Women-led Charis focusing on mind, body and spirit
Captained by Dr Sara Lawrence Lewis, Charis Women’s Wellness and Maternity Care Centre and its all-woman team is navigating a holistic and empathic way to provide healthcare for women. “All of us here are passionate about women’s health, period, because, of course, as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, our only patients are women, but at the same time, we all sincerely care about what we are doing,” Dr Lawrence Lewis told The Gleaner.
She added, “Being a woman, a mother, I know what it is like to put yourself on the back burner, but we have created a space where women can come and make sure they are in the best health.”
Blessed with the name Charis, the facility located at the Seymour Park Business Centre is a full-service wellness centre, which Dr Lawrence Lewis explains “encompasses all facets of a human, that is, mind, body and soul”. It is aptly named after Dr Lawrence Lewis’ daughter and is derived from a Greek and Hebrew biblical phrase, χάρις, which refers to goodwill, loving-kindness and favour, in particular to God’s merciful grace.
VOWED TO SERVE
Along with Drs Astrid Batchelor and Kimberlee Lewis-Patten, fellow obstetricians and gynaecologists; Debbie Hall, a certified personal trainer who specialises in pre- and post-natal corrective exercises; Jacqueline Beale, massage therapist, and Ruth-Ann Taylor, breastfeeding specialist, the centre has vowed to serve its patients with a Christian-like approach, she said.
“The mind part is about dealing with stress in healthy ways. It is inevitable, it will come, but we wanted to create an outlet separate and apart from the doctoring side of things,” Dr Lawrence Lewis said adding that the focus is on patient’s rest, relaxation and recuperation. “That is an important aspect of it all. Hence the spa. Here, we don’t just consult; we have conversations because we want to know how the individual is feeling and that she is healthy and try to find ways that are tailored to her needs.”
There are several treatment rooms while the doctors’ quarters are reserved for consultations and are fully furnished for examinations, and the aim is simple: provide superior service to the centre’s female patients. “[This] is a space full of women who want to serve women, regardless of an existing culture that sets us against each other,” said Lawrence Lewis. “I wanted a space where women are safe and take away that social pressure and judgement that society places on us.”
LESSONS FROM MOTHERHOOD
Training in OB/GYN gave her a specific view of what women went through with labour, what they wanted or what they experienced but becoming a mother was also part of her lesson. Sharing her own personal pre- and post-natal experiences, Dr Lawrence Lewis said that the vision became more apparent, first with her son Zachary, now 13, and her daughter Charis, who she had 13 months ago.
“[When it comes to breastfeeding], a lot of people, including myself, thought you just put on the baby, and that’s it. With Zachary, engorgement and two cracked, bleeding nipples later, I was like, what is this life. And Ruth-Ann and I had a sort of serendipitous interaction after I had Charis where we spoke about breastfeeding that by the end of that talk, it was like God pulling everything together. She completed her formal certification right before we started construction, and I am happy to have that as an offering here because it is one of the hardest parts of the post-natal journey.”
Factoring in that there are women who prefer to be under the care of a male medical practitioner, she said that “to each her own”, and that a woman must seek out where she is comfortable and Charis, although there are no male doctors on staff, they can make recommendations.
“Personally, for Sara the person, the patient and the woman, not Sara the doctor, interpersonal interactions that flow from an OB/GYN visit can be more robust with woman to woman. I’d want the person speaking to me about cramps or childbirth to be able to relate to me, but women who prefer a male must have a reason,” she said.
“I know a man can’t tell me ‘is all right man, just push’ because he doesn’t have any idea what baby pains are. Don’t get me wrong, we have amazing male gynaecologists here in Jamaica, but it is what a patient wants out of the interaction, especially when the things that get discussed or unearthed in a doctor’s office have implications on your life and relationships,” Dr Lawrence Lewis said.
Charis is redefining the future of women’s health and wellness with a soulful, wholesome, relationship-driven care model that helps women make informed decisions about their health.
“It’s not your money I, or any one of us, want. We feel the speciality chose us. Women have a special need that we are aware of and hope when they come here, they feel as though we are addressing it because women just need communication that is clear,” she said.