Meconis Makes A Difference

March 18, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — It’s been said throughout the ages that when spring arrives, as it has on the calendar, a woman’s fancy often turns to gardening.

And Barb Meconis is no exception to that time-tested adage.

Meconis, who owns Holistic Care Approach, is getting a bit antsy to till the soil and feel the good earth beneath her feet and between her fingers. Meconis takes her gardening so earnestly that she can’t be called a green-thumbed amateur any longer, as she graduated to Master Gardener after completing the Michigan State University Extension program last fall.

“I love being a gardener. The upcoming spring is exciting me a lot and I’m getting ready to get out. I do all the grounds at Holistic Care and then I help people with their gardens,” said Meconis, who favors perennials and herbal gardens.

“It’s not only my fun — my hobby — but it also makes me respect that most of our health-care answers are in the plant kingdom. And the plant kingdom gives us so much — not only our food but all that joy, too.”

Before she planted herself at Holistic Care Approach, Meconis was a public health and acute-care nurse for 32 years. She chose a career in nursing because as long as she can recall, she has had a particular passion that she needed to fill.

“It’s always been for me that I have to be doing something that made a difference. And one of the reasons why I left my last job was, when I reached the point where I felt like I wasn’t making enough of a difference, I moved on,” she said.

“I think that is why I became a nurse — to somehow make a difference in people’s lives.”

Wanting to fill that passion was one reason Meconis bought Holistic Care Approach more than a year ago from Chris Wheeler, her sister and the wife of Rockford Co. CEO John Wheeler. Another reason was that Meconis wanted to shift her career from the remedial to the preventive side of medicine.

And the decision to do that wasn’t an easy one for her, because at the time, she was managing chronic disease programs that had enrollments ranging from 20,000 to 30,000.

“We have a public conception that, as a society, we think that when people age we almost accept the role of chronic illnesses as a path that we are supposed to take. We accept high cholesterol. We accept high blood pressure. We accept that journey as a part of life and we just take our pills every day,” she said.

“That was very sad for me, because I wasn’t helping people prevent high blood pressure, prevent cholesterol, and all of the things that lead to heart disease, diabetes and chronic illness.

“I bought the business because it was an opportunity for me to get on the prevention side of health care.”

Holistic Care Approach, at 3368 Beltline Court NE between Four and Five Mile roads, is an alternative wellness clinic that is nearly 7 years old. The business operates on the belief that achieving wellness from within leads to a person’s overall well being. Toward that end, massage, craniosacral and energy therapists, acupuncturists, a hypnotherapist, a naturopathic physician, a personal trainer and nutrition counselors are on staff, and the firm offers a lengthy list of wellness services including skin care to its 2,000 clients.

Two of the most popular programs the business offers are in weight management and smoking cessation. Both can involve hypnotherapy and acupuncture, depending on the individual. Hypnotherapy can help someone handle the emotional issues of overeating and smoking, while acupuncture can smother the cravings to do each. Both programs have had fairly high success rates and both allow Meconis to make a difference in another’s life.

“I brought a lot of my belief systems, my passions, with me when I bought this business.”

There are many things Meconis said she loves about owning and operating Holistic Care Approach. Topping that list is that when she gets up every morning, she can’t wait to go to work, and she said that is a “first” for her. She also really likes putting together a specific program for a client.

“It fits their needs at their point in life and lets them step into their own process. And then being able to offer someone five or six or seven modalities that can potentially work for them in their healing journey — I love doing that for people, because people don’t know their options and they don’t know how to get the best out of their options.”

Meconis graduated from Mercy Central School of Nursing and earned her degree in health-care administration from Davenport University. Of course, Davenport was, at that time, a college, and Saint Mary’s Health Care owned Mercy Central.

“It was one of those schools of nursing that was hospital affiliated. Back in those days, Blodgett had a school of nursing, Butterworth had a school of nursing, and Saint Mary’s did — and that’s where I went,” she said.

“Those programs no longer exist because all the programs are now university based.”

Meconis said her biggest career break came from Priority Health CEO Kim Horn when she gave Meconis an opportunity to grow personally and professionally. She credited Horn with allowing her to develop the skills that she now uses at Holistic Care Approach.

“She is an amazing woman and she was an amazing mentor,” she said.

Meconis said her husband is pretty amazing, too. She and Bill Meconis have been married for 32 years and have three grown children, Nicole, Kevin and Carrie. Bill, who has an engineering degree, is a project manager for Rockford Construction.

Meconis has been a board member of Tobacco-Free Partners for the past four years, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to discourage people from smoking and help those that do quit. The Grand Rapids Community Foundation provided the seed money for the countywide group, which Meconis feels is doing a good job.

“We were founded on the concept of bringing together all the community partners that have a role to play in tobacco in some way and the decreased use of it. Our role really is one of primarily keeping those partners working together toward a common goal,” she said.

“The goal is to have free treatment available in our community, which we have. We have ‘tobacco-free for good’ classes. The second is to always keep advocacy at the forefront, and third is trying to keep future smokers from starting.”

As for her immediate future, Meconis knows where she is going and what she wants to accomplish over the next few years. Just like in her pursuit of gardening, growing plays another role in her life.

“Staying totally focused on the business and growing it,” she said without the slightest hint of a pause. “Being able to provide a wonderful place in the community where people have options other than conventional medicine.”    

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