Towards Medicine

  • San Francisco
  • Silicon Valley
  • Marin County
  • Washington DC

Photography by Luis Landestoy, Melissa San Vicente, San Francisco California
Location by Rosewood Hotel, Menlo Park, California
Website by Chaptr.Studio, Southampton, United Kingdom

Towards Medicine

"The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
― Thomas A. Edison

Our approach to medicine is integrative. We try to minimize the use of pills, drugs, and surgeries by helping our patients moving towards a healthy lifestyle.

Our approach to integrative medicine is both reductionist and holistic. The superior physician directs his or her attention not only to the individual components, organs, cells, and DNAs, but also to the whole person with a complete physiological and psychological picture. All relevant information, including the symptoms as well as the patient’s other general characteristics such as his or her life history is gathered and woven together until it forms a pattern that describes a general state of harmony or disharmony.

We are confident that there is a good chance that our approach that could work for you.

Evidence-based science medical literature

The German Shoulder Study (The GRASP Study)

The German Randomized Acupuncture Trial for chronic shoulder pain (GRASP) comprised 424 outpatients with chronic shoulder pain (CSP) P6 weeks and an average pain score of VAS P50 mm, who were randomly assigned to receive Chinese acupuncture (verum), sham acupuncture (sham) or conventional conservative orthopaedic treatment (COT). The patients were blinded to the type of acupuncture.
Read Literature

Chemo Induced Breast Cancer Arthritis

Women with breast cancer (BC) treated with aromatase inhibitors (AIs) may experience joint symptoms that can lead to discontinuation of effective therapy. We examined whether acupuncture improves AI-induced arthralgias in women with early-stage BC. We conducted a randomized, controlled, blinded study comparing true acupuncture (TA) versus sham acupuncture (SA) twice weekly for 6 weeks in postmenopausal.
Read Literature
  • San Francisco
  • Silicon Valley
  • Marin County
  • Washington DC

TOWARDS MEDICINE

TIMELESS. WITHOUT PRESCRIPTION. PREVENTATIVE.

Philosophy

I hope before you make an appointment to see me you will read the physician statement to understand how I approach my philosophy in caring for you.

Shoshin (初心) is a concept meaning “beginner’s mind.” It refers to an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

I come from a western medicine background.  You can review my FDA reviews here and here, and scientific research in Neuroscience here and here, with an interest on aging and the aging brain diseases such as Alzheimer dementia.  I earned board certification and practiced clinical algorithms in a world of ever briefer consultations. In my former practice at some of the leading medical institutions, I adhered to electronic health records that kept physicians glued to a computer rather than focused on the patient.

In the winter of 2014, at the beginning of the narcotics addiction epidemic—a situation partly created by the medical profession—I saw something on YouTube that I would encourage you to watch, too. The BBC documentary: The Science of Acupuncture: Traditional Chinese Medicine, shows a 21st-century surgery team performing open-heart surgery using a 2,000-year-old technique known as acupuncture to control pain while the young woman lies fully awake on the operating table. Imagine—undergoing open-heart surgery without general anesthesia. I was astounded. Immediately, I knew I could not turn my back on this type of treatment for my patients’ chronic pain. That moment opened the door to my education in integrative medicine. See the list of modalities that we use in our integrative medicine practice for treatment.

Western medicine is a miracle, with the likes of antibiotics, orthopedic surgeries, and chemotherapies that relieve pain and suffering and save lives. However, it has been said that in Western medicine, the main focus is on the disease process: how to cut it, burn it, starve it, eradicate it, numb it, and kill it. Mark Twain, said, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” To the western doctor these days, every disease looks like a candidate for treatment using prescription medications or surgery. Such is the result when a 40-year-old executive goes to see his doctor for acid reflux—their conversation lasts for 10 minutes, and the patient leaves with a prescription for a pill without the doctor addressing the underlying issues.

