DELMAR – The Stram Center For Integrative Medicine at 90 Adams Place in Delmar will celebrate 20 years of integrative care on Oct. 21 from 1-5 p.m. with an open house. The anniversary celebration will include live medical talks, opportunities to try hyperbaric oxygen therapy and acupuncture, plus food, door prizes and cooking demonstrations.
The center offers a variety of services to manage chronic illnesses, Lyme disease, pain, weight and diet problems, women’s health and cancer care, emphasizing functional medicine.
“We are celebrating a success, not our personal success, but success in integrative medicine and the success is of people demanding this kind of medicine,” said Nadine Stram, the center’s business manager and new patient navigator.
The center already received over 100 RSVPs and she expects more. Two tents will house activities, such as NIA and yoga. Attendees are invited inside to speak with team members or to attend talks on treating lyme and chronic illness, nutrition, regenerative injection therapy, acupuncture, women’s health, or IV Therapies for wellness and chronic illness.
Opening in 2003 at 388 Kenwood Avenue, the center moved in February 2015 to Adams Place.
“We opened in Delmar because we wanted to give back to the community,” Dr. Ronald Stram, the center’s medical director and founder said. “I wanted to feel I was the hometown doctor in a way I envisioned health care in my beginning.”
The Stram Center, which now employs 20 people, started with just Nadine and Ronald Stram and its current acupuncturist Rebecca Rice.
The new location allowed the center to expand its practice areas and to create a home-like atmosphere.
“We call ourselves the ‘Stramily,’” Nadine Stram said.
That’s because not only do she, her husband Ronald Stram, their daughters Danielle, a psychotherapist, and Rachel, on social media, work there. The Strams strive to make their employees and patients feel like family.
Nadine Stram said she spent so much time thinking about color schemes and flooring for the Adams Place office that she was dreaming about them.
“We wanted to create a feeling like you are not walking into a medical facility and that when you walk in that this is something different and not just another medical journey because our patients have been to so many doctors, but are still sick,” she said.
When asked what changed most in 20 years, Rice said, “When I first started as an acupuncturist, I would speak to many other doctors and people in the community who didn’t know what alternative medicine was and now it is more commonplace and doctors are referring people to me.”
The practice, built by word of mouth, draws about half its patients from the Capital District, mostly from the towns of Bethlehem and Guilderland. The remainder come from other regions in New York and other states.
“We even have Amish patients who don’t use telephones or electronics so we have to communicate with them by letter,” Nadine Stram said.
Over 20 years, the center has seen more than 15,000 patients. A couple of thousand are active at one time. Twenty years ago the patients were predominantly female, but now the practice is split about 50-50.
The center can see about 100 patients a day across therapy areas, but Ronald Stram sees only four to five patients daily.
“Traditional medicine is time based; by contrast we give time,” he said.
That focus on patient time led the center to stop accepting insurance (but it provides billing codes so patients can apply independently to their insurance companies).
“We used to take insurance, but it was mandatory that it did not pay past a certain amount of time,” said Ronald Stram. “We never falter in giving time to people. … If someone cannot complete their treatment [because of cost], we might offer discounted rates.”
However, he believes most people will find a way to pay for services.
“We find that people may have little means, but they are in such poor health, poor quality of life that they look to improve their quality of life,” he said. “If you can’t work and then you can become functional, this investment is worth it.”
As for the next 20 years, the center will continue to “push the envelope to see what else is out there,” said Ronald Stram. “A lot of what we do may not be insurance approved because it has to be FDA approved and it doesn’t mean the FDA did it right.”
He said he also wants to “do more outreach, mission work both in Albany and overseas because I want to promote this type of medicine.”
“This should be the medicine of the future, not merely thought of as alternative or integrative,” he said.
At 65, Stram said he has no plans to retire. He recently met an 80 year old physician. “That’ll be me,” he said.
“It’s an intense practice,” he said. “People come here, sick, desperate, and they need hope and we don’t want people not to continue to provide that.”