A Healing Place
Soothing ocean tides are part of the holistic healing experience offered at seaside clinic Makai Ola. The innovative practice, which provides care in disciplines ranging from western to eastern medicine, is located along the Royal Coconut Coast in Kapaa. It’s steps away from the shoreline and not by accident, as the practitioners there believe the ocean acts as an important aid to the healing process.
Makai Ola, “health by the sea,” is a one-stop shop for wellness and is situated inside a cozy cottage, which also has a way of putting patients at ease. That, in addition to the staff comprised of nearly all women specializing in areas including acupuncture, as well as allopathic and naturopathic medicine, adds to the nurturing element of integrative care provided here.
“This clinic is really warm,” says Tanya Gamby, a Makai Ola clinical psychologist who works with patients suffering from mental illness, and who also specializes in autism. “And everyone has a dedication to care.”
Her father, Dr. Lee Evslin, former CEO of Wilcox Memorial Hospital and a retired pediatrician, started Makai Ola several years ago. “His vision was to create an integrative practice where different practitioners were under the same roof,” says Gamby. His mission was accomplished in 2010 and continues to flourish. Though he left about three years ago, others have stepped in, including Dr. Lisa Splittstoesser. Like Evslin, she takes the best of what she’s learned in western medicine and incorporates other healing modalities to mend a person as a whole. She focuses on lifestyle and various factors, such as nutrition, sleep and stress reduction.
“I look at the underlying root causes of what the disease is,” she says. “Rather than just give them a pill to get their blood pressure or blood sugar down, it’s really more like, what’s causing that and what can we change in their life to make the problems better?”
Sometimes she’ll refer a patient to one of the other practitioners for an even more comprehensive treatment plan. Carrie “Karu” Hodder, an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine physician, and Carrie Brennan, a doctor of naturopathic medicine who assimilates botanical medicines and homeopathy to her healing practice, are two of the more than 10 licensed professionals who hang their shingles at Makai Ola.
Specialized care is also an extension of the health clinic. Nellie Foster, a medical technologist who works with Advanced Allergy Therapeutics, helps patients find “absolute allergy relief.” And Colleen Bass, certified nurse midwife and women’s health practitioner, partners with Sharon Offley, certified nurse practitioner, to provide services including prenatal and postpartum care, as well as home deliveries.
Integrative care slowly is gaining traction in America, but the tradition of treating patients as a whole and applying different methods to different people is not a new concept. Splittstoesser is among a handful of physicians beginning to incorporate ancient healing traditions into their practices. And what also sets her apart is her ability to spend ample time with patients in order to learn about their ailments in detail. “I really try to meet people where they’re at and collaborate with them, rather than just saying, ‘Here’s your problem, here’s a pill, I’ll see you in six months.'”
Like many of the others with whom she shares space at Makai Ola, there was a particular moment she recalls making a shift to integrative medicine. In 2001, she nearly lost her husband, Michael, in a diving accident on Oahu. “He’s lucky he’s alive,” she says.
The incident caused Splittstoesser to reevaluate her life. Prior to the accident, they both had been working frantically, with hardly any free time. But as soon as the event occurred, “everything stopped,” she says. “Something was telling me that our lives were out of control.”
That began her own journey of self-healing, where she realized everyone has that capability.
“Patients have the power to heal themselves,” she says.
While she understands there’s a time and place for western medicine — brain hemorrhages, for example, are best left to physicians — it isn’t always the be all, end all. “There are times when that’s needed but, unfortunately, when that happens, some of that gets translated into chronic disease management and it doesn’t work well,” says Splittstoesser. “The astute practitioner figures out when each one is needed.”
Though she enjoyed practicing internal medicine at Kauai Medical Clinic for seven years prior to meeting Evslin and filling his integrative medicine shoes at Makai Ola, she is happy to have finally found “like-minded practitioners.”
Still, what brings each of the professionals at the Eastside clinic the most joy is when they’re able to restore a patient’s health and well-being — something that happens more often than not at Makai Ola.
Makai Ola is located at 4-1558 Kuhio Hwy. For appointments, call 822-4844.