New health care firm innovates and collaborates

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The complexity, poor customer service and inefficiencies of managed health care create opportunity for health and medical organizations that want to operate outside the norm. Take Wellspring Health, for example. Founded and opened by Robert Wolfson, M.D. in February 2002 after years of planning and study, the firm represents a collaboration of thirteen associates – each with a distinctive therapeutic focus. And every WellSpring Health practitioner has operated successfully in a practice of his or her own prior to joining the for-profit LLC – but supports the company’s mission to serve the team’s shared clients in a “whole person” way.

Designed to offer more than a 15-20 minute quick diagnosis by a harried doctor or physician’s assistant with thousands of patients on his/her books, WellSpring Health treads where no previous Pikes Peak region health care practice has gone before: into the virgin domain of integrative medicine.

Integrative medicine, simply defined, combines the worlds of traditional medicine and newer, more “holistic” aspects of health care. Unlike “complementary medicine” which relies on modalities and treatments generally outside of traditional medicine, integrative treatment pulls from both worlds. The goal: to provide a comprehensive health care evaluation and appropriate treatments.

Clients are invited to a one-hour orientation to learn about WellSpring’s approach to health care analysis and treatment. Clients interested in participating in the program are set up a four hour intensive session involving all members of the group to determine the client’s base line health profile and desired outcomes.

Six months into operation, the WellSpring center appears much like any doctor’s office. Two receptionists greet clients (a label Wolfson prefers to “patients”) – and the waiting area is full of the usual Ladies Home Journal, Men’s Health, and Time magazines. During its visit, the Colorado Springs Business Journal got a brief look inside this innovative consulting and treatment center. From shelves of herbs and vitamins to comfortably-equipped massage and counseling rooms to Wolfson’s newly-purchased 3-D fetal monitor, a state-of-the-art camera designed to photograph the developing fetus from as early as nine weeks, the office envelopes a broad spectrum of healing practices.

But an important feature of the story involves the people that comprise WellSpring Health – most combining years of traditional medical or therapeutic training with a broader perspective shaped by Eastern medicine, cutting edge holistic education and advanced psychological techniques.

Dr. Wolfson and Dr. Joel Klein, for example, have both earned traditional medical degrees and are practicing physicians. Wolfson is an OB/GYN with a focus in maternal-fetal medicine. He earned his doctorate in biomedical engineering in 1975 and his M.D. in 1976 from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Wolfson found himself drawn to non-traditional medicine early in his career, but had operated traditionally until recently. Klein received his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1981 and completed post-grad training in family practice in 1984. Prior to joining WellSpring Health, Dr. Klein practiced from 1995-1999 with the Penrose-St. Francis Medical Group.

Areas such as traditional nutrition, nursing, and sports or orthopedic medicine provided an educational foundation for five more WellSpring staff members. Debra Payne, a certified clinical nutritionist (CCN), specializes in diet and nutritional strategies to balance body chemistry – especially focused on healthy aging. Diane Pisanos, with a BSN in Nursing and a master’s in maternal child nursing works to alleviate degenerative disease and enhance aging through balanced body chemistry. Beth Ayn Deutsch, a certified physician’s assistant and bio-feedback specialist, started her career in traditional orthopedics, sports medicine and physical therapy; recently, she opened a holistic business, Future of Wellness, LLC. She utilizes body scan technology to identify energy imbalance and its affects on the body.

Then there is Vivian Rice, a former LPN, who became a certified hypno-therapist, a licensed massage therapist, and has accumulated more than 30 years experience in natural healing (including applied kinesiology). Finally, Myra Tovey, a traditionally-trained RN, today is a certified healing touch instructor and speaks nationally on health education, holistic nursing and stress reduction.

WellSpring Health has also attracted a number of more traditionally-schooled counselors and psychologists. Judy Cadigan translated her schooling as a master (MA) in counseling psychology and a Ph.D. in depth psychology, from a psychotherapy practice into counseling integrative medicine clients on unconscious patterns, feelings, behaviors, and perceptions – often using dream interpretation therapies. Similarly, fellow counselor, Ann Carlisle, Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology in 1979, completed a two-year, post-doctoral fellowship at the Texas Research Institute of Mental Sciences and utilizes her background to provide individual and group psychotherapy, dream analysis, insight into gender issues, spirituality, meditation, eye desensitization, and other holistic therapies. Licensed professional and family treatment counselor with certification in addiction counseling, Renae Dellacroce-Felix joined the integrative medicine group to utilize empowerment therapy to help balance mind, body, emotion and spirit.

Perhaps only Randel Wing, licensed doctor of Oriental medicine, acupuncturist and herbologist, has based his career primarily on the non-traditional studies of Chinese herbology and acupuncture. With more than 1,800 course hours of intensive study in his field, he also maintains a private practice but participates as a WellSpring Health provider in offering holistic health care. Like his colleagues, Wing finds that his clients are often disappointed by traditional medicine and experience a crisis that motivates them to seek alternative therapies.

In addition to seeking complementary and traditional health care providers with solid experience in their fields, Wolfson also found professionals who had built their own successful individual practices. “I know I can speak for the entire team when I say that the WellSpring Health model represents a life dream,” he says. “In time, we hope that our attention to a consumer-driven approach will eventually attract managed health care support.”

Entering its first client onto the books in March 2002, WellSpring doctors, counselors and therapists realize they are pioneers. Based on the number of aging baby boomers who are still looking for effective pain management, healthful diets, stress relief and help in managing degenerative disease, Wolfson and his dedicated integrative medicine professionals certainly offer hope for better care.