Here at Vibrant Health, we believe health is an inside job, unique to you. After all, you’re one-of-a-kind and your needs are complex – that’s why your supplements should be too.
To celebrate all of the beautiful complexities of our lives, each month we’ve been highlighting individuals in our community – taking a peek into the behind-the-scenes of their work life, wellness rituals and all the wonderful things that make them who they are.
In honor of International Men’s Day coming up November 19th, we wanted to shine the light on a man who’s making an impact in the health field. This month, we’re thrilled to chat with Dr. Vasanth Kainkaryam, physician and owner of 4 Elements Direct Primary Care — a membership-based practice redefining traditional healthcare through personalized care.
In this insightful interview, we heard from Vasanth about what he wishes men knew when it comes to taking care of their health, why he prioritizes mental breaks, and the many challenges of our healthcare system (and what he’s doing to shake things up through his unique four-pillar approach). We hope you enjoy our series…and remember, keep being you!
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Creative, Extroverted, Analytical
Tell us more about the unique mission behind 4 Elements™ Direct Primary Care, and why you created your practice?
Our healthcare system is broken. I don’t think anyone can disagree. We spend more money than any other country, and yet compared to our peers in terms of preventable conditions, we perform very poorly. Many places tout themselves on being “patient-centered,” but the honest answer is that our system is still financially-centered and license-centered. After years of being a part of the system, I decided I had gained all of the skills to follow my “Ikigai” — and out of that soul-searching came my practice.
I have four major goals in my practice:
- To challenge patients to expect more from a failing health care system which isn’t working for them.
- To inspire doctors to think out of the box as they explore careers in medicine, and to demonstrate that primary care can be fun and rewarding.
- To support the local economy by offering Direct Primary Care as a solution for small businesses to offer copay free primary care to their employees, thereby recruiting and retaining talent with this unique high value benefit.
- To bring back the feeling of the “Community Doctor,” who isn’t just hiding in an exam room all day long but is visible to the public and is a leader in the community.
We love the four pillars behind your business — engage, educate, empower and encourage! How do you bring this into your everyday life, both at work and home?
These pillars are simple concepts and are a part of my philosophy that I created during my personal journey as a Physician Executive. They are inspired by the transtheoretical model of change and can be applied in any scenario where you work with people.
First, you need to reach out to them — engage with them. This could be a phone call, outreach, or simply by listening to them whether it’s a friend who just needs you, or a patient who hasn’t shown up to your office for a while. Sometimes I just send “Thinking of You” cards — no agenda, no request for any action, but simply a reminder of “Hey, I’m here for you.”
Educate — learning is the foundation of everything. The etymology of the word “Doctor” comes from the Latin word “docere,” meaning to teach. This requires time, patience and happens over a continuum and is not episodic. In our traditional model of care, these are episodic and transactions, so any time a patient has questions outside of those visits, they are pretty much on their own and can’t get medical advice without a transaction that costs money.
Once the foundation is built, then our role is to empower. This is perhaps the most dynamic part of the process where someone suddenly has a fire that begins to burn within them, and a belief that change is possible. And anywhere we think of change, we think of an individual’s ability to sustain it which requires self-reliance. We teach our kids to be independent. We foster problem-solving at work. And oftentimes, the best solutions to a problem come from those who are empowered to come up with them.
When someone is headed on the path they want, we then continue to encourage. This requires utilizing skills such as motivational interviewing, coaching, and believing in a person’s ability to change. We do this with our children, we do this as trained leaders in organizations and with our direct reports, and ultimately, we can apply those same concepts to our patients. It’s amazing what someone can do when others believe in them.
What does a typical day in the life as a doctor look like for you?
Well, no two days are the same. The beauty is that I get to also make each day the way I want to. Some days are extremely busy, where I am doing a lot of different things. While primary care is the core of what I do, I also am a designated Civil Surgeon and do immigration exams. In addition, I may also be doing medical aesthetics visits, or sometimes I may spend two hours just replying to patient messages and texts. And then of course, there are things like recording podcast episodes (I host my own podcast called 4 Elements of Health Care), posting on social media, business networking, and speaking engagements. My days are very fluid!
International Men’s Day is November 19th, and we want to celebrate the positive impact men bring to the world, specifically in regards to health and wellbeing. What’s something you wish more men knew when it comes to their health?
I wish more men knew that there are practices like mine where they can feel safe and comfortable to make themselves vulnerable. Men’s health overall lags behind, and what I have found is that men appreciate a more private relationship with their doctor — where they don’t have to tell someone in the front desk or call center about why they are coming to be seen, and if their doctor can dispense medications for things like erectile dysfunction or mental health in a more private manner than going to a pharmacy, it makes things so different. So I think a big takeaway is: in so many cases such as skin cancer, Parkinson’s disease, kidney stones, gout, heart attacks, etc., men are affected more than women and an ongoing relationship with a doctor where access to care is easy can make a big difference in early diagnosis and treatment.
What’s your go-to nutritious snack or lunch to fuel your workday?
My go to snack is an apple and peanut butter (and if I need to indulge, I add some sugar-free dark chocolate chips that are sweetened with monk fruit or stevia). It’s a great amount of protein, high fiber, and a low glycemic index/load.
When you’re not at work, what do you do to keep your mind and body healthy?
I generally eat a very low glycemic impact and vegetarian eating style. We do a lot of traveling (when the world permits!) to give a mental break; I find that for me, changing the environment helps the mind break as well. With three kids between ages 10 months to 9 years, we are pretty much on the go all the time, so I find that meaningful pauses and breaks are very helpful. And I’ll be the first to admit: it’s hard. And am I perfect at the constant balance of life? Absolutely not. But am I trying every day? Definitely.
What does “health” look like for you?
Health is a relative state of mind and body. It’s not necessarily completely void of problems, but in such that the problems do not occupy a significant portion of one’s energy. I view it much more holistically — physical body, mind, spirit, etc. Someone may have diabetes and still feel “healthy” when you ask them.
Often times, we can’t “fix” all the problems, but we can learn to live with them the best we can. So at the end, it is really about having the maximum vitality we can, providing our body the best nourishment we can, and allowing enough time and space for the self-actualization state of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
What’s one piece of advice you want our readers to take away when it comes to living a healthy, vibrant life?
It’s a journey, not a destination. What may work one day, may not work later. What never worked before, may work now. Always be open, be willing to learn, be willing to try, and remember that very few things are rigid — oftentimes, it’s about responding to something, and it comes down to learning as much as you can so that you can choose to respond the best way you can in that moment.
Thank you for being a part of our community! Want to be featured on our Vibrant Health blog? Send an email to Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org