Dr Steinmetz’s approach to integrative family medicine is characterized by her commitment to looking at the “whole patient”–rather than treating and chasing after a constellation of symptoms. Her compassionate caring and empathy fuel her strong desire to heal each patient and restore him or her to not only good health, but “optimal wellness.” She considers herself a clinical investigator, gathering in-depth assessments of family history, lifestyle issues, and the practical, judicious use of leading edge medical testing, she partners with each patient to help them set their course to wellness. Some patients feel well after a visit or two, other patients take longer to adjust lifestyle and try to correct years of chronic illness. While she leans towards more natural treatments, Dr. Steinmetz also recognizes certain prescription medications as essential to controlling uncontrolled conditions and will gladly prescribe and monitor those as needed. Above all, she likes to inform patients about their myriad treatment options and discuss those in depth with patients so they have control over their health care. While good medicine takes time and patience, Dr. Steinmetz’s ultimate goal is for all her patients to be so healthy they would only need to see her once a year.
The Birth of a Doctor
Since the age of five years old, Dr. Steinmetz knew she wanted to become a physician. She always wanted to do something in the medical/scientific field, but at that time, most women did not dare become doctors. “I wanted to be able to heal people, to help them feel better. Then when I went to medical school, I decided I wanted to become a family practice physician because I liked learning about and understanding all the body’s systems together. That was really important and most interesting to me.”
Marie Steinmetz, MD, has been advancing a comprehensive approach to healthcare since 1997, when she established Steinmetz Medical Associates, PC. Board-certified in family practice, medical acupuncture, and integrative and holistic medicine, Dr. Steinmetz is committed to learning as much about her patients as possible. She strives to create a partnership with each individual to develop customized treatment plans that integrate the best practices from both conventional and complementary approaches to treatment. She deeply believes and advocates for this “holistic”, combined approach offering medical providers many more tools in their toolkit to heal a patient.
A practitioner of both family and conventional medicine, Dr. Steinmetz has held clinical faculty positions at Georgetown University, George Washington University (Washington, DC) and Medical College of Virginia, Department of Family Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA). She also served as medical director for the City of Alexandria’s Methadone Program. In 1986, Dr. Steinmetz founded Alexandria Family Medicine, serving as president for 10 years. To enhance her clinical skills by specializing in complementary medical therapies, she went to study acupuncture at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the nation’s leading center for training physician acupuncturists. She also has attended seminars by some of the world’s leading acupuncturists from both Japan and France.
Dr. Steinmetz also has studied botanical medicine at Columbia University (New York, NY) and is a member of the American Botanical Council. She has been a frequent lecturer on Acupuncture, Herbs and Complementary and Alternative Medicine in for her peers, physicians in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Dr. Steinmetz is passionate about exploring treatment modalities within the field of complementary medicine and determining which are appropriate for a comprehensive medical practice. She also is interested in helping other physicians explore complementary treatments that may be valuable within their specialties.
Since trained in the most broad and versatile specialty of family medicine, Dr. Steinmetz can treat a wide array of illness. That said, Dr. Steinmetz has found over the years that many conditions are related to the stomach and intestines, so she specializes in treating acute and chronic gastro-intestinal disorders and food allergies. “My approach aligns with the formal “functional medicine” philosophy, where we help the body heal itself. For example, a patient might come up with stomach complaints, and end up needing beneficial bacteria. Or a patient is harboring too much “bad bacteria” or too much yeast in their system. We try to treat the whole person, the whole body, not just the symptoms. Prescription medications can treat the symptoms, and there are times when we must prescribe those, but we prefer to get to the root of the problem. We do testing, and ask a lot of questions in order to get to what is causing the problems—not just treating the symptoms. We are always asking: “”Why” do you have this illness?” Many patients who have previously suffered from chronic gastrointestinal illnesses have found relief and healing for illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and even previously undiagnosed food and other allergies, and more.
An important part of the patient-doctor partnership for Dr. Steinmetz, is taking as much time as needed to answer questions and explain to her patients what is going on with them, in terms they can understand. Then, she gives them options for treatment. It may be partnering to transform diet and lifestyle issues as such reducing stress or it can also involve a series of medial acupuncture treatments or may be prescription medications, but either way, she puts the patient clearly in control of his/her own path to wellness.
A Doctor’s Passion
According to Dr. Steinmetz, “Being a trained family doctor is one of the most rewarding, yet challenging branches of medicine, because you see every condition a person can get, you see their entire family, and you follow that person their whole life. You never know what you’re going to face when you walk in that room. You not only have to know all the body systems, you have to be able to be aware of how the body is changing, as you are examining and treating them for so many years. My passion is to try to get people healthy without medications. And we can do that quite often with lifestyle changes, nutritional counseling, the appropriate use of medication, botanicals, acupuncture, osteopathic manipulation—we can target the right kind of tools and techniques for a patient’s diagnosis.”
Creating Optimal Wellness
“I think one of the reasons we’re so successful, and have so many positive outcomes, is because we are realistic. We really take the time to find out what are the most realistic, “doable” changes a person can make. And that varies widely from person to person. For example, someone who’s retired may have more time for a more complex lifestyle change. Others are working, and eat many meals out, so I give them tips for healthy swaps when dining away from the home where you have less control.”
Dr. Steinmetz also notices that in her practice, the doctors all suggest baby steps. “Let’s say a patient’s diet is horrible. I know I can increase my chances of success, of compliance, if I tell that person to cut out products made with high-fructose corn syrup, such as soft drinks, two days a week. It’s more difficult for a person to completely cut out soft drinks but easier to do it gradually..”
Dr. Steinmetz recalls one patient that had intestinal complaints for twenty years. “She had been scoped and tested and diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Her life was miserable because she couldn’t be too far from a bathroom. Her doctor was treating her symptoms, but never looked for the cause. We tested her for food allergies and sensitivities, and found she couldn’t tolerate some things. She is doing just fine right now. She has to avoid certain foods, but now she’s able to relax and live a much more full life.”