Integrative healthcare is an approach that combines conventional medicine with complementary and alternative therapies to address the physical, mental and emotional aspects of a person’s well-being. This holistic model recognizes that health is influenced by a variety of factors, including lifestyle, environment and individual circumstances. Integrative healthcare emphasizes a patient-centered approach, considering the whole person rather than just treating symptoms. Integrative wellness practitioners come from various fields and often collaborate to provide a comprehensive approach to health. Acupuncturists (APs) use traditional Chinese medicine techniques to balance the body’s energy flow and promote health. A Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM) might blend acupuncture with other modalities like herbal medicine and cupping. Chiropractors (DCs) use adjustments and other therapies to address issues with the spine and musculoskeletal system, while licensed massage therapists (LMTs) utilize manual techniques to address physical discomfort and promote relaxation. Professionals in the field of nutrition and dietetics like applied clinical nutritionists (ACNs), licensed dietitians (LDs) and registered dietitians (RDs) can address nutritional deficiencies and create personalized nutrition plans. Certified wellness coaches (CWCs) can help patients set and achieve their personal health and wellness goals.  Health looks different for every individual. So it stands to reason that the path to wellness is similarly unique. Five local practitioners share the stories of how they got into the alternative wellness field, and give insights into their specialized modalities of care.

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Five Petal Holistic Healing Center

Dr. Angela Rauter, AP, DOM has always been drawn to the arts. As a promising young dancer, Rauter was accepted into prestigious performing arts schools including Juilliard and the Boston Conservatory before ultimately deciding to study at SUNY Purchase. She continued dancing throughout her twenties and her career eventually brought her to the acclaimed Sarasota Contemporary Dance company where she stayed for six seasons. Despite her successes, Rauter knew her dancing career had a shelf life. 

“Once you reach your forties, your body just cannot do the things it used to do,” she says. “I knew that the life or career of a dancer has a limit, but it’s kind of neat because you get to live two lifetimes.”  While art was important in Rauter’s formative years, science has also played a big role in her life. At the age of twelve, Rauter was diagnosed with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, a condition characterized by the growth of benign tumors or papillomas throughout the respiratory tract. In the years since, she has endured 17 surgeries to remove growths and scar tissue from her airway and vocal folds. 

As she prepared to transition away from dance and enter a new phase in life, Rauter was interested in exploring her scientific side. Medicine is as much of an art as it is a science, and that duality appealed to her. She enrolled in an intensive five-year program at the East West College of Natural Medicine, where she graduated with a Master’s Degree in Oriental Medicine. In 2014, Rauter founded the Five Petal Holistic Healing Center in Sarasota where she uses a combination of modern and traditional techniques to treat her patients. “I consider myself first and foremost a Doctor of Chinese Medicine,” Rauter explains. “But I’m certainly deeply respectful of Western medicine and I’m so glad that it exists. I would not be alive without it.” This philosophy is evident in her practice. Recognized by the Florida Department of Health as a primary care physician, Rauter can perform standard medical testing services in her office including blood tests, urinalysis, hormone panels and imaging. But when she designs personalized health plans for patients, she will include a variety of treatments including visceral manual therapy, herbal medicine and whole food supplements. She notes that acupuncture is the foundation of her practice. “Obviously my expertise is in holistic and Eastern medicine,” Rauter says. “But my approach to medicine is to use everything. I do not take sides.” — Five Petal Holistic Healing Center, 2033 Wood St. #115, Sarasota, 941-315-6858,

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JBS Nutrition

From a young age, Julie Bender RDN, LDN, CWC believed in the healing power of food. “I grew up in Pennsylvania. We had a huge garden and my mom canned so much of our own food, so I really saw the value of eating off the land,” Bender says. “Then in high school I took a chemistry class and learned about food and what is happening when we break it down and extract the essential nutrients that help all our body systems work. It fascinated me.” Bender went on to earn a degree in nutrition and became a registered and licensed dietitian. For the next several years she worked in conventional medicine, coaching and counseling patients about food and managing outpatient nutrition centers at two major hospitals. Even back then, she felt that something was lacking. “Despite feeling rather successful in my work, I always felt I was missing a tool set,” she explains. “I didn’t have answers for some of my clients, and I really felt like I could do more in some circumstances.” Bender did eventually find that tool set, but first she had to become the patient. 

“A little over ten years ago I really started to struggle with my own health after being healthy for most of my life,” she says. “I started to experience brain fog, rashes, digestive issues, fatigue, just one thing after another. This was despite doing all the “right things” like sleeping, working out and eating healthy.”

