Interview with Dr Pappas


Dr. Pappas was recently interviewed by friend and collaborator Elena Kyrgos LMFT, NTP to discuss his new chapter.

Tell us about Pappas Health and what motivated you to change course.

Great to speak with you Elena. As you know I have been heading in this direction for a long time. I’ve been an internist in Northern Virginia combining the best of traditional and integrative medicine since 2004; however, I’ve been in this unique arena since the 2002 while practicing in New Jersey. The more deeply I dove into meaningful health and wellness the more I realized that I needed to be the sole captain of my ship to independently chart my own course and declutter the many obstructions between doctor and patient created by our healthcare system. The current healthcare environment is not conducive to someone like me who wants to partner with patients and get to know their personal story to better find the root cause of what ails them.

I started Pappas Health as a place where I could more meaningfully work with patients and like-minded practitioners, independently offer more innovative services, and help to influence the health care community with my unique voice. In the short term, I’ll be practicing out a very nice temporary office located in Reston very close to the Dulles toll road. I plan on leveraging technology to offer patients more value and flexibility, for example using telemedicine and an advanced EMR system. A telemedicine visit using a HIPPA compliant and secure video link is a great way for busy patients in our hectic area to connect with their doctor. I’ll be using a product called that is very easy to use and the EMR I chose is MD HQ which has a great interactive patient portal where patients can easily send messages as well as to upload files and pictures.

My goal is service my patients in many ways. First and foremost, to make sure my current patients are taken care of, I have been on a short hiatus but have not forgotten about them. However, I’d like to also help serve anyone in the area who may benefit from my expertise. I have set up the practice to offer patients a number of varied ways to work with me. This may range from as a consultant who helps them and their medical team sort out which best supplements to take or to review how advanced labs may shed more light on their condition, to working more closely with them as their primary care doctor, to a more intimate and deep relationship as part of my membership program. I don’t believe one size fits all.

What’s your personal philosophy when it comes to health?

I like to think of myself as fusionist combining the best from the world of traditional and integrative medicine encompassing a full spectrum of treatments from high touch to high tech. To paraphrase what a political leader once said about antagonistic parties; I have friends in the traditional health world and friends in the integrative world, I plan on sticking with my friends. Such an approach I believe will one day just be called good medicine. If you read my story on the website, you can see that my Greek upbringing and challenging family stressors influenced my health journey. As you know very well Elena as a fellow tribe member, ours is a culture that has a long and diverse history of being at the center of health and wellness. As I took a deep dive into this Hellenic continuum from Hippocrates to Crete and Ikaria I realized it resonated with what I was experiencing first hand with friends and relatives who had remained true to this lifestyle and ethos. I like to use the term dynamic traditionalism to emphasize the important archetype of looking both to the past and the future for health wisdom.

I had the opportunity to work with some great clinicians early in my career, for example Dr. Adam Perlman, who has now gone on to run Duke’s Integrative Medicine program. I soon came to realize that there were robust health communities and movements in many different places who were doing quality and effective work that I could learn from and apply in my everyday practice. Such organizations as IFM, A4M, and MMI are at the forefront of an exciting time in health and wellness. This is best evidenced by the IFM and Cleveland Clinic partnership where evidenced based integrative medical services are working hand and hand with a center that offers cutting edge technologies and world class specialties in traditional medicine. Although the wellness field and the organizations that practice them go by many different names I think it is important to recognize that there is just one camp with many tents.

I also was influenced by other distinct areas. As a former athlete, I became interested in the athletic and performance world and the concept of optimal function which tied in very nicely with what I was learning about the Ancient Greek concept of competition and the world of the gymnasium. Here one would simultaneously learn about academic fields like philosophy and pursue athletics under one roof. Leaders such as James LaValle, Charles Poliquin, John Berardi, Steve Maxwell, Laird Hamilton, and Ori Hofmekler embody this and have been a source of knowledge for me for many years. I’ve come to the realization that the everyday stressors we endure are probably more challenging than what a professional athlete has to cope with, for they get ample time to rest and recover. Thus, we are all wounded warriors who could benefit from the techniques that allow athletes to perform at high levels.

You like to mention the importance of collaborative networks, what do you mean by that?

