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Vashon Women’s Health Center celebrates first anniversary, adds providers

Vashon Women’s Health Center celebrated its first anniversary this month and welcomed three new providers to the homey downtown clinic: licensed midwife Gail Murphy, physical therapist Andra DeVoght and integrative medicine physician Marcie Hamrick.

Kimberly Scheer, the nurse practitioner who owns the clinic, said it was her intent from the beginning to invite other practitioners to join her, but she wanted some time to settle in.

“I wanted to see who the patients were and what their needs were,” she said.

Now, she said, her clinic is a true center for women’s health, and the practitioners share a common goal.

“We’re interested in caring for the social, emotional and spiritual needs of women. It’s all linked together,” Scheer said.

With the new providers in place, more changes are in the works, including classes and women’s support groups. Scheer would also like to add a personal trainer because of the benefits of exercise, “the cornerstone of health,” she said.

Until then, Scheer will continue her work, focusing on primary care with an emphasis on women’s health. Scheer, who also teaches reproductive health at The Harbor School, offers a teen drop-in clinic and hopes to reach out more to Island teens in the coming school year to help address their health needs. She also recently launched a women’s walking group. It has been slow to take off, she said, but she hopes nice weather will draw more women.

Scheer is looking forward to the days ahead with her new colleagues.

“Having them here is lovely,” she said. “They are such smart and talented women. I think we’re going to do great things.”

Murphy, a longtime Island midwife, joined the center on May 1. She provides complete maternity care for women who have low-risk pregnancies and want a home or birth center birth. Her practice had grown to such a degree that she was spending a considerable amount of time each week driving to home visits, she said, and while she will continue to offer some home visits, she will offer a considerable amount of care at her new office -- a place she is pleased to be.

“What I really love is that it is a place focusing on promotion of health, rather than treating illness. That’s what midwifery care is all about,” she said.

Her goal as midwife, she noted, is to provide care for women that equips them to give birth with as much support and as little intervention as possible.

“I strive to make them feel that they did everything they could have done to make their birth experience one that empowers them for the rest of their lives,” she said.

Physical therapist and health educator DeVoght also joined the center on May 1. 

She provides physical therapy for women’s general orthopedic health care needs, with a focus on pelvic floor rehabilitation. This type of therapy is important for women who have pain or incontinence issues, which often follow childbirth. These are issues that are frequently left untended because many women and their health care providers do not know that there are healing options available, according to DeVoght.

“Postpartum women are really overlooked in getting good care in our medical system,” she said. “Most women think they have to live with pain or injury from childbirth, but the truth is a lot of treatment exists.” 

DeVoght, who also has a master’s degree in public health and teaches yoga, is interested in health in a myriad of ways, and with Hamrick, hopes to offer classes in yoga and mindfulness, stress reduction, menopause, child birth education and more.

“It’s all in the works,” she said. 

DeVoght, who has been a physical therapist for 15 years, including 10 years at Harborview Medical Center, is excited about having colleagues again — this group of colleagues, in particular. 

“We collaborate as a team,” she said. “We share our knowledge.” 

Physician Hamrick plans to begin her work at the center in August. She is a family practice doctor, with a focus is on integrative care, meaning she draws on several modalities, including herbal therapies, nutrition, counseling, yoga, biofeedback and meditation, she said. She also collaborates with other providers, including acupuncturists, and teaches Western medicine at the Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicine.

When she practices, she often relies on one of two approaches, she said: She may begin by using the least aggressive treatment and move to a more aggressive treatment if necessary, or she might use an aggressive treatment in the beginning to relieve symptoms, then work with the patient to incorporate lifestyle changes and reduce the long-term need for pharmaceuticals.

She is also interested in how group medical visits help patients, and she plans to begin some of those, possibly for diabetes, menopause or chronic pain.

“Poor health can be pretty isolating,” she said. “Feeling connected to people can be healing in and of itself.”

She has done some of this work before and is looking forward to doing more of it.

“People support one another and get ideas from each other. I get really excited about the energy that is generated.”

Contact the providers

Andra DeVoght works Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and can be reached at 465-1728. Gail Murphy can be reached by calling 300-5552. Kimberly Scheer works Monday through Friday and can be reached by calling the Vashon Women’s Health Center directly at 463-2777.

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