Ever since she was 5 years old, Tonya Cremin, M.D., knew she wanted to become a doctor. Born in western New York, Cremin grew up in Avon, a rural town of 10,000 people that was full of dairy and horse farms.
“My town had a set of family doctors who were deeply integrated into the fabric of our tight-knit community,” Cremin says. “We went to school with our family doctor’s children, sang with his family at church and saw them at neighborhood parties. The receptionist was my friend’s mom and the nurse was (the doctor’s) wife,” she says.
After graduating from Cornell University and taking additional post-baccalaureate classes at Columbia University, Cremin received her doctorate from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine (now associated with the New York Institute of Technology as NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine) in 2003. She then became a resident physician and integrative medicine fellow at Middlesex Hospital in Connecticut while completing a fellowship in integrative medicine, alternative and complementary medicine and medical systems in 2007 from The University of Arizona.
After practicing in a variety of settings, from hospitals to community health centers, Cremin opened her own office (first in Trumbull and now in Monroe) 13 years ago. “Here, I’m able to create the relationships with my patients that I value so much and the kind that were so important in that little town where I grew up.”
With her extensive background in integrative family medicine, Cremin’s medical services combine standard primary medical care with complementary and alternative methods of healing.
“I’ve always been interested in different ways to manage health conditions and overall health,” she says. “I’ve come to realize that health doesn’t have to be about medicine and pills and it doesn’t have to be about surgery. There are a wide variety of other ways to treat patients.”
Osteopathic physicians tend to look at how the structure of the body can affect its function. “For example, a person can be getting a headache, because they have neck tension. The osteopathic study takes that a lot further, perhaps exploring that there’s a problem in your pelvis,” she says. “When you’re seated, the pelvis is your foundation. I tell my patients that the leaning Tower of Pisa doesn’t start leaning at the top. Some problems that are above, can be rooted down below and might require the slightest bit of adjustment.”
She weaves an integrative family medicine approach into every office visit, which means she focuses on natural treatment and the least invasive, least expensive care with a holistic view. “Instead of costly prescriptions or specialty referrals, I can help you incorporate lifestyle or dietary changes, nutritional supplements or over-the-counter medications,” she says. “The goal is to help people optimize their health without medication as much as possible. Of course, when medication is necessary, I absolutely will write a prescription.
“As a primary care family doctor, I love to figure out the tough problems,” Cremin adds. “Patients often come to me when they’re at the end of their rope and they have something that might have been misdiagnosed, maybe for years even, and I just listen and think about the best way to help them.
“The people who are most thrilled with the way I operate in the office are often the people with the toughest problems to solve. It could be autoimmune disorders, maybe it’s anxiety and they don’t want medication, or it could be chronic pain. I love treating those people and thrive on helping them get better.”
One of the things that makes Cremin’s model of practicing medicine stand out from the pack is her direct care membership program, charging monthly fees instead of taking insurance. “I chose this payment method because I want to be able to continue to be able to spend quality time with my patients. The fee-for-service model — or the insurance-based model — is not sustainable in private practice. I love being a family doctor and being there for my patients. I want to spend time getting to know them and really being able to help them succeed in whatever their health goals are.”
In addition to primary care, one of the services Cremin offers in her membership program is osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), which involves using the hands to diagnose, treat and prevent illness or injury. It is a medication-free method for pain relief. With OMM, Cremin applies a gentle, calming approach to realign the bones, joints, muscles and connective tissues subtly to encourage the body’s innate healing response.
Cremin also offers auricular acupuncture to help patients realize medication-free relief from a wide variety of conditions. This approach has been proven helpful in the treatment of fibromyalgia, headaches, osteoarthritis, joint pain, lower back pain and more.
Like many doctors, Cremin’s practice was affected by Covid. “We were closed for a solid three months and then started tiptoeing back last June, making sure to follow all the guidelines and being super careful,” she says. “My practice shrunk as there were people who we didn’t hear from, because they were hit very hard financially. But I’ve had some old patients come back, which has been very exciting to me. We’re taking new members but keeping the practice small, because I want to be able to spend quality time with each of my patients as always.”
While her medical practice is very time-consuming, Cremin practices what she preaches and leads a very healthy lifestyle. She’s devoted to her husband, two children, dog, cat, a flock of chickens and a huge garden. “I enjoy spending time in my garden. I grow flowers, fruits and vegetables, and I love creating new garden beds,” she says. “I’m a true outdoors person, and hiking and going out in my canoe are among my favorite things to do.”
For more, visit balancefamilymed.com.