Bender visited conventional doctors, but all her tests and labs came back normal. In an effort to understand what was happening to her body she spent two years receiving intensive training on functional nutrition, which is a more holistic approach to diet. She also began working with holistic practitioners and a functional and integrative doctor. With their help, she finally discovered that her symptoms were a result of mold toxicity. While she was on her own personal health journey, Berner opened JBS Nutrition & Wellness, where she takes an integrative approach to helping patients who are dealing with complex gut and autoimmune conditions. While her background in conventional medicine has been invaluable, she enjoys the freedom of getting to spend ample time with her patients and provide individualized care which may include testing, nutrition counseling and supplements. “A personalized approach is foundational to my practice,” Bender says. “We really need to appreciate and understand that each person is wonderfully unique. There’s not just one approach that will work for everyone. We’re all different, and that’s what makes us so amazing.”— JBS Nutrition, 214-986-1024,

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Danee Barnett Weight Loss & Wellness

Many practitioners find their way into the alternative medicine field later in life. Dr. Danee Barnett, AP, DOM was one of them. She was in her forties when she enrolled in acupuncture school.“My husband and I had a sailboat and two small children. Like everybody that has a sailboat, we thought we were going to sail around the world,” she explains. “I thought acupuncture would be a good thing to have under my belt for helping care for my own family, and I thought perhaps I could work in anchorages.” Barnett and her family never did end up sailing around the world, but her interest in acupuncture stuck. In 1998, she graduated from the East West College of Natural Medicine in Sarasota where she studied acupuncture, homeopathy and traditional Chinese medicine. Her newfound knowledge of alternative therapies would soon come in handy.

“Right after I graduated from acupuncture school, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and endometrial cancer,” Barnett shares. Under the care of an oncologist, she underwent chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to fight the cancer itself. She also turned to acupuncture, homeopathy and meditation to help alleviate the side effects of the cancer treatments. Barnett’s experience as both a patient and a practitioner gave her a unique insight into how alternative medicine and modern medicine could go hand-in-hand. After her recovery, she studied at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York in their integrative acupuncture therapy program. There, Barnett earned a certification in acupuncture for cancer patients, and also learned about the importance of diet.

“At Sloan Kettering they were adamant that being overweight was a problem, especially in patients with breast cancer or colon cancer,” Barnett says. Concerned about her own weight, she developed a weight loss plan for herself and her family. They were so successful at losing weight and keeping it off, that Barnett focused on fine-tuning the program for her clients. While she does still offer acupuncture and herbal medicine services, her weight-loss program has become a big part of her practice. There are four elements to Barnett’s weight-loss program, which she refers to as Nutritional Rehabilitation. The elements include weekly acupuncture to combat what Barnett calls “head hunger” or emotional eating, an amino acid formula, weekly B-complex vitamin injections, and a custom homeopathic formula to reduce physical hunger.

Barnett’s personal experiences have led her to work with cancer patients, but she’s clear that she’s part of a bigger picture. “I like to term myself as integrative rather than alternative,” she says. “If someone comes to me for cancer treatment and they aren’t under the care of an oncologist, I will not see them. It’s unrealistic to think that you can get some acupuncture and cure cancer because you cannot. You need both.” — Danee Barnett Weight Loss & Wellness, 330 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, 941-365-0812,

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Longevity Wellness Clinic

Dr. Cynthia Clark, AP, ACN has always had a voracious appetite for knowledge. “Growing up, I was a studious little bookworm,” Clark laughs. “I was great in school and I loved learning. I happily identified with being a nerd.” In college, she decided to push herself to try new things. A self-described “ninety pound weakling”, she enrolled in a lifeguarding class her first semester. After spending her teenage years lifting books instead of barbells, Clark struggled with the physicality of the class. But like any dedicated student she went above and beyond by running, swimming and lifting weights outside of class to build up her strength and stamina. The class instilled in her a passion for physical activity that would ultimately go hand-in-hand with her love of learning. “I studied martial arts for 13 years, and during that time I took a class in anatomy and physiology out of interest of what was happening inside the body,” she says. “I was fascinated.” After graduating from college, Clark embarked on more conventional career paths. She owned a technology consulting firm before becoming the chief operating officer of a company that built luxury homes. But when the housing bubble burst, she found herself at a crossroads. She thought about getting back into the IT industry and was in the process of interviewing with Microsoft, but something didn’t feel right.

“I did some soul searching about what would be the most important thing for me, and I thought working miracles was about the coolest thing I could imagine doing,” Clark says. “I had only had acupuncture a few times, but I’d had some profound healing experiences as a result. I knew there were things happening inside of me that I didn’t understand. There was a whole system that was totally new to me and really powerful and relevant. So that’s how I ended up in Chinese medicine school.”

After studying to become a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Clark went on to open the Longevity Wellness Clinic in 2012. She uses her training in both Eastern and Western medical theory to treat clients with a wide array of health issues, including disorders of the digestive, musculoskeletal, reproductive and nervous systems using modalities like acupuncture, cupping, gua sha and Chinese herbal medicine. Clark has thrived in the integrative medicine field, in large part because it feeds into her love of learning.

