The History of The Well
Healers Empowering Healers Through Collaboration and Community
When I first moved to Austin for college, I was constantly drawn to the East side of town. Sunday breakfast after fun nights on 6th street would lead us to Juan In A Million to eat their Don Juan taco with extra cheese and drink loads of horchata and coffee. Sitting around a table of friends who were like family was heaven. The entire East side of town felt like home. In my senior year of college, I drew a small white house with a big porch that would be my future clinic and imagined in right smack in the middle of the East side.
Fast forward to seven years ago. I came into the Lockhart clinic after my Children's Care-a-Van shift. Lynn Joselyn, my first PA mentor and forever teacher and Camille Kinzler, sat in our shared office, while I reviewed x-rays from the days prior. We chatted about our lives, Lynn taught us about eating clean, Camille reviewed a patient with us. We spent a few minutes catching up when collectively we thought, "wouldn't it be great if there was a space we could share that had a kitchen, comfy couches, a few big work tables, lots of bright light where our kids and girlfriends could come and play and we could talk about healing our world?" We laughed in giddiness of the idea and then I left for the day, but the sentiment stayed in the ether until this day.
Five years ago, Camille and I sat in front of the Baker's Rack in Lockhart discussing our group visit takeover. We talked about how important education and information is for our patients, much more than just handing out drugs for their chronic illnesses. We were both committed and passionate about serving our underserved patients and group visits made sense as they encourage the power of community and gave the power back to the patient. We started a food as medicine plan, set up a 6-week program that she was to present to our manager. I began Shiny Healthy People, with the goal of assisting, educating and empowering folks to find the healer within. I wrote a lot in those early days, mostly about ways to take control of your health, but also pieces on how the healthcare crisis is destroying our healers and without our healers, we're in big trouble.
Earlier this year, on March 18th, during the creative buzz of SXSW, I created a post that said this:
"I'm looking for a healthcare visionary/revolutionary who can help me mastermind a holistic healthcare pro coworking community space. It would work like an incubator, a clinic, assist practitioners in building their panel while learning the logisitics of healerpreneurship. It would have classes, workshops, cafe and apothecary. I can almost see it, but need some input and guidance! Anyone?!"
James Maskell said it was worth his time and asked me to send over some facts and figures. I recruited my yoga teacher, school psych friend who I had been talking to about Healing with Healers for years, Emily Strong. Then another PA, Camille, who I had worked with in underserved areas for almost seven years joined in. We created a business plan. We met with our business expert friends. We took steps towards our dream and created what seemed to be a real life space for empowering healers to heal the world. I never got back to James (for a few reasons) and instead focused on my journey to Germany and the Filderklinik.
What unfolded in my time away can only be described as divine intervention. I learned a ton about myself, what a true healing space feels and looks like, what healers throughout the world need, what they're hungry for once they become doctors in the current landscape and culture. I also realized that I was to carry on the vision of so many, a dream from the collective. Those four weeks away were game changers. I was to return to the states and pursue my purpose. But honestly, had no clue how the universe would step in and lead me to it.
June 27th, my husband to be and I are supposed to be on a plane back to the states. The flight is cancelled after an 8 hour delay and we're stranded in the airport for another night. Airline sends us a text, we're to leave on another plane at 10 am the next day. I post a photo of me sleeping in the airport on the FB. James Maskell sees it and invites us to Guernsey to attend a conference he co-curated to "explore ideas for a new and sustainable approach to lifelong health" and also to coffee. We take him up on the coffee offer and as I'm going downstairs to see the time for our rescheduled but delayed flight, I see him and his beautiful wife and daughter walking by. I shout out to him and he comes over gives me a big bear hug, introduces me to his wife and sweet darling and we go upstairs to the kiddos play yard. James immediately talks business and invites me to a "Shark Tank" to present the idea I had posted months before. For those of you who don't know James, he's a like a selfless ninja catalyst King Midas type. His primary goal in life, as it appears to me, besides being the best husband and dad, is to truly transform healthcare through it's people and community. It's beautiful and inspiring. And everything he touches turns to gold. We chat some more and I tell him about the Filderklinik and he actually says "can't we just take over Casa de Luz and turn it into an integrative space?" We can dream, can't we? I'm on a few hours of sleep, a little out of it and still in disbelief, so enthusiastic Erica is missing. He promises to send me the invite, we say goodbye and part ways to our respective destinations.
