A stem cell doctor is a practitioner of stem cell medicine, a new type of regenerative therapy that has the potential to help an unlimited number of patients with ongoing ailments in many new ways.
Stem cell medicine is a relatively new treatment type which uses medicine derived from naturally occurring sources (“stem culture medium”) such as farmed algae. The aim with most treatments is to accelerate the body’s own natural healing processes in response to injury or sickness. Stem cells in the body allow for the rebuilding of structures within the human body following illness or trauma; the introduction of additional adult stem cells can improve the body’s response in these repair situations. The treatment can be used for a vast number of applications, from skin abrasions, recovery from cold and flu, to severe internal organ problems, and reportedly, some cancers.
Stem cell doctors specialise in this type of medicine. They advise the patient on whether the stem cell treatment will be suitable, and either supply medicine or use it in a topical application where necessary. The stem cell doctor will conduct follow-up appointments with the patient and tailor the treatment course to get the best result.
In order to administer stem cell treatments, a doctor is required to complete a full doctorate in medicine, a very large financial commitment for the candidate which will impact on them throughout much of their subsequent working life, and part of the reason for the relatively high salaries of doctors. Stem cell practitioners in the US typically earn in excess of $100,000 dollars per year. UK stem cell doctors can earn between £36,807 (graduate) to £68,638 (consultant), a mean range according to two UK-based scientific journals.
- Understand the nature of the patient’s sickness
- Gauge the likelihood of stem cell therapy in assisting the patient’s own recovery capability
- Prescribe a suitable stem cell-based medicine
- Work with the patient during the course of the treatment and amend when required
- Be constantly keeping up to date with developments in the industry
All students studying to be doctors in the UK will take an undergraduate course in the first instance, leading to a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery qualification. Depending upon the university, the qualification earned (and subsequent letters after their name) will be either MBBS, MBBS/BSc, MBChB, MBBCh or BMBS. These qualifications are collectively referred to as a “first.” Most universities require an A level in chemistry in order to apply for the course, although some accept an AS level. There is also the possibility for those with “life experience” but no A levels to enter as undergraduates, in the case where the candidate is older and wishes to retrain in medicine.
- Be an attentive listener
- Be a strong communicator
- Be able to work as part of a tightly knit medical team which includes other doctors and support staff
- Have a positive attitude and an enthusiasm for constant learning and improvement
- Be empathetic to the patient’s situation
- Be calm under pressure
- Have a thorough understanding of cell behaviour in humans
Most of the stem cell doctor’s work will be conducted in private, at the doctor’s (registered) place of practice. However, due to the innovative and fast-evolving nature of the stem cell arena, those practising are often called upon to act as speakers at forums and international conferences. The doctor must also be kept completely up to date on new applications for the medicine, which means giving a lot of non-practising time to studying journals and reading papers on the stem cell topic.
ExperienceDoctors practising this type of medicine will specialise after a thorough grounding in all aspects of medical care. Typically, the practitioner will spend three years in a GP surgery or hospital before choosing to go into a speciality area of medicine such as stem cell therapy. University students studying medicine are now able to choose stem cell therapy as a post-graduate or Masters course.
Because this area of medicine is still relatively new, there exists an open forum and active regional event calendar where experienced doctors can share best practice methodology and position themselves as experts in the field. Medical journals also actively feature this area of patient care as it is one of the most fast-developing in the world of medicine.
Nearly all stem cell doctors work in private practices, so there is no major employer as such.
Richard DeAndrea, MD, ND, was a resident of San Francisco until he moved to Bangkok to establish a leading stem cell practice in one of Asia’s most prominent medical gateway cities. He graduated from the State University of New York with a medical doctorate in 1990.
What is stem cell medicine technology?
Medicine is enjoying a quiet evolution right now. Science is looking for ways that work more in harmony with the body’s natural regenerative processes than typical artificially synthesised tablets and pills. Breakthrough “cure-all” technology makes aspirin and antibiotics mere child’s play; recent developments in the field of regenerative stem cell therapy have been really astounding.
How did this medicine technology come about and how has it been used in the past?
Practitioners of stem cell medicine recognise six milestones in the last few years. In 2006, an American suffering from paraplegia following a motor vehicle spinal cord injury walked after several applications of stem cell therapy. In 2007, Lisa Ray, an actress known for her role in the TV series Endgame and Psych, reversed her struggle with a rare form of cancer using stem cell therapy. In 2008, The Sunday Times reported British scientists had developed stem cell therapy to cure elderly blindness and macular degeneration in a one-hour procedure. In 2009, The New York Times published a piece entitled, “The latest curative leap to heal professional athletes.” It may sound like science fiction, but it could transform sports medicine in the future. Stem cells can grow knee ligaments or tendons and it is the future of sports injury repair. In 2010, New York Yankees Pitcher and winner of the Cy Young Award, was forced to the bench with no hope in sight; he received stem cells for a rotator cuff injury and in 6 months had returned to the bull pen at 38 with a 98 mph fast ball. In 2011, Presidential Candidate, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, received stem cell therapy to cure a severe lower back injury that has largely repaired.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise'?
A normal work day is the consultation and administering of stem cell medicine to help patients with all types of ailments. We use stem cell therapy to regenerate, rejuvenate and restore the healing powers of the body using safe EU and FDA recognized techniques that offer obvious long lasting results. It is our commitment to make this and many other therapies affordable, accessible and safe.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
A call to cure the incurable: paralysed limbs, rare forms of cancer, blindness in the elderly, athletic injury, chronic lower back pain and hair loss have all been reversed using stem cell therapy. This has been documented and proved and we are still at the foot of the stem cell development curve.
What do you like most about the job?
It is actually the medicine itself that solves the problem. My job is to advise patients, create awareness of the miracle of stem cell rejuvenative repair, and to administer the treatment itself where appropriate. I enjoy the fact that I am able to facilitate people to help themselves.
What do you like least about the job?
The politics. In any industry in its infancy stage, there can be a lot of mistruth spread and miscommunication delivered to patients, which does not help. It is also something of a gold rush industry, so it can be difficult to separate the good from the bad.
What are the key responsibilities?
The happiness of the patient. Everything comes down to this. The stem cell medicine is the real miracle worker that enables this to happen.
What is the starting salary, and how does this increase over time with promotion?
A six figure salary yearly, if you’re talking about American dollars. The industry has a vast potential for future growth, and it will eventually become the primary treatment method for most ailments. Already, we are seeing Malaysian-made products, for example, which are not too expensive for patients to be able to buy and use every month. It has a great upside for Doctors of this type of medicine in terms of possible remuneration, of course.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Have no expectations as they can be disappointed. The industry has a lot of room to develop and establish itself, so new entrants right now will come into it at a pioneering and therefore very exciting phase.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
Compassion; the main thing is understanding the patient’s desire to heal themselves and feel good that you have made it possible for that to happen.