In which I unwittingly join a movement and realize the parallels between wireless routers and alternative medicine.

Join the Open Open Wireless Movement A few weeks ago, I upgraded the digital infrastructure at my office, the Center for Alternative Medicine. The new router I installed included the capacity for multiple wireless networks, so I added second wireless network without a password.

The goal was to provide a means for kids, parents, spouses, and other members of our patients' entourage to easily access the internet while waiting in the reception area. I generally don't (or at least try very hard not to) keep patients waiting, but there is usually a coterie of people in the reception room cooling their heels, either waiting for Christine DeCarolis to finish massaging a friend or David Pavlick to help someone understand the inner workings of their psyche, or for me to take the acupuncture needles out of someone. And, inasmuch as the cellphone service at the Center can only be generously described as "spotty," I thought this would be a convenient benefit for the nice people who come to visit us.

As I booted up the new router, little did I know I was joining a movement. The Open Wireless Movement:

"The Open Wireless Movement is a coalition of Internet freedom advocates, companies, organizations, and technologists working to develop new wireless technologies and to inspire a movement of Internet openness. We are aiming to build technologies that would make it easy for Internet subscribers to portion off their wireless networks for guests and the public while maintaining security, protecting privacy, and preserving quality of access."

It's an interesting idea. The internet has become a pervasive enabler of modern life, the digital road outside everyone's front door. And since I have large amounts of unused bandwidth, why not donate it to the greater good? In terms of security, the open, guest network is entirely isolated from the Center's internal network, so our data remains secure.

As I read more about the Open Wireless Movement, I realized that in many ways it parallels steps I have already taken with the Center's technology. For the past 6 years, all of our software has been based on Open Source software. Instead of Windows or OSX operating systems, all of my computers run Ubuntu. Instead of Microsoft Word, we use LibreOffice. Instead of a $30,000 proprietary Electronic Medical Records system, we use OpenEMR (a choice which allowed me to deploy electronic medical systems comprehensively long before most other doctors, and at very little cost).

All of this software is free. All of the code is open. The only payment I make is by reporting, and assisting in the resolution, of software bugs. Open Software is a community effort, that allows both users and developers to dedicate their time to create highly functional, stable applications.

Without stretching the point, this is also how I view health. We are not isolated entities, encountering and fighting off maurauding species intent on our demise. We are ecosystems. We are walking, talking, thinking conglomerates of living entities, from the bacteria that live in our gut and help us digest our food, to the beneficial prions that protect our nerves. Like whales, we proceed through life surrounded by pilot fish who both live off us and help us to live. Every single one of us is not a single organism but a cooperative collection of organisms. We cannot live without one another.

It's an amazing thought, isn't it? That we, in ourselves, are not one, but many? The recognition of that concept is why alternative medicine succeeds in the locations where traditional medicine fails. In many conditions, it is the balance between ourselves and our environment, or our micro-ecology, that is the culprit.

Mainstream medicine's tools, are blunt and traumatic in this arena. When the problem is not the presence of bad bacteria in the gut, but a lack of commensural bacteria, the big hammer of an antibiotic is a poor choice of tools. Changes in behavior, and even in thought, are more effective here than any antibiotic. There are many similar examples, but you get the idea.

And in the exact same way, alternative medicine and mainstream medicine are complementary. Where the MDs tools are weakest, mine are the strongest; conversely, where I may lack the skills to help someone, my peers in mainstream medicine are often helpful.

Or, as I put it to one of my patients, "I'm not the doctor you want to see when you're having your heart attack; I'm the doctor you should have seen 10 years ago."

So, yeah. Next time you're in our office, enjoy the open wifi. At some very basic level, we're all on the same open network already.

Dr. Avery Jenkins is a chiropractic physician specializing in the treatment of people with chronic disorders. He can be reached at or by calling 860-567-5727.