Functional Foot and Ankle, and Pequest Acupuncture
For much of Dr. Gerald Mauriello, Jr.’s medical career, he followed traditional Western medicine protocols. While practicing in large medical systems, he focused primarily on surgical foot and ankle care, and reconstructive surgery for patients with diabetes. With a background in academia, he had worked as an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine, where he is still an adjunct clinical professor.
Dr. Mauriello was introduced to the realm of alternative and Eastern healing modalities while serving in a director’s position at Advanced Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute, in Freehold, New Jersey. The person who opened that door for him was Jennifer Hicks, a licensed acupuncturist and trained yogi who would not only show him how effective acupuncture could be, but who would also become his wife. The couple married September 17, 2016 and joined professional forces two years ago through Functional Foot and Ankle, Dr. Mauriello’s practice, and Pequest Acupuncture, which is Hicks’ practice. The couple combines the best of Eastern and Western healing modalities under one roof to best serve patients.
Hicks had had an interest in holistic healing since she was a teenager. She learned about nutrition, herbs and supplements while working at a small family-owned health food store. A co-worker that had been studying acupuncture piqued Hicks’ interest in Eastern healing principles. Hicks also had relatives that found relief through acupuncture after conventional Western techniques had failed. After college, Hicks attended the Pacific College of Oriental medicine, in San Diego. She’s also certified in musculoskeletal acupuncture.
“I never experienced acupuncture until I met Jennifer,” Dr. Mauriello reflects. “She opened my mind and is the whole reason why I discovered functional medicine. As I evolved, I started to see the benefit of not just fixing the problem surgically as it presented itself in the foot, while ignoring the rest of the body, but to see how I could affect that foot in other ways than just with a scalpel.”
East Meets West In One Place
Dr. Mauriello believes he’s one of the few podiatrists in New Jersey that has an acupuncturist on site. “It’s a great addition to offer the services of my wife because she’s offering something completely different than what’s I’m offering. Patients generally seek Jennifer out separately and see that there’s also a podiatrist here, and vice-versa,” he says.
Dr. Mauriello and Hicks concur that there is a societal shift toward alternatives to narcotics like opioids or anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals. Dr. Mauriello focuses on nonsurgical treatments of foot, ankle and leg pathology and tries to find the root causes behind those ailments. He notes that inflammation cannot only cause issues like heel pain, but also back or leg pain and even depression. He looks at how one’s genetics, environment and lifestyle can cause inflammation, and he considers treatments that will last beyond the conventional symptom suppression often applied in Western medicine.
Acupuncture can often help ease inflammation, and thus, help with pain issues. Acupuncturists apply thin needles—finer than a cat’s whisker—to the body at specific points to stimulate blood flow and nerve endings, which can restore balance of qi (pronounced “chee), or life energy, throughout the body. Although many people have a fear of needles, Hicks emphasizes that acupuncture needles are so minute that they are barely felt when inserted into the skin.
Hicks treats arthritic ailments such as neck and back pain. Since working alongside her husband, she’s been treating many foot issues such as planter fasciitis, tendonitis and neuropathy. “It’s been nice because patients who hadn’t really thought of trying acupuncture for foot problems are often surprised that that can help with that, as well,” she says. She also uses acupuncture for emotional wellness issues such as anxiety, panic disorders and smoking cessation.
For Dr. Mauriello and Hicks, taking the leap from academic backgrounds, or working for large hospital systems and medical centers/practices, to going solo, has come with some challenges; managing day-to-day business aspects like purchasing office supplies or supervising staff. However, the rewards of serving patients and helping people far surpass any bumps in the road.
“It’s inspiring to have our own space and being able to work the way we want to,” Hicks affirms. “When you work for a large medical group, you’re limited to types of treatments you can do, or you are rushed because it’s all about volume and seeing as many patients as you can in an hour. Now it’s nice to be able to slow down, take time with patients and do things on our own terms.”
Dr. Mauriello agrees: “If I want to spend an hour with a patient, I will spend an hour with the patient. He or she will tell me things they don’t tell their primary care doctors. For example, I just referred a patient to a urologist because he had shared something with me. Not many podiatrists are doing that, and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been growing so quickly.”
Dr. Mauriello and Hicks are implementing telemedicine into their practices, and they reach out to the community through lectures at senior centers and community centers. They also host open houses and patient appreciation days; more upcoming events will be announced for early 2020.
Hicks stays inspired by being able to help people that have been suffering for years and now sees them enjoying life. Helping people realize that the foot and ankle are crucial overall health motivates Dr. Mauriello. “We rarely think of the foot and ankle unless it hurts,” he concludes. “We don’t appreciate how important those parts of the body are until they bother us. It’s very special to us to get positive feedback; when patients tell us, ‘thank you for taking the time to really listen to me,’ and we’re diagnosing the root of their problems, that keeps me going. Conventional medicine today has evolved, but it has gone in a direction where it’s less about the patient and more about everything else, so I’m satisfied being able to put the patient first.”
Functional Foot and Ankle and Pequest Acupuncture are located at 4 Greenwich St., in Belvidere, and at 57 Route 46, Ste. 201, Hackettstown, in the Patriots Plaza. For more information, call 908-475-8750 or visit DrMauriello.com or PequestAcupuncture.com.
Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.