Our Ribbon Cutting event was a time to reflect. The doc went way back to her teenage years when she first saw Poulsbo, visiting her Aunt, from her home in Michigan. She told of falling in love with the area, and then of bringing me here on vacation soon after we were married – and seeing me fall in love with the West Sound too. Our dream then was just to be able to live here, now she runs a medical practice here.
But I reflected on more than that during the evening. Please forgive me if I brag Ellen up too much, but she won’t blow her own horn…
She got a late start in medicine, going back to med school after teaching high school for five years, and then having to still jam in a load of undergrad science prerequisites before she could even take the MCAT. Making things tougher, she did all her studying while also becoming a mother for the first time. That was also, co-incidentally when she started running, but more on that later.
But since she started practicing medicine she’s done it with great dedication. She actually first saw patients in Kitsap County right here in the same building our office is in now, doing a Pediatric rotation upstairs with Dr. Brown while a student at Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. (We manufactured ways to visit here all the time before we moved!) On finishing her Residency Program through Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan, she only applied for one job – because there was a job open in Port Orchard.
From 2003 until the end of 2016 she doctored to the needs of South Kitsap (mostly) as a Family Practice physician, and did it with distinction. She was a serial winner of the local paper’s “Best Of” voting for best Doctor, and was featured in a spread on Health Care Leaders in West Sound Home & Garden. I know not every patient loved her, but she was good. Very good. But frustrated.
Primary care is mostly about treating symptoms, and detecting deeper problems. Ellen wanted to do more, especially for her patients who needed to lose weight.
She knew that losing weight could help a great many of her patients alleviate or even eliminate a lot of their other physical complaints.
As good a doctor as she was, Ellen got revitalized when she dove into research in the latest in non-surgical bariatric medicine. So much so, that she made the decision to finally become a specialist. And now, a business owner!
As I was taking guests on the tour of our office after the Ribbon Cutting, we passed Ellen’s private office, where on the back wall, she has her running medals hanging. She’s run seven marathons, and twice that many half-marathons. I bring this up, because just a couple of weeks ago Ellen, or The GazEllen as I call her in her running persona, went her fastest half-marathon ever!
This makes her a living testimony to what she’s preaching in her practice, and I’m not even talking about exercise. The science of weight loss isn’t simple, and it doesn’t always seem to make sense at first blush, but it is predictable. In this case, she disproves the adage, “you are what you eat.”
We don’t shy away from dietary fat. But eating fat in your diet isn’t what makes you fat, and in fact we learned of a study that showed a diet high in saturated fat was actually beneficial to endurance athletes. You can read more about that in my article on attending the Obesity Medicine Conference in Seattle (if you’re a science geek like me), but seven years after running her first half-marathon she’s running her fastest half-marathon! What changed was our diet.
Most of us think we need carbs to workout. Carb loading is even the thing to do the night before a long race. But Ellen, running on a very low-carb diet, is running at peak efficiency. The truth is, people who eat diets relatively high in fats can also process those fats instead of storing them. However, they are also able to quickly and efficiently utilize the energy already stored in their fat cells, thus helping them escape “hitting the wall.”
At this race, Blooms to Brews, in Woodland, Washington we were a bit concerned before the race that Ellen might not get a finishers medal, because the website directly stated the top three in each age group would get medals. It turns out we didn’t need to worry, she got a beautiful finishers medal, and she placed third out of 16 in her age group!
You don’t have to run marathons, or half-marathons, or even run at all. You don’t have to know all the science behind weight loss either. But what you need to understand is that the doctor does get it! There’s no magic wand, you still have to do the work and stick to the plan, but Ellen changed her entire medical life to devote herself to helping patients take back their health. She wants nothing more than to help you reach as many “finish lines” as you can.
That’s the business we celebrated with our Ribbon Cutting ceremony, and that’s the business we pledge to go about every day.