To me this represents a wonderful moment that should be seized. While acid reflux may seem like a purely physical condition, it is actually strongly associated with psychosomatic imbalance. The symptoms are exacerbated by obesity, stress, insomnia, and unhelpful eating patterns, which are risk factors for medical conditions down the road. Medication is only part of the solution.

The focus of my practice is on wellness.  It is my observation over the past 19 years as a doctor, that when a person feels well, happy, and balanced, the body tends to be healthy. The medical profession has been relegating the work on wellness to other providers, but I believe neglecting wellness is doing a disservice to our patients. Many of my patients are surprised to hear me say in no uncertain terms – that type 2 diabetes is a largely a preventable medical condition if one maintains an ideal body mass index. They are surprised to hear that if they lose the weight, the diabetes can resolve itself. I strongly believe that things like this need to be said upfront, and then treatment can be built around it.

The superb practitioner will try to guide the patient back to a way of living that is more in keeping with the natural order, by taking small steps and not being discouraged by setbacks. My goal is to complement the care that you are receiving from your doctors in an environment that is reassuring, encouraging, and even a little bit fun. The primary driver of change in your brain and body is your behavior: there is no neuroplasticity ‘drug’ that you can take.  In the section titled Scientific Literature on the website, you can see the type of scientific research that goes into preparing every clinical encounter.

In this unusual and very special integrative medical practice that focuses on wellness I see patients at their homes or workplaces. Because it is important to focus on wellness even after a catastrophic event such stroke or cancer, I also make house calls to the bedside at nursing homes and hospitals. Our sessions are free of commute and publicity.

CV

Dr. Joanna W. Ku is an award-winning American physician based in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.  She sees patients by house calls for her private practice, Towards Medicine.

Dr. Ku attended Stuyvesant High School in New York and obtained her undergraduate degree with Honors in neuropsychology from Barnard College, Columbia University, with graduate work in neuroscience at the Boston University School of Medicine. She received her Doctorate of Medicine at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook, graduating with Honors awarded in intensive care medicine, internal medicine, geriatrics, and neurology, followed by an internship at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC. She was accepted into the residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, but she chose to stay on the east coast to be closer to loved ones. She completed her residency in primary care medicine at the Cambridge Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she treated faculty and student members of the Harvard academic community. She was appointed a Clinic Fellow of Harvard Medical School (1999–2001). She is a graduate of the Structural Palpation-Based Acupuncture Program of Harvard Medical School (2015-2016).

Towardsmedicine_CV

In 18 years of medical practice, Dr. Ku has helped more than 35,000 patients in one-to-one treatment and has attended to patients at some of the leading medical institutions in the United States, including Stony Brook University Hospital, Georgetown University Medical Center, Cambridge Hospital, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, Harvard University Primary Care Clinic, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, NIH / Johns Hopkins-affiliated Suburban Hospital, Washington Home for the Elderly, Zacchaeus Free Clinic, and Veterans Administration hospitals on both coasts of the United States (VA Northport, VA Washington DC, VA Palo Alto, and VA San Francisco). Dr. Ku’s clinical experience includes working in private practice at Yaffe Ruden and Associates on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and in hospital medicine at Suburban Hospital and NIH / Johns Hopkins Medicine Hospital in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where she was an attending physician. Throughout her clinical career, she has cared for patients from all walks of life, from the White House Chief of Staff, UN diplomats, and millennial CEOs in San Francisco, to healthy centenarians, homeless families, and incarcerated individuals, treating each patient with the same level of dignity.

In 2007 Dr. Ku was invited by her medical colleagues to join the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where she acted as a cross-disciplinary team leader of a team of FDA expert scientists in the Division of Gastroenterology and Inborn Errors Products (DGIEP), and in the Division of Dermatology and Dental Products (DDDP). The products that she reviewed included drugs and biologics biotechnology products for the treatment of rare and ultra-rare diseases. She was awarded FDA’s Outstanding New Reviewer Award from the Center of Drugs Evaluation and Research (CDER) in 2012. The team that Dr. Ku led won the CDER Team Excellence Award for the Pancreatic Enzymes Products Review (2008). For her work in rare diseases, she was invited to be part of the CDER Special Recognition for Rare Disease Working Group (2009). She was awarded Excellence in Government Senior Fellowship, Partnership for Public Service (2009–2010) to complete a year-long fellowship program in Washington, DC on best practices and benchmarking, federal government-wide networking, and executive coaching.

