Doctor moves beyond ‘fixing the broken piece’

Mike DeDoncker

It’s easy to tell that Tracey Kinigakis isn’t a traditional doctor.

When her office phone rings, she answers.

Kinigakis, a primary care physician with OSF Medical Group for nine and a half years, opened private practice in June as an integrative medicine consultant in which she takes into account a patient’s body, mind and spirit to find a natural potential for healing rather than what she calls “just fixing the broken piece.”

Her office, tucked into the corner of a small industrial park, is as quiet as her former practice was hectic.

Kinigakis, a board-certified family physician in the U.S. and Canada, said she was in the routine of seeing 25 to 30 patients a day until an invitation to a workshop featuring renowned integrative medicine proponent Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Wisconsin-Madison crossed her desk in April 2004.

“I’ve always been very open with patients,” Kinigakis said. “There was never a stupid question to ask me and I was open to trying something different as long as it did no harm.”

Kinigakis said she attended the workshop expecting no more than to gain a bit more expertise in helping her patients “and to have some more tools in my toolbox, so to speak. I wanted to be able to offer more knowledge to my patients if I was talking about something herbal say, for example, St. John’s Wort for depression if they didn’t want to take an antidepressant. I was already doing that, but I wanted to feel more comfortable doing that.”

She enrolled in a two-year program of online study and three one-week sessions studying with Weil at the University of Arizona. She said it was a life-changing event.

“Within about six months of being in the course, I realized that I couldn’t keep practicing the way I was,” Kinigakis said. “I couldn’t try and see 25 to 30 people a day and put a bandage on the broken piece when I was feeling that I really needed to sit there with the person, find out what was going on in their life and do a lot more prevention by really sitting and listening to the patient’s story.”

Kinigakis said she went to her boss at OSF Medical Group intending to request a reduction in work days from four a week to three and ended up giving notice that she would be leaving in 15 months.

She completed the integrative medicine course in December 2006 and finished work for OSF Medical Group last November. Then, she said, she needed some time to decide what to do next.

“It was difficult to leave my patients and I thought I wouldn’t be staying in Rockford,” Kinigakis said, “because I didn’t think I would have the clientele that would be interested in what I’m doing and I didn’t think I would have the resources to send people to.”

Kinigakis said those resources might include botanicals and supplements, manual medicine such as massage, energy medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, hypnosis, spiritual counseling, nutrition and physical activity.

She said she looked at locations in North Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona and Chicago before friends in a women’s business group convinced her to stay.

“This is a new concept for Rockford and some of my old patients, when they saw my ads, thought ‘Great she’s back in town.’ They called me up and I told them ‘Well, you still need to have a primary care physician.’ ”

Kinigakis said a patient might come to her for ways to complement their traditional medicine treatment by another physician. An example, she said, would be a person being treated for high blood pressure who also is overweight and who might be seeking suggestions that would help minimize their need for medications.

She said patients she might be likely to help would have chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia “or other things that traditional medicine doesn’t do very well.”

Kinigakis said a prospective patient can expect a different experience than they might be used to with a physician.

“A patient, when they call, will get me on the phone,” she said. “I am the office. I have an assistant for the paperwork, but the patient will talk with me directly. I get an idea of what they’re looking for and we talk about what I am and what I am not.

“Then we’ll book an appointment and I will send them a questionnaire that they will fill out and bring to the first appointment. We look at what their current issues are, how they perceive them and what their goals for the visit are.”

Including a standard medical history and discussion of such things as family relationships, social history, dietary habits, sleeping history, allergies, medications, how the patient relaxes, what are their major stressors and what gives them meaning and purpose in life, the initial appointment will last between 90 minutes and two hours, she said.

“In a family practice, you’re lucky if you get 15 minutes with a patient, “ Kinigakis said. “For a blood pressure test, you may get all of 10 minutes. Well, how do you talk about nutrition, physical activity or relaxation techniques, stress reduction at work, or just a whole gamut of things that you don’t have time for in family practice that I can sit here and get into with them?”

She said prospective patients should understand that her work is consulting only and she does not accept medical insurance. She said she does submit a superball which allows patients to seek insurance reimbursement.

“It’s a different concept for a lot of people,” Kinigakis said, “and some people think its too way out there. It really isn’t.

“To quote Dr. Weil, integrative medicine is, one, good medicine and, two, it’s pretty conservative medicine. The idea is to use the least invasive, least toxic and least expensive method to deal with the problem, but honoring the best of conventional medicine and the best of alternative medicine.”

Mike DeDoncker can be reached at (815) 987-1382 or

What is integrative medicine?

A holistic approach to medicine designed to treat the person, not only the disease; depends on a partnership approach between the doctor and the patient with a goal to treat the mind, body and spirit all at the same time.

Within the doctor and patient relationship, the doctor may make suggestions for a health-care plan using conventional medicine and complementary or alternative therapies. Such therapies may include botanicals and supplements, manual medicine, energy medicine, homeopathy, Chinese medicine including acupuncture, mind-body techniques such as hypnosis or journaling, spiritual counseling, nutrition and physical activity.

Sources: WebMD feature by Katherine Kam and

Dr. Tracey Kinigakis

Background: Board-certified family practice physician in U.S. and Canada; graduated from University of Western Ontario in 1981; established private family practice in London, Ontario, for 14 years before working nine and half years as a primary care physician for OSF Medical Group.

Current practice: Integrative medicine consultant

Where: 1495 Northrock Court


Phone: 815-618-8116