“Naturopathic Medicine is an Art”: Get to Know Dr. Elisheva Neffinger
By Bloom Natural Health
Bloom Natural Health is thrilled to welcome Dr. Elisheva Neffinger to the practice.
Dr. Neffinger specializes in women’s health, nutrition, weight management, acne, dermatology, and tick-borne illnesses. She graduated with honors from the University of Bridgeport, where she earned her doctorate in naturopathic medicine.
Learn more about Dr. Neffinger below!
How did you come to naturopathic medicine and what drew you to be interested in it?
I'd studied pre-med since high school, but when I was in college I started to feel some dissatisfaction with the current healthcare system. I felt like there was a tendency to treat the symptoms instead of the cause of disease. So I did some googling for alternative health routes: what are my options as a doctor to practice medicine more holistically? I found naturopathic medicine through the AANMC (Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges), and as I started to read more about it, I felt that that was exactly what medicine should be. I decided to change my career route to practice naturopathic medicine, instead of conventional medicine.
How does naturopathic medical school differ from traditional medical school?
A naturopathic doctor is an accredited, board-certified doctor who went to a four-year medical school for naturopathic medicine. The curriculum includes all of the same basic sciences as regular medical school, like anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology, with the addition of holistic classes like nutrition, Chinese medicine, and botanical medicine, so we can really use every possible method to treat a person.
What has your journey been like since medical school, and how did you find your way to Bloom?
After I graduated from medical school I studied for boards and passed, and I started looking for jobs. I love West Hartford, and I found Bloom. Both Dr. Louden and Dr. Hunter seemed to have values and interests that aligned with my own, and the practice is really inviting. I felt really comfortable with them, and I love the way that they run the practice. They put their patients first, and it runs smoothly. I also love that it’s a female-owned business.
What is your approach when treating a new patient?
When seeing a new patient, as a naturopathic doctor, it’s a much longer visit [than in traditional medicine]. Our new patient visits are typically 50 minutes each. We go through all of the concerns that the patient has for the visit, and we also go through, in great detail, things like diet, sleep, exercise, any other diagnoses the patient might have, all of their medications and supplements, and a complete review of all of their bodily systems, to make sure that we have a good picture of their overall health. There’s such a wide variety of tools in our toolbox that we use with a patient.
Can you talk a little bit more about what tools are in your toolbox?
Typically naturopathic doctors use nutrition and dietary advice, herbal medicine, physical
therapies, counseling techniques, and lifestyle changes. There are also other alternative medicine treatments like Chinese medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, and Ayurvedic medicine. Every naturopathic doctor is different in what their specialties are and what treatments they like to use. I typically tend to use lifestyle, nutrition, and herbal medicine changes.
How do you work in conjunction with doctors that practice traditional medicine to provide treatment?
Naturopathic doctors are considered specialists, so we don’t practice as primary care physicians in CT. We recommend that patients have a primary care doctor that they see annually, in addition to seeing us. We absolutely have the ability to communicate with their other doctors when necessary.
What does practicing naturopathic medicine mean to you? What are the challenges? Rewards?
Naturopathic medicine is really an art because there are so many modalities that are available. The most challenging aspect about naturopathic medicine is that you have so many options to treat every patient, but you really have to learn how to meet them halfway, and learn how to read people, and determine what they’re ready for in terms of taking on their own healing. Because as much as you can provide for a patient, the process of healing and implementing those healing techniques is really the responsibility of the patient, so you kind of just have to learn to assess what is possible for them. Seeing people get better is the most rewarding part.
You recently led online workshops on acne, and tick awareness. What are some of the other workshops that you’re interested in providing?
I’m currently working on one for weight loss. I’m interested in anything to do with women’s health. Preconception care would be another one: how a woman can bring herself to optimal health before she gets pregnant. I’d love to one day offer a class for at-risk women or teenagers who are pregnant and would like to learn about how to take care of themselves and their child.
What doctors have shaped the way that you view and practice medicine?
Dr. Tori Hudson is a brilliant naturopathic doctor who practices out of Portland, OR. She specializes in women’s health. She has a book called "The Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine" that I reference often. And she also has an excellent supplement line, which we have in office [in our natural pharmacy].
Another role model of mine is Dr. Cynthia Anderson. She’s a naturopathic doctor and midwife. She is a professor at the medical school that I attended (University of Bridgeport), and she’s just always compassionate and realistic with her patients and knows women’s health like the back of her hand.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
The weather is nice again, so I’m really happy about being able to get outdoors and exercise. I love to cook and try new foods. I’m a very adventurous eater, especially while traveling. It’s always so fun! I’ve traveled a lot: I try to go to a new country every year, and half of my family lives in Israel, so I’ve been to Israel many times. I just recently started playing golf, so that’s another one.
Last questions: what is your favorite healthy snack and movie/tv show?
I love salt and vinegar chicken chips by Wilde.
Made from chicken?
They’re made from chicken and cassava flour. They’re really good! They sell them at Whole Foods and they have a bunch of flavors. My favorite TV shows are “The Office” and “Survivor.” I just got into “Survivor” for the first time during the pandemic. I fell in love with it, and I’m going to apply to be on it this year. I like the idea of a great personal challenge--having to work socially with people--and the physical challenge--the potential of being wet and cold and hungry and having to live alongside potentially scary wildlife. I love a challenge.