For many children, it's a simple game. But when Ron Shemesh slung a stethoscope around his neck as a child in Israel, there was no question in his mind that he'd be a real physician one day.
"Everyone said, "This kid is going to grow up to be a doctor,' because I was always about helping others," Shemesh said.
So it came as no shock when Shemesh became an obstetrician/gynecologist and went to work in Tampa a decade ago, joining a conventional medical practice. But his most recent move has taken some by surprise.
Shemesh has opened up a storefront solo practice in association with Abby's Health and Nutrition at 14374 N Dale Mabry Highway. He still offers traditional OB/GYN services, but his approach is completely holistic, emphasizing relaxation, exercise and nutrition.
"We offer techniques for a mind-body-spiritual connection," said Shemesh, a 41-year-old father of four who lives in Lake Carroll Estates.
The path to his integrated approach was circuitous in that he began with classical medical school training, graduating from New York University Medical College.
"It was a very conventional approach to internal medicine and obstetrics and gynecology, oriented toward surgery and drugs," Shemesh said. "Every now and then, we were told we had to talk to a patient to explain something. But there was no emphasis on that, on the spiritual."
At first, it was simple curiosity. Shemesh wanted to know more about his patients' lives.
"I would take longer with each patient, and I saw that a lot of times these talks would bring a smile to the patient," he said. "But I didn't consciously realize then that this was part of the healing process."
At the same time, Shemesh was moved by two major life events.
His daughter Amber nearly died after running a high fever and going into convulsions. As Shemesh rushed her to the hospital, he lost her pulse at one point. But she began to cough and breathe when they arrived. Shemesh said doctors never determined the cause of her illness.
He also was deeply affected when he was diagnosed with skin cancer. The treatment involved surgery to his forehead. The cancer has not returned, he said.
These events gave him a deeper appreciation for life as a patient. He was frustrated by outrageous wait times and little doctor-patient interaction. He sensed a pervasive lack of knowledge on the part of traditional doctors in the areas of natural remedies, vitamin supplements and other holistic and non-Western approaches to medicine.
His growing frustration led him on a quest for knowledge outside the established way of practicing obstetrics. He traveled to Egypt, Israel, China, Tibet and Indonesia.
"I was a skeptic at first," he said. "I'm a scientist, always thinking from the left side of the brain. But I began to learn about different healing practices and energy medicine, and it all made sense to me."
Shemesh began to incorporate small elements of his new holistic approach. He eventually felt the need to go out on his own.
He opened his solo practice under one roof with offices for other like-minded professionals who practice massage therapies, acupuncture, reflexology, reiki, aromatherapy, color therapy and acupressure.
"I don't negate surgery or medication," he said. "The only thing is that we should know about all of the other alternatives as well."
Some patients, like Marilyn Sakkis, swear by it.
Even though Sakkis lives near several gynecological practices in South Tampa and dislikes the traffic on Dale Mabry Highway, she drives a good 30 minutes to see Shemesh. After two visits, she already reports positive results.
"For the last 30 years, I've gone to regular GYNs, and for the past five years, they had me on estrogen/progesterone medication for menopause," said Sakkis, 54, an elementary school teacher. "When I started to feel really badly a year and a half ago, I went to my doctor and told him I wasn't happy with the medication I was on. And what does he do? He suggests I take some other pill."
Already a customer at Abby's, Sakkis decided to switch to Shemesh, who showed her meditation techniques and affirmation practices that Sakkis says have improved her condition dramatically.
"He believes in mind work, getting your mind to heal yourself by believing in it," she said. "My hot flashes have started to go away, and I feel an inner calmness I didn't feel before I started to see him."
While Shemesh basically swims alone in a sea of traditional physicians, he believes the tide is changing.
"This is the future of medicine, and the future is now," he said. "The move to holistic medicine and energy medicine is happening all over the world, and it will happen here, too."
So he hopes, anyway.
"I was nervous making this move," he admitted. "I was salaried, and now I'm out on my own. But just as I tell my patients, I realized when we follow our heart, everything else will follow."
_ For more information on Shemesh, his approach and workshops he conducts throughout Tampa, call 935-2273. Sheryl Kay can be reached at skreporterhotmail.com