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Certified functional wellness coach Mellonie Shaw, left, and Dr. Tina Costello offer a new kind of health practice with Women’s Integrative Health, whose goal is to help women 'to be healthy, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually.' (Courtesy Photo)

WOLFEBORO — Dr. Tina Costello has returned to Wolfeboro, opening Women’s Integrative Health on Grove Street. The health center takes a holistic approach to wellbeing, believing that a person is the sum of mind, body, and spirit, and when one area is ailing, the whole body is affected.

Trained and certified as an obstetrician gynecologist in Canada, Dr. Costello first came to Wolfeboro in 2002 and practiced obstetrics and gynecology at Huggins Hospital until the close of its maternity department. Suddenly faced with a wide world of opportunity, she chose to change paths.

“As an ObGyn for more than 20 years, I have been privileged to be part of hundreds of births and I can say that every single one was a miracle. Throughout clinic days working as a gynecologist, I was excited to help women through various phases of life,” she said.

Twenty years seemed like a good time to close one chapter and open another, and in a move that may have surprised some, Dr. Costello took the next several years to work closely with individuals at the opposite end of life, becoming attending physician at a hospice house.

“There, I was able to help people pass over peacefully … it amazed me to see the similarities between birth and death.”

She also saw a fundamental difference in the value of time given in traditional medicine and hospice care. The 15-minute appointment schedule prescribed by health insurers “wasn’t working for me,” she said. In hospice care, her time with patients was not regulated. She relished the opportunity to take time to really listen to her patients.

“In retrospect,” she said, “I needed that time to hear what people are saying at the end of life,” and it led her to reconsider her own life. “Being with people dying really helps make you think, ‘How do I want to live?’ It empowers you to say, ‘I can’t keep going down this path. How can I change? How can I live life completely?”

A personal walk down the path of illness further spurred Dr. Costello to re-evaluate her practice of medicine in a strictly systems approach. She found herself contemplating the body’s inherent wisdom.

“If you give your body the environment to heal itself, it will do its job,” she said, and asked herself, “Am I really taking care of myself?”

Ready for a new challenge, she became a fellow in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona. There she studied under Dr. Andrew Weil, whom she refers to as the godfather of integrative and functional medicine. There she learned to think through wellness with more dimension: It isn’t simply the absence of illness, but the totality of living well, through nutrition, positive psychology, stress reduction, and mindfulness: “A mind over meds approach,” she says.

With her fellowship nearly complete, the doctor is now taking what to her is the next logical step: She has returned to Wolfeboro to open a completely new kind of health practice. Focused exclusively on women, Dr. Costello sees Women’s Integrative Health as a place where women can open doors to help themselves be their very best self in every dimension at every stage of their lives.

She has also taken a radical step. Women’s Integrative Health does not take insurance.

“We want our clients to see change as obtainable” and under their own control, she said. Unlike traditional practices where a patient comes in “broken,” gets “fixed,” then leaves until the next breakdown, Women’s Integrative Health meets with clients, provides a safe place and support system to help them identify challenges, and set goals in manageable increments. Followups are scheduled not on the basis of insurance limitations, but on the needs of the client.

Assisting in the process are certified functional wellness coach Mellanie Shaw and education director Jen French. Clients are welcomed at reception by Betsy Barnes, who acted in the same capacity at Dr. Costello’s ObGyn practice.

The furnishings in the Women’s Integrative Health office are “un”clinical, and the colors are muted with bright, natural light.

“Obviously, I’ve never opened a wellness practice before,” Costello said, “so I needed support. I knew what I wanted it to look like, how I wanted it to feel, but I needed guidance with the nuts of bolts of financing, websites, and similar things a doctor doesn’t usually deal with. Like, so many businesses in the Wolfeboro area, I turned to WEDCO [Wentworth Economic Development Corporation]. Denise Roy-Palmer has been a fantastic resource.”

She concluded, “I began to look at my own life and think about improving the way I treat myself. Honoring what makes my soul happy. To be healthy, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. That’s what we want Women’s Integrative Health to bring women throughout our region.”

Women’s Integrative Health is located at 6 Grove St., Wolfeboro. For more information, go to http://womensintegrativehealthnh.com, see Facebook, or call 603-515-1070.

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