Dr. Richard Nahas is an integrative medical doctor with a focus on treating chronic pain and healing the brain. He founded his current practice, The Seekers Centre, in Ottawa in 2006.
He earned a medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1998 and then spent four years working in emergency rooms in academic teaching hospitals and remote rural outposts across Canada.
Dr. Nahas works to promote an evidence-based approach to integrative medicine. He is currently developing The BEAM Project, or Bringing Evidence to Alternative Medicine, which aims to collect data about the effectiveness of many forms of alternative medicine with modern technology. The ultimate goal of the project is to produce an app that gives patients valuable information about what treatments work and what treatments do not.
Although Dr. Nahas has broad experience in traditional, Western medicine, he has also studied alternative forms of healing around the world, giving him the knowledge necessary for a holistic and innovative approach to treating chronic pain.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I have always been a bit of a Seeker, including an interest in travel, history and other cultures. But it was in 2003 that I stepped away from emergency medicine to more deeply explore the healing traditions of the world. This was just after the SARS outbreak of 2003, and I was a front-line provider on a team that included public health experts and the CDC. SARS was similar to COVID19 in that we saw the worst outcomes in patients with diabetes, obesity and other risk factors. When I saw the tremendous resources that were targeting the acute infection, I felt that an important piece was missing from medicine. It was like an “aha moment” for me, and I wanted to learn what other healing traditions could teach medicine about how to help the body heal itself.
So I spent two years backpacking through 30 countries to learn from shamans and other traditional healers about their approaches to illness and healing. I returned to Ottawa and founded The Seekers Centre, and since then I have continued to study, practice and teach how to integrate guideline-based care – what some call conventional medicine – with other approaches, choosing those that make the most sense for each patient. I treat chronic pain, so the goals of treatment include both managing symptoms and trying to find and treat the root causes of chronic pain. I use prescription drugs, injections, and I refer patients for blood tests, imaging and surgery when indicated, but I also use mindfulness, breathing, myofascial manual therapy, acupuncture, natural health products and other specialized treatments.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have a full-time clinical practice, which I love. But I am developing a handful of projects so I spend an hour or two at my desk before and after patient care to support my team and manage my workload. Evenings are reserved for family, friends and fun. My focus right now is not so much on being productive, but rather on developing my skills as a leader so I can continue to build and support a team. I walk to work, which is an important time for me to think and plan, but I also benefit a lot from the breathing, mindfulness and stretching techniques that I teach. I use them myself every day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
One thing that helps me is the courage of my convictions. I have set some pretty ambitious goals, but they are based on the sincere belief that blockages are one of the most important missing links in medicine. For me, that means that quitting is not an option. I have a long-term perspective, and I am realistic about how long and difficult it is to create paradigm shifts. But creating and developing new ideas in medicine requires hard work, patience and dedication. There are no shortcuts.
It helps to have great people supporting you along the way, and my staff at Seekers Centre has been instrumental in helping me bring ideas to life. I get a lot of motivation from the immediate and obvious results that we see in our patients when we apply these methods. It is considered anecdotal data, but it keeps me focused on how important our work is and is a very real and tangible form of evidence.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I have come to understand just how profoundly blockchain technology will change the world of data, and its potential to improve healthcare. I am currently working on a project called BEAM, which aims to Bring Evidence to Alternative Medicine with blockchain-based mobile data tools. BEAM will make it possible to crowdsource data from the millions of patients who use CAM every day, and the blockchain will make it possible to connect this data with every other healthcare database. Blockchain technology is still in its infancy, but it will solve a lot of the world’s problems.
While many patients have experienced real benefits from CAM and integrative treatments, most of them are still considered unproven. With the technology available now, we have the ability to empower patients and providers to collect data at the point of care. The BEAM Project aims to put this data on the blockchain, creating a global resource for evidence-based integrative medicine.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I exercise every day, whether it is walking, swimming, rowing, lifting weights or riding my bicycle. I also have a pretty tight and well-structured daily routine. This is critical for me, since I am a creative person and my mind likes to wander. My clinical practice is also hands-on and the procedures I perform requires me to be present and mindful. This is something that helps me a lot, and I am very grateful for it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t worry so much. Everything is as it should be, and you are on a path even if you don’t always see it clearly.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
What the chinese call Qi is real, and vibrations in long chains of fascia in connective tissue are a key mechanism that maintains homeostasis in the body. This is an aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine and many of the world’s healing traditions that scientific medicine has overlooked. Evidence-based medicine has created a huge barrier to entry to medical innovation, and will limit humanity to innovations and discoveries that can be patented for profit. While there are many CAM therapies that are ineffective, there are probably hundreds of interventions that could improve standard care. This is one of many obstacles faced by CAM providers, but I believe there will come a day when conventional and CAM treatments are commonly prescribed in the same doctor’s office and wielded as dual methods for healing. That’s my hope.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Never stop learning. Personal growth is just as necessary as professional growth. I don’t think entrepreneurs ever rest on their laurels. With the speed at which technology is transforming everything, there’s more need for agility than ever before.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
After a few years, I changed the focus of Seekers Centre so that we work almost exclusively on healing chronic pain. That has allowed us not only to develop a niche for ourselves, but also to develop and improve our methods. It was definitely the right call.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
While I have had to overcome a lot of setbacks, these were not really due to my own failure. I overcame these by recognizing that there are setbacks on every path, and that my job is to pick myself up, keep calm and carry on. I think I still fail on a regular basis, though, because I am learning as I go. I am trained as a doctor, and I have developed many other skills along the way, but building a company requires a thousand small skills that I am trying to do better every day. I try to be patient with myself, and not sweat the small stuff.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think the metaverse, augmented reality and virtual reality will create huge opportunities in healthcare.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought a really great pair of thermal underwear. They are life-changing.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use Asana to collaborate with my team every day. There are many tools like this, but it transformed the way we work and it is hard to imagine working without it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Yuval Noah Harari has written a few books based on the ideas he introduced in his first book. It is called Sapiens:a brief history of humankind. It changed the way I see the world.
What is your favorite quote?
Keep calm and carry on. It’s not really a quote, more of a mantra. But it has helped me more than once.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.