mainstream medicine to create the best possible outcomes for her patients and their families.

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