“A partner in healing”


Integrative Medicine is defined as healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle. It is medical care where the provider partners with the patient in the healing process. Dr. Kara Parker has brought this type of healing to Whittier Clinic.

Four ways that Integrative Medicine benefits patients are by:

  • Addressing that the root of the illness treats the whole person and not just the symptom(s)
  • Taking a partnership approach, the patient becomes a partner in the healing process and they learn to make lifestyle choices that impact their future
  • Addressing chronic issues, bringing the entire body into balance
  • Ensuring personal attention, providers tend to spend more time with the patient as they are looking at the whole picture

The goal of integrative medicine is not to help you get rid of your symptoms but to address the true cause behind them. The belief is that by combining therapies, patients will not only see results faster, but they will find more lasting results.

The early years

As a young woman, Dr. Parker traveled to India and was fortunate to work with Mother Teresa in providing care to the underserved. She was amazed at the spiritual care given to the patients who were dying and felt that this love and caring made a difference to them. While the resources were limited there, human compassion and care were abundant. She knew then that she wanted to “help people with no access to care and bring them the best care”.

Dr. Parker attended medical school at the University of Minnesota and started her residency at Hennepin Healthcare (HCMC) 18 years ago. She became a Family Medicine faculty physician in 2003. She has merged her interest in traditional medicine, integrative medicine and functional medicine in her practice at Whittier Clinic. Dr. Parker describes functional medicine as upstream. She looks for root causes beyond the diagnosis and asks the question “Why are people experiencing symptoms?”

Integrative health group visits

She began a program of integrative health group visits at Whittier Clinic five years ago. These group sessions can be a fulfilling way to approach healthcare in a supportive environment that focuses on health and well-being from a holistic, integrative, functional medicine perspective. Sharing experiences among a community of people can result in more education, time for dialogue, building skills and development of mind-body practices.

The group visits are beneficial to long-term or chronically ill patients and some groups focus on specific diagnoses, such as diabetes, cancer, and chronic pain. This format allows the patients to share their stories and get information on coping. According to Dr. Parker, the patients become empowered, rise to the occasion, and can put their problems into perspective. The saying “a problem kept is doubled but a problem shared is halved” describes what patients often feel after group visits.

Dr. Parker said another benefit of group visits is connecting with others, to discover and share ways to thrive. The patients in the group develop a circle of belonging. They become each other’s people, they listen to each other and accept each other. The group visits are a place to work on their health. Some areas they work on are lifestyle changes, eating well, sleeping well, de-stressing, and movement.

Group visits are not intended to replace one-on-one provider-patient visits, but rather to fill in the gaps experienced by some patients. The group visits are for those who want to be supported in making their own desired lifestyle changes. The patients get as much as they expect. If people want to grow and change, they will. Research indicates that group visits offer more patient education, improved provider satisfaction, better use of healthcare services, and a better perception of quality of life.

The future

Dr. Parker’s future vision is to expand on group visits and even take them out into the community in off-site spaces if and when available. She wants to create a community of caring and empower patients to be in charge of their own well-being and joy. Dr. Parker encourages health focus and not disease focus, taking account of the whole person.

Topics for group visits include chronic pain, cancer diagnosis, diabetes, aging, and rest & renewal lifestyle. Anyone interested in learning more about Integrative Health Group Visits, contact Cass McLaughlin at 612-873-8048. To schedule a group visit call the Connection Center at 612-873-6963.  Sessions start soon.

Kara Parker, MD  is a Family Medicine provider at the Whittier Clinic. She is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and the Institute for Functional Medicine. She also teaches integrative medicine to medical residents.

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