Through her award-winning work at the FDA in Washington, Dr. Ku gained insights into scientific analysis as well as regulatory experience in our nation’s capitol, in the context of the complex legal, government, policy, and economics framework. Her role included conducting independent reviews and critical analyses to advise the US government on American and international drug development. She and her team interacted with their international counterparts, including the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) based in London, UK; Health Canada; the Japanese Ministry of Health & Welfare; and the China Food and Drug Administration. The biotechnology products that she and her FDA team reviewed typically involved a development cost from $500 million to $2.6 billion. She was the Primary Medical Reviewer for the approval of the rare disease drug Elaprase, one of the most expensive drugs ever produced, costing US$567,412 USD per patient per year. The scope of regulatory work ranged from providing expert opinion on animal testing to human drug testing to post-marketing drug prescription labeling. In one instance for example, she worked with her FDA team and the US State Department to solving a drug development issue around the US embargo against Cuba. In another instance she voiced strong medical opposition to conducting human experiments on illiterate and homeless people from a third-world country. In this situation, she negotiated with the stakeholders to avoid performing medical experimentation on vulnerable human subjects who could not provide meaningful informed consent.

Dr. Ku brings a humanist and artistic approach with sensitivity and love to the world of scientific data, finance, and medicine. Pre-college, she came to the United States on the Gina Bachauer Piano Scholarship, which allowed her to study music at the Juilliard School in New York City from 11 to 18 years old. As a teenager, she traveled on the New York City subway and on the vibrant streets of W 66th Street and Broadway in Manhattan with her fellow young Julliard musicians, ballet dancers, and actors to perform on the stage at Lincoln Center. Though unrestricted gift-giving, she is a movie Executive Producer for the documentary: Sensitive and in Love – the Documentary (2017), based on the work of fellow SUNY Stony Brook clinicians, Dr. Elaine Aron and Dr. Art Aron.

On the concepts of beauty, art, harmony, and discipline—these classic principles have been instilled in Dr. Ku’s scientific and humanistic approach to medicine, most recently in her work as a medical disability examiner for the US Veterans Benefits Administration, where she has conducted over 8,000 VA disability exams and interviewed and examined over 4,500 wounded veterans, ranging in age from 19 to 94, including those who have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injuries (SCI), military sexual trauma (MST), and shrapnel wounds in combat around the world in WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, and the ongoing Global War on Terror.

 

 

Methods

  • ACUPUNCTURE
  • ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
  • AYURVEDA
  • BIOFEEDBACK
  • BODY FOCUSED SOMATIC PSYCHOLOGY
  • DAWN AND DUSK SIMULATION
  • EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING (EMDR)
  • FOOD AS MEDICINE
  • FELDENKRAIS METHOD
  • INTEGRATED ONCOLOGY CARE
  • INTEGRATIVE PALLIATIVE MEDICINE
  • MUSIC AND SOUND THERAPY
  • RATIONAL NUTRITIONAL THERAPY FOR OBESITY
  • SLEEP MEDICINE

Referrals

These are my teachers and colleagues whom I hold the highest esteem for that I can entrust the care of my patients and students to.