“One thing I really love about my practice is that every single one of my clients is my teacher. We’re on the journey together and we have permission to explore,” Clark says. “I’m still the nerd I was when I was a little kid and now I’m always learning new things.”  — Longevity Wellness Clinic, 528 48th St. Ct. E, Bradenton, 941-923-9355,

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Stone Wellness Integrative Therapies

Sometimes our biggest challenges in life can lead to our greatest successes. Dr. Susan K. Stone, DOM, AP, CRST exemplifies that concept. At the age of 43, Stone was dealing with both the loss of her mother and the end of her marriage. As if those changes weren’t enough, Stone was also looking to switch careers after spending fifteen years as a yoga instructor in order to better support her young daughter. 

Stone had always believed in the benefits of alternative medicine and had begun seeing an acupuncturist to help her find balance and deal with grief. He suggested that she would make an excellent practitioner in the alternative medicine field and urged her to look into the East West College of Natural Medicine in Sarasota. Stone was interested, but worried about committing to three and a half years of schooling. 

“I was bouncing things off a dear friend and she said, ‘Susan, three and a half years is going to fly by no matter what, so you might as well do something that can change your life,’” Stone says. It was a compelling point. Stone enrolled at the East West College of Natural Medicine, graduating in 2011 with a master’s degree in Oriental Medicine and a B.S. in Professional Health Science. For Stone, it was all worth the time and effort. “Given what the last ten or twelve years of my life have been like, I can’t imagine not having done this,” she says.

For Stone, one of the appealing aspects of alternative medicine is a sense of collaboration and community. She credits another local practitioner, Dr. Eric Winder D.C., with sparking her interest in fascia. Fascia is a connective tissue that is found throughout the human body, forming a three-dimensional web that surrounds and supports muscles, bones, organs and other structures. When fascia is damaged or restricted it can cause a multitude of issues including balance issues, muscle dysfunction,and chronic pain. Stone believes that trauma to the fascia can persist long after you think an injury has healed. “Let’s say you were ten and you had a fall off your bike,” she explains. “Or you stand up and hit your head. Even if you shake it off, it might not allow the fascia to really move and glide like it should. All these things can leave a mark and change the way your body develops. You might forget, but your body remembers.”

Stone uses an array of modalities in her practice, including acupuncture, infrared sauna therapy, Chinese medicine and more. Patients dealing with pain or limited mobility are often treated with acupuncture, fascial work or a combination of the two. Stone has now created her own style of fascial release therapy called Fascia Reset(™) and is considered a leader in the field. Not bad for someone who got a bit of a late start. “It’s hard when you’re 18 or 22 to figure out what you want to do with your life. Sometimes you have to kind of live your life to figure out what you want to do with it,” Stone says. “But I wouldn’t change a thing.” — Stone Wellness Integrative Therapies, 804 40th St. W., Bradenton, 941-896-9746,

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Salt of the Earth Sarasota

Dianna Manoogian comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, but she never planned to become one herself. After working in the corporate world she took time away from work to raise her children. But that all changed seven years ago when she visited her cousin in Massachusetts and saw the salt cave she had built in her hair salon. “I thought, ‘That’s kind of cool. We don’t have anything like that in Sarasota,’” Manoogian recalls. “My husband said, ‘You should do that.’” 

When Manoogian and her husband returned home they began looking at real estate, and within six months Salt of the Earth Sarasota had opened its doors. “Salt therapy does do other things, but first and foremost it’s great for all sorts of respiratory issues,” Manoogian says. “When you breathe in micro-particles of salt it helps to open up your airways and alleviate symptoms from allergies, asthma, bronchitis and coughs. It’s like a toothbrush for your lungs. And salt therapy also helps to build your immune system.”

Salt therapy may sound new but there’s actually historical precedence for it. In the 1800s, a Polish physician observed that salt mine workers didn’t experience the respiratory issues and lung diseases that plagued other types of miners. A century later, German hospital patients hid in salt caves to escape bombing during World War II. Their doctor noticed that patients suffering from respiratory issues soon showed improvement. Salt therapy may be the main attraction at Salt of the Earth Sarasota, but Manoogian also offers other services. This includes the Bella Facial Rejuvenation service, which Manoogian describes as all-natural and non-invasive. She has also recently added Vibro Acoustical Loungers, which offer sound, heat and light therapy all at the same time. Manoogian might not have planned to become an entrepreneur, but she knows she’s landed in the right place. “The universe put me here to do this,” she says. “I’m just a vessel for people to find and understand other ways to heal the body.” — Salt of the Earth Sarasota, 4037 Clark Rd., Sarasota, 941-702-8300,