At Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. — A ‘Whole-Person’ Approach to IBD Care

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Because the way patients experience IBD can vary widely, gastroenterologist Aline Charabaty prioritizes understanding the needs of each one before recommending treatment. Medical image shows inflammation of the large intestine, as seen in IBD.

Aline Charabaty believes that, when it comes to treating patients with inflammatory bowel disease, medicine is just the first of many steps.

A gastroenterologist, Charabaty joined the team at Sibley Memorial, a member hospital of Johns Hopkins Medicine, in late 2018 after 13 years at Georgetown University Medical Center. As the director of Sibley’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, she says she takes “a whole-person approach” to patient care, because IBD affects more than just physical health.

“It’s a disease that can have implications for mental, emotional and sexual wellness,” Charabaty says, “and that’s why in my clinic, we begin with in-depth discussion to deeply understand the patient’s needs.”

Through these conversations, she in part seeks the right combination and dosage of medicines, but also to determine sources of stress in their lives.

“Stress plays a big part in IBD,” she says. “Patients are always telling me that stressful times at work or at home cause the disease to flare up.” Charabaty at times encourages her IBD patients to practice mindfulness, yoga, meditation and other known destressors.

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It’s about finding the precisely efficient blend of treatment and integrative medicine for the complex cases we see. –Aline Charabaty

“It’s about finding the precisely efficient blend of treatment and integrative medicine for the complex cases we see,” she says.

Charabaty adds that she’s careful not to introduce elements of complementary treatments into the conversation too soon. “The patients I see are often very sick,” she says, “and the last thing you want to hear about when you can’t stay out of the bathroom is yoga.”

With additional interest in IBD as it manifests in women, Charabaty adds that her female patients often “feel more comfortable discussing their condition with a woman physician because of the sensitivities of their conditions.”

“I aim to assess many factors of a patient’s experience before recommending a treatment plan, then work at the patient’s pace while still making progress toward remission.”


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