September 2010

Hickey Center - Hilton Head's Own "House, M.D."

Author: Blanche T. Sullivan | Photographer: Photography by Anne


House, M.D., a popular American TV show, centers upon Dr. Gregory House, a medical mastermind who leads a talented team of budding diagnosticians at a prominent, state-of-the-art teaching hospital. While Dr. House’s sarcastic demeanor, cool, businesslike bedside manner and flippant remarks won’t win him any Mother Teresa Awards, his genius out-of-the-box deduction and passion for pinpointing the truth, or root of a problem are irrefutably unrivaled and riveting.

Dr. Joseph Hickey, a board certified internist, author, researcher and founder of the Hickey Wellness Center, could easily be considered Hilton Head Island’s real life version of House—not because they share a similar disposition (Hickey is one of the friendliest, most likeable folks you could meet), but because they share a penchant for perplexing cases, as well as an intense dedication to thorough investigation, accurate diagnoses and effectively treating patients.

Born and reared in Peekskill, NY, Hickey graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1973, performed his medical internship at Jackson Memorial Hospital (Miami, FL) and completed his residency at Montefiore Hospital, The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

Hickey practiced internal medicine in his private practice in his hometown from 1980 to 1994, during which time he also served as a clinical instructor of medicine at New York Medical College and helped establish several community programs. He also served as the assistant police surgeon for the New York State Troopers, Peekskill Police Department and Town of Cortlandt Police Department.

Hickey joined an existing internal medicine practice on Hilton Head in 1994 and, in 2000, founded the Heritage Medical Center with a partner. In 2004, Hickey decided to resume a solo practice, and the Hickey Wellness Center, a primary care internal medicine facility, was born.

Located on New Orleans road, near Hilton Head’s south end, the Hickey Wellness Center offers comprehensive care, with expert emphasis on cardiovascular disease, heavy metal toxicity, metabolic syndrome and beyond. Run with the assistance of an experienced and dedicated team, including Hickey’s wife, Lisa, the center utilizes the most current diagnostic tools available to help identify causes of illness or disease and strives to provide every possible course of treatment.

In addition to diagnosing and treating patients using current research and therapies, Hickey and his team maintain patient education and preventive care as a top priority. They believe it is important that patients understand how they can help prevent future illness, the impact of lifestyle factors and to which illnesses they may be genetically disposed. Hickey’s proven expertise has attracted patients from around the world, and the center’s numerous success stories have drawn increasing attention from the medical and health-related communities.

The famed “Atkins Diet,” created by Robert Atkins to address his own weight problem, promoted the low-carb diet and was popularized in his series of books, which kicked off with “Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution” (1972). It was considered somewhat controversial because it was contrary to beliefs held by many nutrition experts of the time. Hickey has been particularly active in research and treatment of cardiovascular disease and was actually able to prove why Atkins’ program works.

In 2003, Hickey led a study that followed 122 older patients who were placed on a low-carb diet for 18 months. What he discovered was an 82 percent reduction of small LDL (“bad” cholesterol) particles and increase in large LDL particles (less harmful) and large HDL (“good” cholesterol) particles. This study helped Hickey determine that low-carb diets could reduce risk factors for heart disease. Hickey, who was thrilled to meet Atkins just two weeks before the diet pioneer’s untimely death (April 2003), said, “We always thought the Atkins diet would raise your cholesterol. Well, guess what: it doesn’t.”

At the center, Hickey reviews patients’ lifestyle, diet and family history and utilizes the latest tests available to measure cholesterol. Hickey says that the “Lipoprofile” (NMR) test, which measures Lipoproteins, affords a more precise determination of whether a patient is at risk for cardiovascular disease; he helped publish a well-received research paper on the subject, “Clinical Use of a Carbohydrate-Restricted Diet to Treat the Dyslipidemia of the Metabolic Syndrome” (2003).

Heavy metal toxicity, a less understood, yet increasingly intriguing area of study and treatment, is another fascinating and promising specialty for which the Hickey Wellness Center is known. Diagnosis includes measurement and removal of heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum and bismuth. The aforementioned metals are considered by many health experts to be toxins and reportedly known to cause a variety of serious diseases and neurological issues, such as fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and ALS. Hickey employs chelation therapy, an intravenous procedure, to effectively remove heavy metals from the body. One local patient, who was initially skeptical, underwent chelation therapy and experienced welcome relief from psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that appears on the skin. Experts often report its cause as being unknown, or little understood. This particular patient had endured the painful skin condition for 50 years until he came to the Hickey Wellness Center and Hickey suggested heavy metal toxicity as a possible cause.

So how did a seemingly conventional M.D., with a traditional medicine background, begin exploring unconventional alternatives? Hickey, an internist for nearly 30 years, describes his medical life as a progressive result of growth, study and a profound desire to accurately identify and solve problems.

“My first 15 years was a learning curve. I was taught to diagnose… match symptoms to a disease. I also taught as a professor and in a clinic. I was an instructor helping students ‘figure it out.’ Then it dawned on me. We figure out what is wrong, but we don’t tell you why you got anything.’ I didn’t want to just treat symptoms. I am very traditional in that everything I do is backed up by science, scientific studies. I am doing my homework and don’t do anything that isn’t scientifically based.”

Said Kevin Meany, president of Bluffton’s BFG Communications and one of Hickey’s staunchest supporters, “He goes well beyond just a textbook approach to help people and solve their health issues. He is absolutely brilliant and ahead of his time.”

Lisa Hickey says that new patients should expect to spend at least two to three hours during their initial visit as Dr. Hickey likes to spend adequate time getting to know people and fully understanding their concerns, history and medical needs.

For more information, call (843) 842-9960 or visit

Let Us Know what You Think ...

commenting closed for this article