Who Am I? Well, I’m Erica Benedicto, Chicago-born, El Paso-raised, daughter of Matias and Rosa, sister to Rocio, Justin’s main squeeze, auntie to Andria, Patrick, Alyssa and Sarah. Thank you for asking!
I guess I’m also a Integrative Physician Assistant by training, super connector, community builder, clinical curator, healthy life/healthy practice guide, yoga teacher, food as medicine fanatic by craft and passion. Oh and lover of music, food, life and all creatures big and small.
Medicine is the profession that I have admired and wanted to be a part of since I was a little girl running through my dads family practice clinic yelling “Papi, Papi” and always being in awe of the brilliant, fun people in white coats who helped me feel better. The profession that allowed me to buy a house in East Austin, granted me the name ‘neighborhood doctor’ and allowed me to travel through France and Spain for two months and still having a job waiting for me. Medicine keeps me a ‘friend’ for health questions, gets me dinner and happy hours because someone wants to meet me for referrals and has allowed me to have the sweet life that I currently have.
I went into medicine to help people, not my pocketbook, not insurance company’s or a drug company’s pocketbook. I went into medicine because I wanted to assist the sick, the underserved, the destitute, the vulnerable. I wasn’t drawn by the fancy privilege of writing prescriptions or the title, but rather to discuss their diseases, predominately their chronic diseases and figure out the root of the cause, the triggers, the possible link to stress (the unquantifiable test), the environment. I was also drawn by the opportunity to educate and empower people about their disease/disorder/symptom and how to reverse or prevent it from occurring again. There is a magic to an office visit when you sit and talk to a patient and they allow themselves to become vulnerable with you and allow you to dig deep with them, that part I’ll never tire of.
CHANGING FROM TRADITIONAL MEDICINE TO ROOT-CAUSE HEALTH
Instead of trying to ‘fix’ my patients, I started working on myself. I began to get into food as medicine. In our medical training, nutrition is lacking and doesn’t really exist in any rigorous manner. I began to try to heal my own ailments through food. I saw drastic changes from decreased anxiety to less stomach issues and acne. I felt better, had more energy, so started practicing yoga again. Then I felt more at peace with life and more able to sit in silence, so I began to meditate. I began to get happier, healthier and have more zest for life and practice, something that had been missing for a long time. As I became more and more involved in self-care as healthcare, my practice did as well. I started studying more whole health approaches like resilience, acupuncture, yoga therapy, Ayurveda, essential oils. I was falling in love with these modalities and all the help they provided me, so I brought them back to my patients in underserved areas. Using food as medicine as the gateway drug, people were actually getting better!
A BIT OF VULNERABILITY
It took me a long time to reconcile my very vigorous science background (I’ve been a science nerd since age six) and my ever evolving more spiritual, ‘hippy’, less evidence-based more anecdotal side. I stacked up the degrees and certifications so that I could appear legitimate and credentialed, the mask was on and working! The alphabet soup behind my name were and continue to be my security blanket. If I was talking to a doctor or a hospital administrator, I was confident because of my title. I still have issues when talking to medical professionals about my new vision. The name Shiny Healthy People is another mask. I could have used my name, like many in the field do, but instead I wanted to hide once again. But in the past few months, I’ve learned that titles don’t mean anything when you have a passion and a dream that includes helping others. I have also realized that I have an important skill-set that I’ve worked really hard to attain and it is my responsibility to share it with the world.
WHERE YOU COME IN:
My dreams have shifted from out of the exam room into building community and partnerships among the healers and the sick. I need you as a patient to teach me about the realities in your world that affect your health, so that I can learn cultural sensitivity and humility. I want revolutionary healthcare practitioners from all specialities to teach and inspire us on whole health as many of them have been practicing this way for decades. From integrative to functional to nutrition to yoga therapy and health coaches and everyone in between, lets be friends, lets start a tribe and heal the healthcare system together! I also want to collaborate and connect to folks and talk about the changes that are happening in healthcare and medicine, start a journal club or a healthy-practice pow-wow. I love to create spaces and meetings where like-minded individuals come together to share best-practices, consults, interesting cases and cultivate relationships that last a lifetime. But I also want healthcare pros who are bouncing from practice to practice looking for that ‘perfect fit’ that doesn’t exist in the allopathic model. And I definitely invite you to join if you’re about to hit rock bottom and feel burned-out and be surrounded by folks who are revolutionizing healthcare and inspire you to do the same.
I’m a healthy life and healthy practice guide. I provide the tools and resources and community to help you create optimal health that I believe is in each and every one of us. I provide the same for healthcare pros who want to reginite that fire for healing and helping that called you to medicine in the first place.
So I hope you’ll let me join you on your journey to regain control of your health. I’m here to assist, educate and empower you to find the healer within.
The SHORT of the LONG:
Name: Erica Benedicto, (hope to put the middle name Ixchel in there one day)
Education: BA in English/Pre-Med from UT Austin, Masters of Science in Physician Assistant Studies from A.T. Still University, Masters of Public Health, focus Environmental Health
Home: Austin, Texas, Planet Earth, most of the time
Loves: My family, each and everyone of them, blood related and soul related, my puppy dog, the greenbelt, traveling, live music, hip-hop, my profession, going to school to learn about anything, real food in large quantities and often, and pretty much every other creature on this planet.
Dislikes: Apathy, laziness, blame, disconnection, roaches (though I’ve learned to shoo them out instead of smash them), how delicious pizza tastes and how much I love it anyway.
Funny Story: During a stint at Northwestern Medical School, I lived off Lakeshore Drive and saw Woody Allen sitting on a bench and immediately thought “it would be nice if I could talk to him and have him say hi to my friend Fernie, who is a filmmaker and Woody Allen lover”. I clicked through the numbers on my Nokia phone as I walked towards him, Fernie answered on the other line and I unveiled my plan to him, yelling “WOODY!” as I inched closer. Woody was apparently alarmed, quickly got up and began his escape “WOODY, WOODY, WAIT!! I JUST WANT YOU TO TALK TO MY FRIEND ON THE PHONE”. He ran into the building that I believe Oprah owned, as the doorman stopped me. I apologized to Fernie that I didn’t make his dreams come true. That was awesome.