  • Dennis W Dickson, MD
    • Professor of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology, Mayo Clinic (Neuropathology)
  • Bruce A O’Gara, PhD
    • Professor of Zoology and Chair of Biological Sciences, Humboldt State University (Biology)
  • Peter Gorevic, MD
    • Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Division Rheumatology, Mt. Sinai Hospital Icahn School of Medicine (Rheumatology)
  • Stephen Parrish, PhD
    • Private Practice, Setauket New York, formerly clinical psychologist at Postgraduate Center for Mental Health (Psychology)
  • David U Himmelstein, MD
    • Adjunct Clinical Professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, formerly Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Division of Social and Community Medicine at Cambridge Hospital; Co Founder of Physicians for National Health Program (Medicine, Public Health Policy)
  • John S Kung, MD
    • Private Practice at Staten Island Ophthalmology (SIO) and Academic Eye Center (AEC), New York Times Super Doctor (Ophthalmology)
  • Thomas Glick, MD
    • Professor Emeritus of Neurology, Harvard Medical School (Neurology)
  • Leann Canty, MD
    • Primary Care Physician at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates Instructor of Harvard Medical School (Medicine)
  • Joe Zorn, MD
    • Primary Care Physician at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, Instructor of Harvard Medical School (Medicine)
  • Katharine Meyers, MD, MPH
    • Primary Care Physician at Westchester Health, Stamford, CT. Formerly Primary Care physician, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, Instructor of Harvard Medical School (Medicine)
  • Elisabeth Broderick, MD
    • Primary Care Physician at Beverly Hospital, formerly Medical Director of Elder Services Plan Cambridge Health Alliance, Instructor of Harvard Medical School (Geriatrics)
  • Joshua Bernstein, MD
    • Private Practice, Ashville Medicine and Pediatrics, formerly staff physician at Cambridge Health Alliance, Instructor of Harvard Medical School (Pediatrics, Medicine)
  • Duncan M MacCourt, JD MD
    • Private Practice, McLean Hospital, Instructor of Harvard Medical School Formerly United States Justice Department (Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine)
  • Andrew J. Gerber, MD PhD
    • Medical Director/CEO Austen Riggs Center, Formerly Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Director, MRI Unit, New York State Psychiatric Institute Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (Child Psychiatry)
  • Charles “Chip” A Read MD
    • Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Vice Chairmen, Inpatient Medicine, Director, Adult Critical Care Director, Pulmonary Fellowship Program, Georgetown University School of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)
  • Cristina A Reichner, MD
    • Assistant Professor, Associate Directory Pulmonary Fellowship, Georgetown University School of Medicine (Pulmonary and Critical Care)
  • David B Coleman, MD
    • Private Practice, Vascular and Endovascular Surgeons, Lake Regional General Hospital (General Surgery, Vascular Surgery)
  • Jamie Cesaretti, MD
    • Private Practice, Terk Oncology, formerly Assistant Professor Department of Radiation Oncology Icahn School of Medicine Mt. Sinai Hospital, Best Doctors in America Award, Patient’s Choice Award, Orlando Life Top Docs Award (Radiation Oncology)
  • Anne Pariser, MD
    • Associate Director for Knowledge Management, FDA (Medicine, Rare Diseases Clinical Trial)
  • Laurie Malkoff, MD
    • Private Practice, New York City, formerly assistant clinical professor of psychiatry Icahn School of Medicine Mt. Sinai Hospital, World Trade Center Mental Health Intervention and Treatment Program (Psychotherapy and Psychopharmacology)
  • Gary Chimes, MD PhD
    • Private Practice, Lake Washington Sports and Spine, formerly Director for the Spine Clinic at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Director for the Musculoskeletal Sports & Spine Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation)
  • Deborah Esteves, MD
    • Primary Care Physician at Kaiser Permanente Group, Vacaville CA (Medicine)
  • Amy Kustra Barksdale, MD
    • Private Practice, True North Health Center, Medical Director of Portland Community Health Center (Family Practice, Integrative Medicine, Holistic and Naturopathic Medicine)
  • Julie Beitz, MD
    • Director, Office of Drug Evaluation III, Center for Drug Research and Evaluation (CDER), US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (Infectious Disease, Clinical Trial)