I’ve always prided myself on the importance of connecting with people to seek value and knowledge from both colleagues and patients across the full spectrum of those participating in the healthcare arena. I believe such a community can create a collaborative network that fosters growth and is beneficial for all. For example, one of the reasons I was drawn to your work is that you integrate many modalities simultaneously as a licensed psychotherapist, nutritionist, and wellness expert. Such a unique approach provides a needed service for my patients and through our alliance they have benefited. I have been blessed to meet and collaborate with fantastic practitioners in the local area such as yourself that everyone should be aware of.

For example, Dr. Robynne Chutkan is nationally renowned gastroenterologist who practices out of Washington DC and combines integrative and traditional treatments to get to the root cause of digestive problems including most recently exploring the exciting new role of the microbiome. She has written some excellent books and regularly appears on the Dr. Oz show. Also, Dr. Andrew Heyman who practices in Northern Virginia is a national leader in the integrative medicine world and who helped create the Metabolic Code with James Lavalle R.PH, CCN and establish the Metabolic Medical Institute. He is at the forefront of treating some of the most complex medical metabolic and immune problems such as mold and biotoxins. Here in Reston is the great Teri Cochrane CN, CCP who not only is a certified nutritionist but has experiences in many extensive holistic medical practices and implements them all with an intuitive touch. Dr. Dale Matthews is a leading internist now practicing in Reston who has combined high level primary care work with a strong spiritual and faith-based ethos. His book the Faith Factor, the healing power of prayer is a classic in the field and has been very influential to me. Other great practitioners include Dr. Melinda Hall doing wonderful work in integrative gynecology in Tysons Corner, the Steinmetz group who have a very comprehensive wellness practice in Alexandria, and Dr. Laura Stone who is a gynecologist by training but has broadened her work to include functional medicine and works with Dr. Heyman.

There is some great groups working in the fitness and physical therapy world as well. I’m fascinated by the excellent work that Jennifer Gamboa and her team at Body Dynamics Inc are doing in Falls Church. Under one roof they have comprehensive physical therapy, fitness training, clinical massage, and complimentary medicine. Another exemplary group is Cypress Fitness located in McLean. Under the leadership of Chris Mattice the center has taken an innovative approach to fitness training and layered in expert programs in nutrition and physical therapy as well. Christa Dalakis has done an excellent job running BreakAway fitness in Tyson’s Corner creating a great service for many patients. Jessica Storm of Storm Fitness has carved a unique niche in the local fitness arena. She leads a team of advanced trainers who work with clients in the comfort of their own home. Adriana Backus is an excellent chiropractor specializing in active release technique out of McLean while Gary Blabey in Vienna is an innovative chiropractor who has a specialty in neurology and rehabilitation as well.

In the important area that you know so well there are some other excellent providers that I’ve had great relations with. My good friend Dean Chelpon is doing great work in the psychology and behavioral health ; as too are Aaron Dodini and Kathleen Cauley. As for men’s health, I always look to the work of Drs. Mordkin and Joel, who have assembled a fine urology team at Virginia Hospital Center.

Give us some examples of how your patients have influenced your practice?

I truly believe that I have absorbed more from patients than they have learned from me. It is a an honor to be allowed in the inner sanctum of person’s health journey and to be a part of their unique story. It is also a large responsibility that I take very seriously. As child of a cosmopolitan family and upbringing, working in the Northern Virginia/DC area is very intellectually stimulating with its many cultures and languages. My patients come from very distinct and noteworthy backgrounds. However more importantly than their experiences is their intellectual curiosity and zest to go like explorers in uncharted territories as they seek to create meaning in a rapidly evolving health environment. For example, I have patients who have become nutritionists , fitness trainers, health coaches, writers, caterers, advocates, and thought leaders across a large spectrum of diverse fields in the health and wellness arena.

There are a few noteworthy examples that bear showcasing. Monica Bhide is a locally gifted writer, storyteller, poet, and bestselling fiction and cookbook author. She resolutely followed her lifelong passion to create a distinct voice in the cross section of food, culture, and stories. Don Roden is owner and founder of the Organic Butcher of McLean. He was spurred on by his passion for food and health to create a unique and exceptional store that has attracted avid customers. Casey Seidenberg is a passionate advocate for importance of educating our youth about nutrition, creating Nourish Schools to get the message out throughout the area. Throughout all of this she found time to create the fantastic Super Food Cards and be an author. Lastly, Margo Kirzhner has a powerful story to tell. This mother of two overcame a chronic illness to become a certified holistic health coach where she comes to the house of the client to create a kitchen and health makeover. These and many other special and talented patients have created a noteworthy path for us to follow and empowered me to strive to be the best version of myself.

