Patients might leave Moon Cycle Medicine with a prescription for time on a yoga mat or new dinner plans.
Dr. Kayla Luhrs, founder and CEO for the nonprofit with a presence in downtown Juneau and Portland, combines family medicine with traditional and alternative medicines and an unusual business model for an experience that’s designed to be different.
“This is relationship-based medicine,” Luhrs said during an interview. “I really try to get to know my patients, what their goals are, where they’re going, what they really want and what symptoms are bothering them. Then, we try to do symptom reduction in ways that don’t cause harm.”
That means an effort is made to limit prescriptions to Western medicines, said Luhrs, who attended the University of Wyoming for her undergraduate degree. She earned her medical degree from the University of Washington through the WWAMI Program, the regional medical education partnership that includes Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.
She said the aversion to pharmaceuticals is because there are often not long-term data for how they affect people. Instead of drugs, Luhrs said she might try to lead patients toward the “power of the mind to heal the body.”
“The latest data on the West on yoga, they don’t call it yoga,” Luhrs said. “They call it neuromuscular integration, which I kind of like because it kind of gives a more clear picture for people who speak English of what it is — integrating your mind and body. We know that has profound healing effects. So I give people yoga prescriptions, and then I teach classes at Rainforest Yoga and Yoga Path that patients that can come to.”
However, if a family with an asthmatic child were to start seeing Luhrs for primary care, she said she would write them a script for asthma medication if that’s what the parents wanted.
“Of course, of course, but we can also talk about other ways to strengthen the lungs, and I do food allergy testing,” Luhrs said. “I lead a group elimination diet for allergies twice a year.”
An elimination diet is a way to identify food sensitivities or allergies by removing possibly problematic foods from a diet and paying attention to the results.
“I say mood and food are my specialties,” Luhrs said.
She said she is also open to being a supplementary services in addition to primary care people receive.
“I’m happy to work with your doctor,” Luhrs said.
She said some people may have conditions that require a specialist, and their medical needs could be best met by another doctor.
“That may be another family physician in the community,” Luhrs said. “If you’re on chemotherapy, some family physicians can do that independently.”
Another distinction that sets Moon Cycle Medicine apart from other health care providers is its structure and billing cycle. People can opt to become members and be billed monthly — like the moon cycle, hence the name — and be able to book one appointment per month and 50 percent off other Moon Cycle services.
Moon Cycle is outside all insurance networks, Luhrs said.
She said she’s found the one-visit-per-moon-cycle appointments to be a good way to stay in touch with patients.
That practice started in Portland, where Moon Cycle Medicine started, and persisted in the capital city when the Juneau location opened in June 2018.
“I found that was really effective,” Luhrs said. “If you only see your doctor once a year, it’s going to be kind of hard to make changes in your health.”
And she wants patients to have agency.
”I want my patients to really feel that they have a hand in their care,” Luhrs said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.