  • John Hyde, PhD MD
    • Medical Officer, Division of Clinical Evaluation and Pharmacology/Toxicology (DCEPT), Office of Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies (OCTGT), Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), FDA See Dr. Hyde’s 2013 lecture: First-in-Human Trials of Stem-Cell Based Therapies – by Invitation of California’s Stem Cell Agency. Clinical faculty at the George Washington School of Medicine Pathology Department (Pathology, Clinical Trial)
  • Marc K Walton, MD, PhD
    • Associate Director for Translational Medicine in the Office of Translational Sciences at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, FDA (Neurology, Clinical Trial)
  • Markham C Luke MD PhD
    • Chief Medical Officer, Office of Device Evaluation, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, FDA (Dermatology, Clinical Trial)
  • Jack Flyer, MD
    • Private Practice, Cardio Care, Clinical Assistant Professor at George Washington University School of Medicine, Top Doctor Washingtonian Magazine (Cardiology, Interventional Cardiology)
  • Yuri A Deychak, MD
    • Staff Physician, Johns Hopkins Community Physicians - Heart Care, Top Doctor Washingtonian Magazine (Cardiology, Interventional Cardiology)
  • Tony Dao, MD
    • Staff Physician, Johns Hopkins Community Physicians - Heart Care, Top Doctor Washingtonian Magazine (Cardiology, Interventional Cardiology)
  • Susana Rita Morales, MD
    • Primary Care Physician, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University, New York Presbyterian Hospital (Medicine, Geriatrics Medicine)
  • Vincent Pedre, MD
    • Private Practice, Founder and Medical Director at Pedre Integrative Health, Attending Physician Mt. Sinai Hospital (Medicine, Integrative Medicine)
  • Carmo Trindad, MBBS
    • Staff Orthopedist, Palo Alto Health Care System Veteran Administration Hospital, formerly Department of Orthopedics Surgery, Stanford School of Medicine (Orthopedics)
  • Rhonda L Hamilton, MD MPH
    • Staff Primary Care Physician, Palo Alto Health Care System Veteran Administration Hospital, author of A Guide to Weight Loss Surgery: Professional and Personal Views (2008), Formerly Director of Medical Intensive Care Unit, Somerville Hospital, Instructor of Harvard Medical School (Medicine, Intensive Care, Bariatric Medicine, Spirituality and Medicine)
  • Keith Van Haren, MD
    • Assistant Professor, Stanford School of Medicine (Neurology, Pediatric Neurology)
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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Fees: $625 USD/hour
    • House calls by appointments only. Additional travel fees vary across time zones.
  • Hours
    • Certain medical conditions such as post-stroke setting requires acute treatment. For this reason the Practice is open 7 days a week from 6AM to 7PM.
  • Adolescent and Child Abuse Reporting
    • The Practice complies with region-specific and applicable laws and regulations regarding child abuse reporting. All states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands have statutes identifying professionals, including physicians, who are required to report suspected child maltreatment to an appropriate agency, such as child protective services, a law enforcement agency, or a State’s toll-free child abuse reporting hotline.
  • Mental Health Reporting
    • The Practice complies with region-specific and applicable laws regarding reporting to appropriate agencies, if a conclusion is reached, using reasonable professional judgment that the patient is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.
  • Medical Care
    • The Practice requires that each patient has a primary care doctor and access to standard of care provided by appropriate medical subspecialists.
  • Emergency
    • Due to the nature of the Practice, which spans across time zones, the Physician is unable to be reached for emergency care. Contact 911, or region-specific emergency lines.
  • Insurance
    • The Practice does not accept insurance or handle insurance paperwork.
  • Cancellation Policy
    • Full refund up to 21 days of the scheduled appointment. Payment is due at the time of scheduling the appointment.
  • Pro Bono
    • Free medical care is provided to veterans by invitation. Referring physicians are invited to call the Practice and ask to speak to the Physician directly.
  • Gratuity
    • The Practice respectfully declines gifts or gratuities to all of its personnel.