What are some projects your looking at for the future?

I always get excited about creating more alliances and I have a few that I’m looking to further develop. One can not mention the fitness industry without highlighting the great work of my friend Denise Austin. She has been a pioneer in the health and fitness field since her days working with Jack LaLanne. Denise continues to influence people of all ages with her passion and dedication to health and fitness and is now the new wellness ambassador for AARP; so many more patients will be able to experience her vital work. I just recently met Dr. Artemis Simopoulos an academic physician and researcher from the Center for Genetics, Nutrition, and Health here in Washington, DC who has been a trailblazer in the field of nutrition, genetics, good fats, and Mediterranean Diet. Her groundbreaking research article on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet was very influential to me. I’d like to find a good way to get her important message out to a greater audience. I’ve been a fan of the Amen clinics in general and have followed the good work of Dr. Joseph Annibali. Although I have not met him yet, I believe that many of my patients would benefit from his services and that of the center.

Amy Riolo is another local trendsetter that I would love to meet. She is a well-known chef and author and has done tremendous work communicating and writing about healthy foods with an emphasis on the Mediterranean region. There are some great doctors in the Reston area that I have followed from afar but would enjoy getting to know better and include Dr. Alan Plotner in Gastroenterology, Dr. Nicholas Lailas in Urology, and Dr. Thomas Fleeter in Orthopedics. Steven Prussack is a leader and author in the field of juicing and healthy living. We went to high school together and I have followed his work from afar with great interest but have not seen him in many years. I have been told his juicing books are fantastic and look forward to reconnecting with him.

I’d like to play a role in having an impact on a community level as well. As you know from the research on the Blue Zone regions that have abundant health and longevity, social and community bonds were a key aspect in their milieu of wellness. Sheila Johnson’s Salamander Resort in nearby Middleburg is a wonderful and unique place, a visit by anyone would be an excellent treatment for the chronic stressors that impact so many of our patients. I had the pleasure of visiting the resort firsthand and was very impressed with its design and services, especially with the fascinating work they are doing with the horses; and believe it could serve as a valuable resource to the larger community about meaningful health. The famous Daniel Plan which featured the pastor Rick Warren partnering with Drs. Oz and Hyman to teach their large congregation meaningful lifestyle changes is an interesting template that should be able to be carried out in any religious or civic group. I’d like to look at partnering with my church St. Katherine’s to develop something similar. I also believe my good friend Bishop Julian Dobbs of the Anglican Church would be a good resource to help create similar programs in his large network of communities as well. Elena, as you know the striking research in the sociogenomic area is quite astonishing; one has a greater chance of becoming obese if their co-worker is overweight than if their parents are. Therefore, we could create much more meaningful change if we looked how to impact communities and groups rather than just individuals.

Lastly, I believe there could be an opportunity for my twin brother and I to collaborate. Tom is a former Army officer and current executive in Europe who has a passion for leadership and mentoring soldiers in their transition from the military to the business world. With my minor in men’s health and experience with stubborn guys, I believe there could be an opportunity for us to work together to help optimize the wellness of this important population.

What would patients be surprised to learn about you?

I almost joined my twin brother, Tom at the United States Military Academy at West Point. However, when I realized that I would have to give many more years of service to become a doctor I decided my path lay with a more traditional academic route.

What are your personal interests outside of work?

Spending meaningful time with my three children ages 14, 9, and 5 and my wife is the centerpiece of my free time. I enjoy exercising and maintaining a high level of fitness and even still play basketball regularly including against my 14 year old son who is now 6’3”! He has just started to beat me so I know my days as family champ are numbered. As a family we enjoy travelling especially on our regular trips back to Greece where we visit with family and try to absorb wisdom from my 96 year old grandmother. I remain intellectually curious and avidly read in a broad range of areas including history, biographies, political science, religion, and leadership; not to mention my continued pursuit of improving my knowledge in health and wellness. I don’t say this too often in the Washington DC area but I remain a big fan of the New York Mets and New York Giants sports teams, fortunately most patients have been understanding if not supportive.