About Dr. Janet
Areas of Interest
digestive issues including chronic abdominal pain and constipation
recurrent infections including ear and sinus infections
allergies and asthma
chronic or recurrent hives
behavioral and mood concerns
Janet Volpe was born and raised in Santa Cruz. After graduating from UC Santa Barbara with a BA in Biology, she attended Tufts University School of Medicine where she received her combined MD and Master of Public Health degrees, emphasizing in health promotion and disease prevention. She completed her Pediatric Internship and Residency at Stanford University. She spent the next 10 years as a conventional primary care pediatrician before becoming medical director of a pediatric urgent care center in the Santa Clara Valley. It was in this position that she began to witness first hand the statistically significant rise in this country of childhood chronic illnesses including asthma, allergies, eczema, mood disorders, autism, diabetes, and obesity. The tools taught to her by conventional medicine training could often ease the symptoms, but were not enough to address the root causes of these conditions. At this same time in her career, she was spending 2 to 4 weeks a year as a volunteer pediatrician with a surgical team that provided reconstructive surgeries to children in need from rural parts of Africa, India, South America and Southeast Asia. She noticed they were not suffering from the chronic maladies affecting our children back in the US.
In her quest to learn how to better serve her patients here at home, she began studying with the Institute for Functional Medicine, the Center for Mind Body Medicine, HeartMath Institute and the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. In 2014, she became board certified in Integrative and Holistic Medicine and started a part time integrative pediatric consultative practice in the Santa Clara Valley.
She is happy to be back in Santa Cruz where her integrative practice takes a holistic approach to serving her pediatric patients, recognizing that each person is individually unique. In her one hour initial consultations with patients, she considers the factors involved in achieving optimal health, including diet, sleep, stress and relaxation, environmental influences, community and genetics. She follows an evidence based scientific approach using knowledge from conventional medicine and integrating disciplines of biologically-based practices including global medical modalities; functional medicine; mindfulness; and body-based practices. She partners with her patients and their families to develop individualized treatment plans for a variety of chronic conditions, which include educating and empowering her patients with the concept of the body's resilience and self-healing capacity.
Janet continues to be moved by how much she is learning from her patients as they navigate their way through their unique healing journeys. She is very excited to be practicing integrative and holistic medicine at a time when scientific evidence is exploding with research on so many relevant subjects, including the role of inflammation in chronic disease, the gut-brain connection, the Human Genome Project, the Human Microbiome Project, self-regulation and pain reduction, importance of proper sleep hygiene, benefits of exercise, and the role of environmental toxins in disease.
My Health Journey
My Health Journey
I grew up having a mother with chronic health issues. This sparked my interest early on about why some people get sick and what kept others well. When I told my college guidance counselor I wanted to go to medical school because I was interested in disease prevention, he advised me to reconsider my career choice because a doctor's primary purpose is to manage disease, not prevent it. I applied anyway, and in medical school was drawn to pediatrics for I felt this would be the best population to promote prevention. After completing my training, I knew that working with mostly healthy kids promoting a healthy lifestyle was my calling.
For well over 10 years as a pediatrician, I too considered myself to be a healthy person with a healthy lifestyle. All that changed in the spring of 2011 when I nearly collapsed one day at work from sudden fatigue, lightheadedness and nausea. I assumed I had a bad virus and went home to rest. After almost 3 weeks at home spent mostly in bed, I wasn't improving. I saw my doctor, then different specialists, all my tests including blood work and imaging were normal. This news made me relieved and terrified at the same time. Why wasn't I well?
I went to see my sister's acupuncturist. She told me my chi was low, that I was completely depleted. At first, I didn't understand how that happened, I was such a healthy person. So healthy in fact that I could work 80 hours a week, sleep less than 6 hours a night, skip meals if I was too busy working, and still be okay because I was "healthy". Among other things, she told me I needed to rest.
I spent the next two months at home resting. I slowly began to improve. As soon as I felt what I thought was strong enough, I went back to work. I nearly collapsed again after only two hours in clinic my first day back. I went back home and rested for the next several weeks. I went back to work again and was able to function, though I was constantly tired, intermittently lightheaded and developed new digestive problems. I didn't get worse, but I stopped improving. The best I felt was right after my acupuncture treatments. I went back to my doctor and was told to get used to the new me.
My Experience as an Integrative Patient
A friend of mine recommended I see an integrative doctor. I felt a bit embarrassed to see her because I still wasn't sure I had a health problem. Even though I had not felt well for months, I continued to think I was getting over a bad virus.
I didn't know what an integrative doctor was going to do. I thought she might recommend chamomile tea to ease my stress over not feeling well. I was already drinking chamomile tea and didn't think it was helping, though it tasted good. "Maybe she would know about a better tea for me", I thought as I sat in the parking lot before checking in for my first visit with her.
We did talk a little bit about tea that first visit, but she was much more interested in talking about my gut and its role in the decline of my health. This made no sense to me at the time for I thought my gut was just the big long tube that digested my food and got rid of waste. She asked lots of questions about my health history, going back to my childhood, what I know about my birth, and about my mother's pregnancy with me. She asked me about my international travel history, what kind of cookware I used, and the health of my relatives. She asked me what I did for stress reduction and was interested in how well I felt after my acupuncture treatments. She told me everything she was asking me was interconnected and meaningful to her in helping her understand how I got to where I was at the present time.
I had initially told her that I had been in perfect health until a day about six months prior when I almost collapsed at work. She got me to remember a nagging stomach ache that had gone on since I returned home from a medical volunteer trip to Haiti after the earthquake. As well as a kid all the recurrent Strep throat infections, the eczema, digestive problems I had long forgotten.
My integrative doctor believed I was metabolically imbalanced and lacking in important nutrients, as well as having excesses I needed to rid of. She explained what she thought was happening to me at the cellular level in my tissues and organs that caused the symptoms I was experiencing. She told me what tests she wanted to obtain to figure out exactly what was going on and what I would need to do to get my health back in balance. It was a lot of work and took a few years as underlying infections were treated, intestinal damage was repaired and deficient nutrients were replaced, but it was totally worth it for I got back to health.
My Journey to Practicing Integrative Pediatrics
As my health improved, I began to study the science to learn more about what I had experienced. I was initially shocked to learn that kids, just like adults, can develop chronic illness from all sorts of similar imbalances. After returning to work, this knowledge afforded me a new lens with which I could view my patients. I started to treat patients with stubborn chronic problems using principles from the science I was learning.
In 2012, I began training with the Institute for Functional Medicine, and in February of 2014, I became a board-certified integrative and holistic doctor. I have since undergone training with the Center for Mind Body Medicine and HeartMath Institute. Now when I sit down with a patient, one of my main goals is to inform them and their family about how the body works when it is in balance, and what kinds of things science has shown us can throw it off balance.
For me, it is of primary importance to teach my patients and their families what is known about how things work in their bodies and how environmental influences (from food to pollution) can affect how their body works so that they can be empowered to take charge of their own path to healing. As my knowledge has continued to increase, I continue to apply the principles I learned for my patients and for myself.
This website is the place that allows me to share with patients and their families the knowledge I have gained and continue to gain. This information can them be used guide them in understanding what may be contributing to their current state of imbalance and to empower them to use this knowledge to get their health back in alignment. While the core principles are the same for every person, every individual is biochemically and genetically unique so treatments are very individualized.
Sometimes, I might even prescribe chamomile tea.