Noe Valley Voice May 2010

Store Trek

By Karen Topakian

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we introduce a homeopathy practice with a new roster of practitioners, and a medical doctor who recently rode into the neighborhood on a bike.

Noe Valley Homeopathy
Noe Valley Homeopathy on Sanchez Street has a healthy balance of practitioners these days, including (from left) An Van de Moortel, Claudia Schmitz, Mary Johnston, John Burns, and Kathleen Scheible.
Photo by Pamela Gerard

1199 Sanchez Street at 25th Street

"Most people come into homeopathy because they have had a positive experience with homeopathy with their kids. As a parent, you just never forget that," says Kathleen Scheible, who took up homeopathy after her son's chronic ear problems were effectively treated by homeopathic remedies.

"That spring [2005], I went to an information session at a homeopathy school and was so impressed and intrigued on an intellectual level, and had a positive experience, I knew I had to study it."

A year later, Scheible enrolled in the Pacific Academy of Homeopathy.

Now she and seven other practitioners make up Noe Valley Homeopathy, a collective of integrative health practitioners in the corner building at Sanchez and 25th streets. Though the practice began in 1998, the original founders have left for new pastures. In the past year, several newcomers have joined the group, which specializes in a range of pediatrics, reproductive, and mental health issues.

All eight practitioners have completed their clinical hours, plus three to four years of training in classical homeopathy, developed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century. Scheible describes homeopathy as "a form of holistic medicine by which the underlying constitution of a person is strengthened.... All of a person's symptoms as well as personal qualities are used in considering which one homeopathic remedy a person needs."

During an initial visit lasting 60 to 90 minutes, a practitioner will ask a series of questions about a client's personal health history, their emotional health, and their physical symptoms.

"We are very grateful when people come in with a physical symptom," says Claudia Schmitz, a new member of the practice and a registered nurse from Switzerland.

"We love the symptoms," concurs An Van de Moortel, another new member, "because they can be an information carrier. Symptoms inform us something is not functioning well," says Van de Moortel, who received her training in Belgium.

Mary Johnston, who has been a part of the practice for more than eight years, tries to find out "what's individual about your headache." By knowing that information, she can identity the remedy--which usually is a minute, super-diluted dose of the very substance that would create the symptoms in a healthy person. "Like cures like" is the principal, Scheible points out.

Karen Allen, one of two practitioners with certification from the Council for Homeopathic Certification, became a homeopath after seeing its success with her daughter. She summed up the group's thinking on the role of homeopathy: "We need the entire continuum of health care, from emergency room to complementary care." Van de Moortel adds, "In a healthy health care landscape, there are real choices."

Allen acknowledges that the health care world has fewer homeopaths than it did a hundred years ago. "In the United States in 1915, 20 to 25 percent of the doctors practiced homeopathy." But according to Van de Moortel, "Half of the doctors in France, Germany, Belgium, and Netherlands" practice homeopathy today. Van de Moortel wants "to make homeopathy a household word again."

To that end, Noe Valley Homeopathy will host an open house on Saturday, May 8, from 10 a.m. to noon. The group also plans to hold seminars on such topics as homeopathy for children and homeopathy at home.

In addition, Noe Valley Homeopathy will continue meeting with the Noe Valley Integrative Practitioners Group, a network of doctors and complementary health care providers, such as homeopaths, body workers, acupuncturists, and nutritionists. The group formed during last year's flu season, "partially as a means of sharing information about the various prevention, treatment, and recovery protocols for the flu," says Scheible. Its goal is to strengthen ties between alternative and conventional medicine.

Noe Valley Homeopathy's office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For an appointment, call 415-695-8200 or email NVH also houses the Pacific Academy of Homeopathy, directed by Karen Allen. Allen holds student clinics once a month on Friday and Saturday.

Alex Zaphiris, M.D.
Dr. Alex Zaphiris of Family Practice is her own mobile unit when she makes house calls in Noe Valley.
Photo courtesy Dr. Zaphiris

1286 Sanchez Street between 26th and Clipper streets

Imagine a doctor who makes house calls. Now imagine a doctor who makes house calls on an electric bicycle. This physician does just that, and her name is Alex Zaphiris. She is the newest member of the nine-year-old Family Practice, located at 1286 Sanchez Street.

Carrying her baby scale, stethoscope, and doctor's bag, Dr. Zaphiris pedals her bicycle to visit newborn babies at their homes on their second day of life.

She also does home visits for adults--in the evening or on weekends, if necessary. "The unit of care is the family," she says. "You can take better care of children if you take care of Mom." Or Dad or Grandma.

Her appointment book reflects this style as well. "We often do office visits of family members back to back," she says.

Zaphiris, a resident of the Lower Haight, says she chose Noe Valley for her practice because the neighborhood "feels like a small town in a city." Twenty-five percent of her clients hail from Noe Valley and another 25 percent from the Castro and the Mission, she says.

In addition to being certified by the American Board of Family Medicine--she is a graduate of UCSF School of Medicine--Zaphiris holds a certificate from the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. She also is a member of the American Academy of Osteopathy, the Cranial Academy, and the National Center for Homeopathy. She believes she is the "only one in San Francisco who does all three"--western medicine, osteopathy, and homeopathy. "I want to use multiple tools to take care of my patients," she says. "People don't want to take the antibiotic. They want to get better."

Zaphiris also belongs to the newly formed Noe Valley Integrative Practitioners Group (see Noe Valley Homeopathy, at left). Together with the two founding members of Family Practice--Dr. Daphne Miller and Dr. Avril Swan--she feels she can provide integrative primary care for the whole family.

Zaphiris notes that Family Practice is currently hosting a monthly workshop/ lecture series called the Waiting Room. The May workshop, titled "Pediatric First Aid," will be led by Zaphiris and Swan. "It will go through many common scenarios parents or babysitters are likely to encounter. We'll include discussion of integrative approaches," says Zaphiris.

The event takes place on Sunday, May 23, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Zaphiris says Family Practice is asking a $20 donation to benefit PFLAG (parents and friends of lesbians and gays). Future topics at the Waiting Room include Anxiety and Depression, the Science of Love, and How to Get Your Baby to Sleep.

Zaphiris' office hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. To make an appointment, call 415-642-0333. For more information, go to her website, http://