Hillary Woodson Gaskins, MD is a team player in her patients’ lives.
As founder and owner of the Virgin Islands Center for Integrative Medicine in St. Thomas, Gaskins’ mission is to serve, empower and partner with patients on the path to wellness, transformation and wholeness.
“I try to help enlighten patients and go beyond pharmaceuticals,” she says. “Medicine is not the be-all, end-all.”
Last year, Gaskins enrolled in the UVM Cannabis Science Medicine Professional Certificate, an online, seven-week program that covers cannabis history, business, law and policy, plant biology, biological effects on humans, production and safety, pharmacology, and clinical research.
“I know that the plant has been used medicinally for centuries,” she says. “It comes up as a treatment option for many of the patients I meet with and the course gave me more confidence to talk about it. I’m forever indebted to the program and it’s exactly what I was looking for.”
UVM is the first medical school in the nation to offer a professional certificate in cannabis and medicine. The professional certificate is designed for physicians, dispensary personnel, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physician assistants, and regulators. The program helps professionals identify the potential benefits and risks of medical marijuana, learn about dosing and pharmacokinetics for therapeutic use, as well as examine key legal issues around medical marijuana.
Gaskins’ practice serves about 2,000 patients. One longtime patient first visited her while he was on a cruise. The patient, who lives in the United States, had experienced a variety of health issues, suffered chronic pain and was on prescription painkillers. Gaskins recommended cannabis to help him slowly wean down his opioids and his health has improved dramatically.
“One thing I’ve learned as a family doctor is that I’m a team-based player. My motto is, I serve as the needle and you’re the thread. After all, what is integrative medicine? It’s to pull it all together,” she says. “I’m the guide to help you through your life journey. As a family doctor, I’ll see you from the womb to the grave.”
Gaskins, who studied medicine at Columbia University, and trained at University of Maryland and University of Arizona, has always dreamed of living and working in a tropical location near the beach. In her practice, which she started five years, ago, she doles out hugs and makes smoothies for patients. She is also in the process of preparing her practice to offer medical certifications for cannabis treatments.
“Outside of practicing in a holistic way, I can’t think of as many things I’ve been as passionate about other than medical cannabis,” she says. “To me, cannabis is a bigger metaphor for the world. Everyone I’ve connected with in the cannabis realm has been a positive person. To me, if the plant can do that for our humanity, then I’m glad we’ve discovered it. Without question, I stand firmly in my conviction with the plant and its medicinal value to humanity.”