"At the moment of intention the universe conspires to assist you", is what my sister always says. And boy does it ring true with The Well. A few days later, I receive the invitation from James for the summit and 'shark tank'. Our team rallies and we start outlining the details about our space. We follow evidence-based intentional design to get the parasympathetic nervous system on board from the moment you walk into the space. We continued talking and asking these questions:
How do healers get back to finding meaning and fun in medicine?
What if there was a space just for healers who are ready to transform healthcare?
What if doctors had a place where they could learn the tools to venture out on their own?
What if they could meet like-minded practitioners who could support them and collaborate to make their dreams a reality?
What if they could find respite in a spa-inspired shared workspace with comfy couches and aromatherapy after 3 back to back 12 hour shifts? Or residents could after 80-hour work weeks?
And this was our solution:
Care for our healers in the same way you would any other human being. First provide a space for them to breathe, relax, unplug, connect to others and most importantly themselves. Provide opportunities to cowork, learn, grow, practice self-care, eat healthy and commune some more. Introduce them to a different way of healing through integrative and functional medicine methods and teachings. Connect them to healers who have escaped the madness and created a business and a life they love. Keep feeding them support, love, encouragement and respite and watch as they bloom. And then when they feel hopeless and powerless, show them again and again until their thoughts become their reality. Then watch as they turn around and pay it forward to others, start to ignite change in their current space and slowly, but intentionally heal our healthcare system, one empowered healer at a time.
One week later, I find a hand addressed envelope on my front porch. It's from a developer who is requesting input on what to build on the land catty corner to my home. I call him and he gives me his grand idea and then I give him The Well. Turns out he built two of the most successful coworking spaces in our fine town and is actually quite socially oriented knows about food deserts and the need for more green space in low-income areas. He calls me two days later and tells me that he's going for my idea and wants a proposal to present to the city.
One of my partners and I decide to go to Wellness Wednesday at Soma Vida, a gorgeous coworking space for health and wellness professionals in Austin. The owner happens to sit at our table for lunch and we share what we're doing. She is immediately excited about our idea and offers her advice. No guarding, no competitive attitude, just open and insightful. Laura Shook Guzman is actually the pioneer of the coworking movement in Austin and she was sharing her life and experience with us! Two weeks later the developers partner reaches out to me and takes us out to eat to discuss our vision. He gives us loads of valuable advice on about building, investors, design, finances and business. Nel Clark, an ER nurse turned acupuncturist who has successfully started and run two integrative medicine work spaces joins the team and offers more insight.
We're definitely on a roll now. We get the email from the Future of Functional outlining the pitch deck points. Camille suddenly becomes a financial projections/numbers guru and Emily is out on the socials and networking like a madwoman. I get to talk to the founder of Austin Bouldering Project and one of his investors, who happens to be a friend, and they give me even more golden advice and wisdom. Then yesterday, I received an email from the Dell Medical School Public Health program asking to use my idea on how to transform healthcare as a student project. The course is called Foundations in Interprofessional Collaborative Practice and students will be creating presentations around it.
Now it's 24 hours before I depart for the Future of Functional Summit, by James Maskell and Tom Blue and about 50 hours before I pitch to a room full of socially-driven, healthcare transforming, do-good influencers and hope that we can get The Well up and running. The way things are unfolding, it's just a matter of time. We're definitely enjoying the ride and it continues to get more exciting each day.
So that's our history so far. Send your good vibes, prayers, thoughts and energy towards Utah on the day of the solar eclipse and wait for it. Gratitude in advance for all of it.
The Well, Coming Soon!