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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Caring for Body and Soul - Reaching Deeper in Medicine

Caring for Body and Soul

Reaching Deeper in Medicine

Story by Lynn Leissler

Photography by Jerry Clarkson


We often go to the doctor because something is wrong. We seek physical relief for illness, disease, wounds, broken bones. Good medicine and pharmaceuticals deal with those issues, but there is a trend to go a step further. To reach the whole person—physically, emotionally, spiritually. We will talk about a few traditional care facilities and how they achieve these goals, as well as entities that treat holistically as the core of their practice.




At times, our lives take a sharp turn into uncharted territory by means of a single sentence. Perhaps that sentence signals the end of a relationship or delivers a doctor’s diagnosis. For some, it is facing heart surgery. A trip to the Internet yields descriptions of the surgery and the potential pitfalls. Bottom line, the prospect is scary, whether the surgery is major or minor.

This is where Mended Hearts comes in. “Mended Hearts’ trained and accredited Volunteer Visitors visit Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center heart surgery patients to give them hope and encouragement,” according to Laura Nicholson, Asante’s Volunteer Services Coordinator. “To be a Volunteer Visitor,” she says, “one must be a heart surgery survivor (or the loved one of a heart surgery survivor who visits with the previous heart surgery patient) so that the patient sees someone who has been in the bed and is now thriving.” Add training, and these folks (in their 20s and up) offer the patient—and the patient’s personal care-unit—physical, emotional, and spiritual guidance, information, and encouragement.

Volunteer Visitors can literally enhance physical healing and improve the quality of life for heart patients and their families by walking alongside them through ongoing peer-to-peer support. Someone gives the patient a tour of the hospital before surgery and explains what’s going to happen. A volunteer will be there the day of and the day after surgery. In some cases, a patient might feel more comfortable talking with a volunteer about some issues than with a physician.

Visitors give patients hope. “A prescription of hope can do wonders for the heart—both physically and emotionally,” Nicholson says.

Mended Hearts has been in our community for 35 years. Last year, Asante partnered with them to make it a formal program and offer a broader base of training. Where earlier training was only heart-related, annual trainings now include other health issues, enabling volunteers to see the bigger picture. 

Some heart patients feel their lives will be governed by restrictions and limitations. Two Mended Hearts volunteers, a couple who skydive (post-surgery), tell such folks otherwise. Visitors vigorously recommend Cardiac Rehab to the patients because they know firsthand that the 12-week program results in better outcomes for those who do it versus those who don’t.

Beyond the benefits patients receive, studies show that volunteers also profit. For patients, their emotions are eased, their questions answered, their fears allayed. For the volunteer, it is a reminder that when we bless others, it circles back, enriching our lives. It’s a reminder to stay with healthy eating and exercise. In the case of couples, a man might remember that his wife isn’t nagging, just nudging him toward better food choices so he can be around longer.

In 2018 (September 15, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.) Asante will sponsor and host the first-ever regional Mended Hearts Cluster meeting. The purpose is to motivate Mended Hearts members through educational sessions, member training sessions, and officer training sessions. Members will be able to obtain information from National and Regional Leaders, who will share the current and future direction and goals of Mended Hearts, Inc.


Laura Nicholson, CPXP

Volunteer Services Coordinator

Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center

2825 East Barnett Rd., Medford




Going to your primary care doctor’s office to cook? That’s what patients at La Clinica Wellness Center in Medford can do in an eight-burner community kitchen. La Clinica serves many, but mostly socio-economically disadvantaged communities, and about a third of its patients come from the Latino population. La Clinica staff saw a strong need within those communities for a more whole-person wellness approach to care, and opened the Wellness Center in the fall of 2015. The center features the kitchen for healthy eating, as well as Zumba, gentle movement, physical therapy, mindfulness, weight loss, and wellness classes aimed at helping people with chronic disease. When a doctor prescribes a class or activity, it’s an add-on to the visit—a walk down the hall, not a drive across town. Sometimes a doctor leads a class. Matt Hogge, a family nurse practitioner who directs the Wellness Center’s clinical operations, says, “Doctor visits are important, but groups are great for education, a support system, accountability, and friendships.” The wellness approach is system wide, although other centers offer fewer classes.

