After 35 years in practice,beloved doctor retires

  • Lynne Donaldson, the office manager for Charles K. Brummer and his Integrative Medicine practice, answers phones at the office. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Charles K. Brummer, M.D., works with patient Barry Wadsworth at the office in Northampton, shown above. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Charles K. Brummer, M.D. works with patient Barry Wadsworth at the office in Northampton Thursday, September 26, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Charles K. Brummer, M.D., works with a patient at the office in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Office site of Charles K. Brummer and his Integrative Medicine practice, Northampton Thursday, September 26, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Charles K. Brummer, M.D. works with patient Barry Wadsworth at the office in Northampton Thursday, September 26, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/4/2019 2:56:17 PM
Modified: 10/4/2019 2:56:04 PM

Dr. Charles Brummer is retiring at the end of November after 35 years of practicing medicine in the Pioneer Valley.
His approach blended conventional Western medicine with holistic methods, such as acupuncture and homeopathic remedies, that offered patients alternative options when it came to finding relief from persistent issues. It also gave patients who prefer natural remedies to pharmaceutical drugs an expert on both, a practice he calls integrative medicine.

“I wanted to do a consultative practice that de-emphasized medicines and emphasized natural healing — and here we are,” Brummer, 70, said in his office on the corner of Trumbull Road and King Street. “This has been the most satisfying incarnation of my medical practice.”

Brummer ran a solo family practice on North Main Street in Florence from 1985 to 1997. He then moved onto working under Baystate Medical for five years at Pioneer Valley Family Practice, which was made up of a small group of doctors, on Conz Street. At that time, he saw nearly 25 patients a day, which he found prevented him from giving patients the attention they deserved. He wanted to focus on patients in a more one-on-one environment to help them through their health issues.

Brummer said his current clientele could be categorized generally into two groups: one that had been failed by the traditional medical system — whether by a lack of diagnosis or without adequate treatment for their diagnosis — and those who sought alternative medicine without the negative side-effects of pharmaceuticals.

Brummer said that Western medicine “tends to be very population-based and not very individually-based. Not everybody who has the same symptoms, or same general diagnosis, has the same cause of it, so you have to look at the individual, not the population.”

Traditional western medicine attempts to make an easy diagnosis, Brummer said, and if one cannot be made for patients then they are often told, “We have nothing for you.”

For those who are diagnosed with certain conditions, and yet have no luck in their treatments, there could be underlying conditions that are not usual, and Brummer said he would explore those to find answers.

By looking at diet, lifestyle and a patient’s history, he takes a broader approach and takes the time to work through the different aspects of what may be causing someone’s ailment, he said.

“They have to be eating a healthy diet that suits them; they have to be moving their bodies doing some sort of exercise; they have to be dealing with their mental issues with meditation or counseling,” Brummer said. “They have to get enough sleep; they have to drink enough water. If you do not do those basics, how do you expect a subtle natural treatment to work?”

At Baystate, he would see four to five people an hour, sometimes up to 25 people a day. At his private practice, he would see a person or two an hour and devote more time to each individual’s needs.

Lynne Donaldson, Brummer’s wife and a nurse with his practice, said the clientele that sought out Brummer’s approach to medicine was committed to sticking to diets, exercise routines and potential health remedies that could be described as “outside the box.”

“It’s a special group of people who often come here with chronic problems,” Donaldson said. “They had a different level of commitment” to address long-standing health issues.

Judy Calafell of Conway said she has seen Brummer for the past 30 years since his days practicing in Florence.

“He is an amazing doctor — not only a skilled physician and a gifted healer — but an empathetic person,” she said. “It will be a real loss to the community that he will not be practicing anymore.”

She goes weekly for acupuncture treatments due to chronic pain stemming from previous surgeries, Calafell said.

A Japanese influence

Brummer dropped out of Syracuse University in the early 1970s and began studying yoga, meditation, and he became interested in traditional Japanese healing and culture. He decided to travel to the Far East and learn about healing methods. He spent two years at a natural healing center from 1973 to 1974 and the knowledge he gained continues to guide his practice to this day.

“It totally informs my practice now,” he said.

He learned acupuncture before he learned traditional medicine and he said that is when he learned to appreciate that not everyone with the same symptoms has the same cure. He wanted to learn, however, the physiological, anatomical, and biochemical happenings of healing through acupuncture besides learning of the “energy flow.”

“Long before Japan, I had always been interested” in medicine, he said. “I find the human body very fascinating. I find the human mind even much more fascinating. Medicine, if you look at it correctly, is a wonderful place to learn about the human body and mind.”

After returning from abroad, Brummer completed his pre-med studies at Syracuse, studied at Dartmouth Medical School from 1978 to 1981, and then did a three-year residency at a hospital affiliated with Brown University.

After retirement

On a meditation retreat earlier this year at the Vipassana Meditation Center in Shelburne Falls, within the first day, he began to consider the idea of retirement.

“Intuitively it felt like this is the right time for me to stop doing this and start doing something else,” Brummer said. He is looking forward to spending time with friends and family following his retirement on November 22.

In December, Brummer’s son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild will be visiting from Japan. A friend of Brummer’s is renting a house in Hawaii for the winter and Brummer will be flying out to spend time there as well.

After that, he said he would like to hold health- and medically-oriented public talks at community centers such as the Forbes Library.

Insights on mind and body through meditation has “informed my life in general — but very much so my medical practice,” he said. “It’s reality-based: what is happening here? What do I know here?”

But he will look back fondly at his time as a doctor.

“It’s the single most important thing I have done in my life,” he said.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at


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