Pacific Northwesterners’ penchant for wearing socks with sandals may seem on the surface contradictory, but in this neck of the woods it makes perfect sense. Although it might not meet standards of haute couture, it’s an open-minded solution for comfort and flexibility.
So it should come as no surprise that when islanders search for good health, we find layers of options—from the traditional to the alternative—for achieving physical and emotional wellness. Our island has a veritable army of female health practitioners, each different in field and in personality, who are working in concert to help us wholly thrive.
Here you’ll meet just a handful of the women who are bringing elements of Eastern and Western wellness practices to islanders. A physician, a spiritual healer, a personal trainer, a naturopathic doctor, a chiropractor— they represent a fraction of the many methods available to tackle health issues, from back pain to eczema to grief.
Though diverse in their approach, each woman relies on her ability and willingness to listen—to truly learn about and know the people they strive to help—which is at the heart of these wellness warriors. Dr. Jillian Worth takes bedside manner to new heights. She prides herself on her listening skills, making the un-diagnosable diagnosis, and what her patients have come to love and expect—her frankness.
“My days are filled with listening to 12 short stories about my patients’ lives,” Worth said. “My job is one part medical doctor, one part psychologist.” She believes that looking at a standardized form of a patient’s medical history should be just one consideration. “It’s helpful,” she said, “but it shouldn’t be a dictum.”
And Worth is definitely frank. While setting the stage for optimum health, she asks the tough questions: “How long will you wear that ‘badge’ of obesity? Of chronic fatigue?” She also helps patients recognize the repercussions of bad choices or of not setting boundaries, such as with food or relationships. “Let’s figure out why you aren’t ready to shift,” she’ll say.
“Wellness is within,” she added. “We all have the power to shift.” Mention the word “healer” on the island, and the name Bev Gaines invariably pops up.
“I love working as a team with my patients. We’re all in this together.”
Gaines’ therapies include meditation, spiritual direction, life coaching and the Enneagram, a model used to understand one’s self and others by identifying behaviors on personality-based charts.
“We all have unprocessed grief, whether it is about relationships, finances or work,” she said. “In life, we measure what we say,” she continued. “I provide a safe place for people to reveal themselves, their deepest sorrows, hopes and desires.” Gaines trusts that the soul knows what it needs to heal. “People long for help,” she said. “I help them to see that it’s right here.”
Gaines is also leader of the nondenominational Mom’s Morning Retreat, which meets at Grace Church. She describes the group as “a safe harbor for women of all ages to discuss their worries and to renew and refresh. We explore ways to become more conscious and awaken to how we’re parenting.”
As one mom said, “Bev helped me to hold up a mirror and gently face the good and the bad.” Many miles from her home country of Brazil, Emiliana Prado operates a fitness studio based on the Barre method, which blends the disciplines of ballet, yoga and Pilates. The name refers to the stationary handrail typically used in ballet training.
“It’s about isometric holds and contracting specific muscles, with repetitious isolated movements,” Prado said. “It’s movement of increments of an inch that builds strength.”
Her clients enjoy the decidedly un-gym-like atmosphere. “It’s not about gimmicks and machinery,” she said. “It’s like cooking with good ingredients and a good knife: You don’t need all the fancy stuff.”
Her clientele includes former ballerinas and athletes, as well as average people looking for something fun and different. One client, who has multiple sclerosis, participates in classes four times a week.
Prado believes in safe and effective body alignment. “Most important is to focus on the core and lower back. And everything else just transforms. Barre helps tone from the inside out.”
“Patients often wonder if we’re making tinctures in our backyards,” said Dr. Christina Hinchcliffe, describing common misconceptions
about naturopathy, “or if I can write prescriptions, order lab work and the like.” As a trained primary caregiver, she indeed can, but she also helps her patients by tapping into the healing powers of herbs, minerals and vitamins.
Hinchcliffe’s work includes the use of bioidentical hormones. “They look exactly like the hormones we have in our own bodies, but are typically derived from a plant source. They’re used to help both men and women in times of hormonal transitions,” she said. Their use is monitored to ensure safety.
Hinchcliffe prides herself in the amount of time she spends with clients. “I spend an hour face-to-face.”
In a world where people often conduct their own medical research, Hinchliffe said she’s not bothered by it. “I love working as a team with my patients,” she said. She also works in concert with doctors at Virginia Mason. “There is no feeling of stepping on toes,” she said. “We’re all in this together.” Dr. Lucia Vracin has a broad client base, from those with more serious ailments, like pain associated with cancer, to those who have less precarious complaints, like an irksome crick in their neck.
Regardless, her expectations remain the same: “I expect you to get better,” she tells her patients.
In addition to her ongoing training in chiropractic techniques, Vracin uses her powers of observation and intuition. “I spend extra time listening to what my patients are—and aren’t—telling me,” she said. “I can tell a lot by looking at their gait and posture and if their age matches the way they’re carrying themselves.”
Vracin encourages her clients to create a reserve for their wellness. “Your healthy lifestyle choices are like a savings account,” she said.
“The body waives a white flag to get your attention for only so long,” she said, “then it will pull out a sledgehammer and let you know it’s time to do something!”
Sometimes, at the end of a session, her patients cry. “Not only from pain relief, but also from wondering, ‘Why did I wait so long to ask for help?’”