Meet Your Doctor: Dennis Lipton, MD
A Texas native, Dr. Dennis Lipton is the newest addition to the medical team at Vail Valley Medical Center. Since his college days at Texas A & M, throughout medical school at UT Houston and his residency and ensuing urgent/primary care practices in North Carolina, Dr. Lipton has dreamt of bringing his medical career to a ski town. Finally his wish has come true. Specializing in Internal Medicine, Dr. Lipton sat down to answer a few questions about his field.
What exactly does an internal medicine doctor do?
Internal medicine doctors prevent, diagnose and treat disease in adults. We can take care of people throughout their entire adult life. Although most people at age 18 are not really thinking about what their health risks will be as they advance through middle age, it’s important to start paying attention early to possibly avoid issues later.
Why should young, healthy people see an internal medicine doctor?
Just seeing a physician and getting a detailed family history can do a great deal to help a person stay healthy and avoid a health catastrophe. It can be important to know health problems that exist in grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as immediate family. Is there a history of sudden death at young age anywhere in the family? Certain types of cancers? Diabetes? Heart attacks? For example, there are several genetic disorders that predispose individuals to blood clots and potential early death that have just come to light in the past 10-15 years. It’s my job to probe into this type of history and determine if any of it is relevant to my patients’ health. I find out about their lifestyle and determine if they are at increased risk. This can result in detailed conversations about eating right and exercising to discussing medical tests and screens that are available or recommended at any particular age. I am also often the first to discover signs and symptoms that indicate the early onset of a problem. For example, increased thirst and fatigue are easily ignored, but they can be symptoms of diabetes. I can treat a wide variety of acute and chronic medical problems, from sinus infections and headaches to high blood pressure and diabetes. Importantly, it’s also my job to realize when you need to see a specialist, and I can help you get there as soon as possible.
How did you know you wanted to become a doctor?
My father was a physician and I grew up always thinking I would follow in his footsteps. I was reading books about health and fitness from my mid-teenage years and I always had a natural curiosity about how the human body worked. In college I was initially pre-med but switched majors to meteorology, which was my other interest. I knew I could still go to medical school with any undergraduate degree as long as I did well. In my last year of college at Texas A&M, my good friend who was starting his first year of medical school became my roommate and I realized I was much more interested in what he was studying than what I was studying. I finished up my meteorology degree then started taking the necessary pre-requisites for medical school.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
I love educating and empowering people to achieve their health goals on their own. Usually this involves dietary change and exercise. The most dramatic example is when diabetic patients improve their diet and fitness level, and thereby reduce or eliminate their need for insulin and other meds. Essentially they become non-diabetic.
What sets you apart from other doctors in your field?
Because I follow a completely plant-based diet, I probably talk to patients more about improving diet and lifestyle. Since most people already know they should be eating more vegetables and fruits, this also leads into talking to patients about what motivates them. Why are they not eating the way they know they should? Would it be safe or even possible to reduce or discontinue prescription meds if they made changes? Are they interested in this? Usually it involves a change in lifestyle, but for some people the possibility of living life without prescription drugs is very motivating. Other people’s life circumstances just don’t currently allow major lifestyle change. For those people it’s important to realize that they will have to take it more slowly and just make small changes that don’t take a lot of time and effort.
Do you have a philosophy on how to treat patients?
I treat patients the way I would want my family members to be treated.
What is the No. 1 thing people should do to be healthy?
Eat more fruits and vegetables and try to get some exercise every day. It’s not a secret.
What are you doing when you aren’t working?
I generally follow my own advice and participate in some fitness activity nearly every day. Fortunately here in the Vail Valley the opportunities are endless. Since my wife and two kids are also vegetarian and as the main “chef” in our house, I spend a fair amount of planning and preparing plant-based meals, trying to use as much organic and local food as possible.
Dr. Lipton is now seeing and accepting patients at Vail Valley Medical Center’s new Internal Medicine clinic. Appointments can be schedule by calling (970) 477-3090. To learn more, see Dr. Lipton's online bio.