The Intersection Between Traditional & Ancient Medicine with Clinician-Scientist and Seyhart Founder Tara McCannel

Welcome to 10 Questions, a weekly series that explores L.A. through the eyes of its coolest citizens.

Seyhart founder Tara McCannel by Maria Valenzuela
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Seyhart founder Tara McCannel
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole

A moment of gratitude that there are people in this world (L.A.) who care about the health and wellness of people they've never met. People like Tara McCannel, M.D., Ph.D. – the clinician-scientist, mother of three, and founder of wellness sanctuary Seyhart.

McCannel is the badass babe responsible for healing individuals – or empowering them to pursue their own self-healing – who normally may not approach their conditions holistically. She's bridging the gap between traditional medicine and "ancient modalities," as she puts it. Besides practicing medicine as a vitreoretinal surgeon and ocular oncologist, McCannel (along with other physicians) founded Seyhart out of frustration with traditional medicine. And who would know more about traditional medicine than a University of Toronto-educated doctor?

Seyhart aims to pave the way toward recovery and healing by empowering clients to "take charge of their own wellness" through preventative and whole-person practices and under the guidance of physicians and Asian medicine experts. Think acupuncture, cupping, gua sha, and tuina all in what we imagine a wellness sanctuary might look like in 2050. And did we mention they offer services for children and toddlers? Seriously, L.A.'s the coolest.

We caught up with McCannel to learn more about her background, what inspires her, and more as part of our weekly '10 Questions' series where we explore L.A. through the eyes of its coolest, most empowered, most innovative, or forward-thinking citizens.

What's your background and what was your inspiration for starting Seyhart?

I am a western-trained physician who specializes in ophthalmology with my expertise in retinal surgery and adult ocular oncology. I have always asked questions in medicine like why does this happen and how does the body respond? After my training, I got a PhD in molecular biology, and ran a research laboratory to answer questions we did not know answers to in eye cancer. In medicine, I am what we call a "clinician-scientist," a doctor who treats patients, and who does research related to their conditions.

Over my academic career, the most fascinating and exciting things were figuring out how to help people achieve joy and happiness through both my skill and my encouragement. This discovery comes from helping the whole person, and not just the eyeball. With an open and curious mind, I was aware of how little we, as traditional doctors, truly know – despite impressive progress, western medicine still does not have all the answers! Traditional medicine must be complemented by other ancient modalities in order to allow for the greatest health benefit. Seyhart was born to offer support to people on their health journey with a whole-person approach to better health and recovery, and to help offer preventive strategies for mind-body health.

Who were your role models growing up and who are they today?

I don't really have any one role model! I am grateful to have learned tidbits from many people – teachers, friends, and students – throughout my life. 

Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole

Do you listen to music or podcasts while working? If either, what are your jams or channels currently?

No, I truly prefer silence. With an increasing practice of mindfulness, I enjoy having fewer distractions when I am experiencing something, whether it be my work, or enjoying the outdoors. Even with exercising, I have stopped listening to music because there is so much else to notice and to be aware of. 

Other than running the business, what does your ideal day look like from waking up to falling asleep?

Exercise like Pilates and cycling, raising our three young boys, running our household, taking care of our own medical practices and continued research in my subspecialty. Doesn't leave a ton of down time! 

What about Seyhart are you most excited about in the next year or so?

I am truly excited about so many things – our new herbal line, the unknowns about running a business! We have an amazing team who are as committed as we are. There are so many challenges, but we are grateful for every one of them, and excited about how to keep growing. 

I've learned that it's difficult to source high-quality and carefully vetted herbs for production. I'm so proud and excited for what we have curated in the new herbal line. We have The Resilience, which is astragalus root capsules, to help support clients following respiratory illness; for muscle strain, aches, and pains; and for supporting immunity. Our second line, The Renewal, which is Goji berries (or Lycium fruit) is more preventive, immunity boosting, and beautifying through supporting healthy, glowing skin. 

Quick follow-up: what are some of the challenges you've experienced since opening?

What I love most is figuring out how to help people heal, recover, and be their best self through mind-body/whole body approaches. However, in running a business you have to learn the ropes of branding, marketing, managing employees, certifications, and finding ways to educate people about the importance of preventive health. The challenges of starting a business are truly learning opportunities for us to become better at growing the mission and message of Seyhart. The better we are at overcoming our challenges, the more people's lives will be touched and improved through holistic health.

Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole

What are some of your favorite wellness routines, products, or alternative healing practices?

Exercise is a huge one in our family. I love to run.  Almost daily physical exercise is so important to overall health. Meditation, which I discovered a few years ago, is absolutely a life-changer. Constantly living in the present and being mindful of everything there is around you in life!

You're sitting down with your 20-year-old and 80-year-old selves. What are those conversations like?

I would tell my 20-year-old self to keep learning and living, you know so little! Keep your mind open, things will fall into place. Trust yourself, your ideas, your goals, and don't let people decide your life for you. Create your own path. I would tell my 80-year-old self that 80 is the new 50! Keep going, you still have so much more to contribute in this life.

Was there anything about your character/personality/experience in childhood that predisposed you to your current calling?

I grew up with my parents raising my sisters and I to be independent and self-sufficient. Getting married must be an enhancement, and not a necessity. On getting married, I think growing up with a feeling of being independent, it's much easier to say "no" to things that make no sense to you – like certain friends and partners. It's indeed true, the better you know yourself and where you are going, the easier it is to meet like-minded and supportive people in your life. I encourage everyone to listen to yourself, learn what you need to be happy in life, and go for it!

I think once you realize that you are your own person, you control your life and destiny (ie, not others, not a partner) you can truly explore anything, and pursue what you find exciting and joyful with a free mind and spirit. You also are better able to listen to yourself and are less afraid to go against traditional expectations. This takes a lot of inward soul-searching, like does doing what I have always been doing offer me enough challenges? What is really the most important thing to me as a healer? A doctor? How can I really help people? Seyhart is the way to wellness from the whole-person perspective, and where people themselves are empowered to make choices that work for them in their health journey.

Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole
Photo: Courtesy of Seyhart by Taryn Viole

You're taking a first-time visitor on a one-day tour of L.A. Where are some of your top stops?

Venice Beach, crazy and full of life. Malibu, beautiful and boho. Nobu has such amazing views, incredible sushi; I just love this place for any special occasion. I am partial to anything near the ocean. The Beach Cafe at Annenberg Center. There's no other place you can have your toes in the sand, be right next to the ocean and bike path, and eat delicious breakfast scones. We are so fortunate to be so close to water, I think it deeply affects everyone here. The Viceroy in Santa Monica. The first time I went there, it was my first dinner date with my husband. Love the scene, noise, and life – especially on a Friday or Saturday night!

Which wellness trends are you happy to see fade away and which are you happy to see more of?

I love that people are realizing that exercise remains the number one health supplement. I love that people are taking charge of their own health and learning how to do this without leaning on "do what the doctor says". I love how people are looking to improve their health to the point they may no longer need to take prescription medicines. These are healthy and progressive trends that show that we can change our health, and not be run by our health conditions. I want to help support society to be this way. 

Ready to get healthy? Book your appointment online here.

Seyhart, 2629 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica 90403; open Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; (310) 310-8775

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