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Back to basics with Rav James

Medical doctor Rav James of White River talks to Get it about functional medicine and her love of discovering ways to awaken people’s intuition and connection to their bodies.

From the moment you set foot in Rav’s spacious consulting room, it is evident that she approaches life in an alternative, holistic way. She is passionate about functional medicine and tackles health issues by viewing every person as a unique being. According to Rav, each patient walks an individual path which leads to the specific disease and this path should be explored. A patient’s unique genetic make-up as well as personal history and many other factors should also be taken into account. She tells us more about her endeavour to change perceptions about medicine.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a medical doctor?

I grew up in Johannesburg, where I attended the British International College. After finishing college, I attended Stellenbosch University and achieved an MBChB degree. I did my internship at Port Shepstone Provincial Hospital followed by community service at Sabie Provincial Hospital, where I developed a love and passion for working in the field of HIV medicine. During the time I completed a diploma in HIV management.

You also worked at ACTS Clinic?

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Yes. ACTS was an NGO clinic dedicated to treating around 6 000 HIV patients in the Masoyi area just outside White River. I really enjoyed the time spent as part of the project, as I could focus on bringing life and change into the lives of many patients. It also gave me an opportunity to witness the effects of simple changes in diet and lifestyle on health. Ryan, my husband, shares my passion for community work and serves as head of development for the Good Work Foundation, which is an organisation that brings digital learning to rural Africa. At present I practise functional medicine.

What is functional medicine?

In functional medicine, the body is viewed as an integrated whole that is biochemically unique. Practitioners seek to uncover the root causes of imbalance in the body, and then support it with the necessary changes to achieve balance again. You don’t simply give a drug for a symptom, but you form a deeper understanding of why the symptoms are present in the first place. The body could then receive what it needs to heal.

What was your path to functional medicine?

Since I started my training as a medical doctor, I felt that my conventional training was missing the “healing” piece of the puzzle. I have always believed in the intelligence of the human body as well as its ability to heal within the right environment, and have an interest in alternative and more integrated forms of healing. Conventional medicine definitely plays a part, and is in many instances life-saving. But can the model answer and manage all diseases? I don’t believe so. I believe in bringing together the wisdom of both conventional and functional medicine to achieve health. When I left ACTS Clinic, I had an opportunity to study further for an advanced fellowship in metabolic, nutritional and functional medicine through the University of Florida in the United States, which I completed in May.

Why are people still sceptical about alternative medicine?

Over time people have lost the natural connection with their bodies as life has become very busy and demanding. We cook less and have fewer meals where we sit down together. People do not have time to look after their bodies and spiritual needs, and literally do not have time to be sick. Symptoms are a nuisance that need to be fixed quickly. I liken it to the fast food industry: yes, fast food is food in its physical form, but “poison” in the long and short-term effect it has on the body. Pharmaceutical drugs are powerful and are more appealing in our fast-paced world, but their effects come at a cost that we are often unaware of. Alternative modes of healing dictate a lot more time and dedication from the patient. The process awakens the person to the fact that he or she is as much part of the healing as the medical professional. Consequently the patient becomes part of the healing process and understands the value of knowing his or her own body on a deeper level.


Contact Rav at [email protected] or on
066-487-8441. Her website also provides more information: www.drravjames.com.

Text: Liezel Lüneburg. Photographer: Tanya Erasmus

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