LEAP! with Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith

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(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Well hello there, LEAPER! Welcome back to this inspiring series of LEAP! interviews featuring everyday women who aren’t afraid to LEAP in the direction of their dreams.  I launched this interview series in April with Jackie Bassett, and then followed in May with Vicki Flaherty.   This month, I’d like to introduce you to another one of my favorite ladies:  the UBER-talented, “stylishly healthy,” and ALWAYS admirable… drumroll please… Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith!!  Dr. Rajka is a superstar of a leaper– she’s an American Board Certified Family Practice Doctor, a Doctor of Functional Medicine, an entrepreneur, a blogger, a world traveler/expat….  Oh, and did I mention that she’s the mom to two adorable kiddos (Liam and Liv) and the wife of a jet-setting Kiwi who works on global construction projects?

Rajka and I met in 2010 when we worked together with a handful of other women to launch the Qatar Professional Women’s Network (QPWN) in Doha, Qatar.   I immediately admired Rajka’s professionalism, her “can-do” attitude, and her personal warmth.   Our friendship blossomed when we shared a hotel room (and a couple bottles of Cloudy Bay Sauv Blanc) during a mission trip to Ethiopia to benefit the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation and the Yezelalem Minch Orphanage.   After this experience, Rajka became a huge source of support and free advice when I was going through fertility treatments, and she happily threw my baby shower and gave me TONS of hand-me-downs when I was pregnant with lil Toots.  She was the only friend who brought me meals after my miscarriage and after I gave birth to Toots.  Rajka even let me practice my coaching skills on her while I was first starting up as my biz, and I learned so much from that experience.  Although we both left Qatar, Rajka has continued to be a loyal, encouraging friend.   Can you tell how much I love this lady????

To be completely honest, I could write an entire essay about how brilliant and beautiful Rajka is, but you are here to read about her story of LEAPING!  So, here are the highlights of our interview.  As always, I encourage you to listen to the 30 minute recording as well as reading the summary… some many great little nuggets of inspiration are tucked away in my conversations with Dr. Rajka!

XOXO Christina


 “Functional Medicine looks at the root cause of a disease, rather than just treating symptoms with medication.  We look at balancing four realms: the mind-body, the energetic/spiritual, the physical, and the biochemical.  Finding the imbalances and getting them back into balance is where we achieve optimal health.”  – Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith

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Photo Credit: Sheryl Patrizi

Getting to Know Dr. Rajka

“My name is Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith, originally from Cleveland, Ohio.  I’ve known since I was 5 years old that I wanted to be a medical doctor. I was inspired by my own pediatrician- I thought he was so well-mannered and I wanted to be like him.  What I didn’t know is that allopathic medicine wasn’t going to be my whole goal.  By allopathic medicine, I mean being a physician who prescribes medicine.  For the first fifteen years, I practiced traditional family medicine.  I delivered babies, and took care of the babies and their moms in the hospital. I worked with children through to geriatrics, along with performing outpatient procedures.  I joined a great practice in the Pacific Northwest, just outside of Seattle, Washington.  From there, I ended up meeting my husband, and imagined that we’d live in one community for the rest of our lives. We’ve really been on quite an amazing journey since those early days in the Pacific Northwest.  After 7 years in the Pacific Northwest, we moved to Chicago for a couple of years, and then spent 8 years living as expats in Doha, Qatar.”

Embracing Integrative Medicine

“When I had a little breather while we were expats, I started to ask myself where I was going next. That’s where the first leap occurred when I transitioned from traditional allopathic medicine to a more integrative, holistic practice.  What inspired me to go this route is that there were a small percentage of patients who I just couldn’t get better, and I’ve had a long interest in integrative medicine to treat patients. This stems from my Eastern European upbringing. My parents are from Serbia and would often use home remedies to treat illnesses, such as applying lard and garlic to our feet when we had fevers.  Although we dreaded the lard and garlic, it always broke the fever! Additionally, I was inspired by my own experience with a fertility acupuncturist while living in Chicago.  She had me doing acupuncture and guided imagery work to support our efforts to conceive our first child.  I just knew there was more to optimal health than just prescribing medication.

Leaping from Allopathic to Functional Medicine

“The leap into functional medicine fell into place when we lived as expats and I decided to become more entrepreneurial.  I saw a need in the expatriate community to educate expats on good healthcare abroad.  Repeatedly, I had friends and former patients approach me for advice, so I started to give general guidance through my blog called ‘Expat Dr. Mom.‘ Through my research for my blog, I found a compelling article by Dr. Mark Hyman on Functional Medicine.  I also met a physician who trained in Functional Medicine who told me that her training in functional medicine was life-altering and she could never go back to traditional allopathic medicine.   Once I found this field of Functional Medicine, I started to re-train myself while continuing to work in Qatar and doing telemedicine consulting work from Qatar back to the US.   We were interested in relocating back to the US when I found an opening for a Functional Medicine physician with a practice in Boston.   The job was a great fit, so we relocated to the Boston area in 2013.”

Getting Over Fears

“One of my fears stemmed from traditional medicine’s tendency to criticize integrative healthcare.  Would I be able to practice something that would be questioned by my colleague down the road? However, everything I’ve learned to date is backed up by research.   We all know that there’s an art to medicine, so when we don’t have research, we treat and tweak the protocol for each patient, perfecting it along the way.  Secondly, I was concerned about where would I train and would I learn how to apply Functional Medicine.   However, I overcame this fear by training with the Institute of Functional Medicine and then landing my current position which is a working fellowship, enabling me to work while being mentored and trained along the way.”

Leaping with a husband and 2 kids

“My husband, Kerry, works in the construction industry, which is totally different than medicine. He’s the yang to my yin, so we complement each other and he always gives me an honest answer.  He’s my biggest support.  When I showed him the job opening in Boston, he told me that the next career move was mine.  So, when I landed the job, the kids and I relocated while he continued to work in Qatar for several months.   Together, we have two kids, who keep us on our toes and trying to balance it all.  Sometimes this means getting up at 5:30 a.m. to get myself ready and cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner before we leave the house at 8:30 a.m. “

Next BIG LEAP!

“I’ve always wanted to have my own practice.  When I was practicing traditional medicine, I wanted to have a boutique-type office where patients experienced a highly personal level of care.  With Functional Medicine, I am now leaping to launch my own clinic. Part of it will be in person visits and part of it will be health optimization (via telemedicine) which can I can offer to anyone, anywhere.  I can connect back with people who live abroad and want optimization of their health.  I plan to start with a couple days in the office and then follow-ups with phone and/or skype.  I was planning to start my new business in August or September, but I recently had my first health optimization consult after receiving a number of referrals from abroad.  This opportunity to start my own practice stems from my husband landing a fabulous job in the Chicago area, so we’re relocating back to Chicago and then I’ll be starting my practice in a new city.”

Tips for Making a Big LEAP!:

“If I am faced with a tough decision, I use guided imagery and yoga to bring clarity.  I usually sit with a decision, let it soak in, journal about it, and then reflect.  I also go to my resources, like my husband and like-minded friends, to support me.  My tips are:

  • Surrounding yourself with like-minded others and leverage resources online like meetup.com, BNI for marketing yourself, and Ellevate, a global women’s network
  • Hire a coach
  • Set goals and track your results.”

“Dr. Rajka’s favorite mantra: Balanced and calm. Focused, flexible, and strong”

Want to connect with Dr. Rajka?

  1. Subscribe to her blog: drrajka.com
  2. Follow @Drrajka on Twitter or on Facebook
  3. Contact doctorrajka@gmail.com if you are interested in a consult