La Clinica has made another significant system-wide change in the structure of a typical doctor’s office, going to team-based care, explained Julie Wurth, Communications Officer. The Wellness Center building is divided into three suites, each with an operations center, a room shared by a team—doctors or nurse practitioners, wellness coach, and medical assistants. The Wellness Center teams share an onsite behavioral health clinician and nutritionist.

Back to the kitchen, a favorite gathering place in any setting. Six women show up regularly to learn more about healthy eating in a setting that resembles a cooking show. As Matt Hogge peeled beets and lauded their incredible health benefits, he reviewed nutrition and the digestive process, and fielded questions. When asked why they came, the women focused on learning different ways to cook and eat, and on the group’s camaraderie. One woman uses the classes as an excuse to get out of the house. For another, healthier eating helps her deal with chronic pain without depending on pharmaceuticals. It’s clear this class is changing their lives in many ways. And, most of the women actually liked the two nutrition-rich beet dishes Hogge prepared.

Wurth brags on major changes for some patients because of these opportunities—better health, management of chronic illness and pain, weight loss, attitude. La Clinica Wellness Center is proof that healthy eating, exercise, improved thinking and attitude, and social interaction facilitate a healthier, more positive and productive life. Families and communities profit as well. If these changes help people avoid chronic illness, prescription and illegal drug usage, the community—a community in crisis—benefits. La Clinica, as well as others in Southern Oregon, are doing their part to facilitate solutions.


La Clinica Wellness Center

730 Biddle Rd., Medford





In November, Our Heart to Your Soles reached out in a highly practical way. The mission of this group of doctors, nurses, and volunteers is to help local working poor and the homeless population by providing new shoes, warm socks, plus foot screenings and flu vaccinations. Homelessness and poverty, especially at this time of year, make that population group vulnerable to a host of medical conditions and diseases. The group leader, Dr. Richard Owens, orthopedic surgeon at Southern Oregon Orthopedics, says, “We are so excited, as we enter the holidays, to pause, reflect on our many blessings, and share with those less fortunate than ourselves. This is our sixth year serving the Rogue Valley. In 2016, we provided shoes for almost 180 individuals." Although soles are the target, souls are also reached.

This is an annual event, so mark it on your 2018 calendar if you would like to donate, volunteer, or know of someone in need.






“The end of life is a whole person experience,” according to Susan Hearn, Executive Director of Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice (SOFH). Her compassion and dedication fit with SOFH’s purpose to educate and serve. They are currently raising money for Southern Oregon’s first home for hospice care, Holmes Park House. 

Many people want to spend their last days in their own homes, but for various reasons that’s not possible. A hospice facility serves as an alternative. The Holmes Park House, however, is no mere “facility.” The home, once the residence of Harry and Eleanor Holmes, (of Harry and David), was privately owned until SOFH’s purchase. They are currently in the process of renovation and construction. The two-acre parcel sits in the middle of 18-acre Holmes Park on Modoc Street in Medford. Hospice patients will hear birdsong and children playing in the park. They will see nature in surrounding botanical gardens and enjoy views of the valley, as the house sits on a knoll. Despite its grandness, the home offers a restful and homey atmosphere. Of historical interest, Paul R. Williams, the first African American architect in the AIA, designed the 1939 residence. Williams designed homes for stars, hotels, municipal buildings, schools, churches, and more in the Los Angeles area. SOFH will eventually place the mid-century Georgian colonial revival home on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hospice is structured to serve the person and his or her needs. To support physical, spiritual, familial, and emotional needs, to encourage the best quality of life. People are cared for on an individual-need basis, not with a one-size-fits-all mentality. Often, dying people cannot articulate their needs verbally, so caretakers focus on the heart-centric piece. “It’s intuitive in a way, also very mindful and observant,” says Hearn. 

At the end of life, many people feel a need to forgive and to be forgiven. They seek opportunity to share their feelings, their love for others, their need to feel they aren’t alone. Human touch is key and important. A dying person has lost a good deal of control, yet still seeks a sense of ownership of his destiny. Hospice creates a safe space for both patients and loved ones to accomplish these goals, a place where they need not be afraid.

Hospice caretakers help their patients create lasting memories. “We are our stories, and after we die, we are remembered and brought back to life by the stories we’ve told,” says Hearn. Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice endeavors to facilitate a well-supported ending, to make the experience as meaningful and positive as possible.


Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice





After an injury or an event that puts your body out of kilter and in pain, people often seek physical therapy. Along with the pain, they are frustrated with their new limitations. David Standifer, Physical Therapist and clinic director of Therapeutic Associates Central Point, says, “My purpose is to give my patients activities that will get them back to their regular lives. It’s important to me that people don’t simply live with the pain, but understand that they can do all the activities they love without that nagging discomfort in the background.” It takes hard work on the part of both therapist and patient, but is well worth the effort.

Sometimes the process produces dramatic results. Patients who participate in competitive sports have been able to compete once more, sometimes with greater proficiency than before. Standifer recommends people come in for a yearly checkup. Imbalances in muscles or joints could lead to future injuries that are identifiable and preventable, potentially avoiding long-term injuries and invasive surgeries. (You don’t always need a doctor’s referral to see a physical therapist.)

Because people come in two or three times a week, Standifer gets to know them personally—their background, recreational choices, their families. He works one-on-one with patients, and feels that along with the bodywork, his job is encouragement, helping people get better step-by-step.

The office utilizes an open space format, allowing patients to encourage each other and offer tips and suggestions. Therapeutic Associates works toward functional activities rather than just exercises—walking, squatting, stepping—things people do in their daily lives.

David Standifer has been doing PT for 30 years and likes to think he makes a difference in people’s lives. He’s pleased that he can reach out to the whole person as the individual journeys through recovery to pain-free living.


Therapeutic Associates

1217 Plaza Boulevard, Suite E, Central Point




Going to a spa and getting a massage were once thought of as luxuries for the rich and pampered. While both involve a healthy dose of pamper, they also offer amazing health benefits.


Yoga’s slow, purposeful movement and focused breathing help the body and the mind, integrating the two. Mariane Ballete (Corallo) of Rasa Yoga says, “Yoga gave me the space to be fit and healthy both physically and internally.”

The unhurried stretching allows the body to unwind and be more flexible, something important for everyone, and even more so as people age. An added benefit for older folks is the balance required for many of the poses. The deep, intentional breathing that accompanies the movements can improve energy levels, slow the heart rate, clean out the lungs, and reduce anxiety. Deep breathing also helps minimize pain.

Ballete (Corallo) notes that yoga is a practice, “So one is never done!” Along with healthy eating, yoga is an excellent way to nurture your body to gain optimum health. Moreover, a clear mind and in-tune body allow one to be kinder, and more generous and affirming to others.

Rasa Yoga Center has been in Southern Oregon for nearly ten years, and offers over 60 weekly classes. These include various forms of yoga—Hatha, heated yoga and alignment-based classes, pre- and post-natal classes and more. The center also provides massage therapy, workshops, retreats, and teacher training.


Rasa Yoga Center

3132 State Street, Second Floor, Medford


842 A Street at Agile Healing Arts in Ashland





“Bringing Japanese philosophy to life” is how Chozu presents itself. A Zen lifestyle. They offer several ways to unwind, which some take advantage of on a daily basis, for we so quickly “rewind,” becoming tense once more. People can enjoy pool options, and other bodywork such as Swedish, deep tissue, and specialty massages. One of Chozu’s unique offerings is their heated pools. The traditional routine is steam, heated soak, dry sauna, then in Japanese tradition, a cold plunge 

Another facet of the spa is the Tea & Saké Lounge, where you can enjoy small bites and beverages. They serve about a dozen varieties of saké, some imported from Japan and some from SakéOne in Forest Grove, OR. Chozu is also a distributor for local Quady North wines. About ten choices of small bites include udon bowl and miso soup. 

If you are participating in a communal soak, you may enjoy your food before or afterward. If you’re enjoying a private soak, however, the staff will bring drinks and food to you during your session.

Locals Night happens on Wednesdays, with reduced prices to soak in communal gardens or for private parties. The concept might be new to many, but the benefits are clear—a relaxed body and mind, with health benefits extending far beyond the feel-good aspects.

Chozu Gardens

832 A St., Ashland



These folks, and many others throughout Southern Oregon, acknowledge that we are more than our physical bodies. With that recognition, they are structuring medicine to serve the whole person. They are heeding what Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker said: “Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live.”

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