“We want to care for the whole person,” said Abby Sinnett, a nurse practitioner in Denver.
She explained to CNA that this means applying the latest science and technology to provide excellent care for patients’ mind, body and soul in a way that “promotes their utmost dignity.”
Sinnett is currently working to establish a women’s health care center with her mother, Dede Chism, who is also a nurse practitioner. They are hoping to have the center running by 2014.
The goal, according to Chism, is to “provide a comprehensive health care setting for women of all ages” in a way that is “fully Catholic” and demonstrates “love and dignity for human life.”
Chism said that the idea for a Catholic women’s clinic “has been a long time coming.” The idea initially sprouted when she was leading a women’s retreat two years ago.
During a lunchtime conversation, the women began talking about how all of their needs – body, mind and soul – were not being met. In addition, they wished that they had a better understanding of Church teaching, and they found themselves struggling to cope with their continuously changing bodies.
Chism and Sinnett had wanted to care for patients together for years. They knew that they worked well together from the medical mission trips to Peru that they had led.
Sinnett described these trips as “freeing,” observing that “we were able to care how we’re supposed to care” without worrying about legal requirements aimed at promoting contraception or abortion.
The women were drawn to the idea of creating a women’s health clinic to address needs that were not being met. They were motivated by their own experiences of receiving both good and bad health care, and as they witnessed changes in health care administration, they saw many women around them looking for something different.
The two noted that they have seen how life is not always valued in the medical profession.
Last fall, they felt called in prayer to move forward with the project. With the unpredictable economy and instability surrounding the implementation of the health care reform law, it seemed like “an absolutely crazy time in medicine to open a practice, especially in women’s health,” Chism said.
Still, they felt that God was calling them, telling them to move forward and trust him. The women did, and things began unfolding, even though there are still uncertainties about how reimbursement and providers will work.
“We just keep saying yes,” Sinnett said with a smile. “He’s slowing been molding us for this.”
The process has been a learning experience for the two nurse practitioners, who will be the first to admit that they are not businesswomen. They have worked to incorporate as a non-profit and conduct a legal analysis of how to protect themselves so that they are not forced to perform or refer for objectionable procedures.
The mother-daughter team is currently working to recruit a doctor. The task has proven difficult, as Catholic doctors who are truly committed to practicing their faith can be hard to find.
“You will be persecuted. You will be way different than all of your colleagues,” Chism observed.
The women also grappled with choosing a name for the clinic, which Sinnett joked was as hard as naming a child. Eventually, they settled on Bella Natural Women’s Care.
“For us, Bella emerged as we were looking at the beauty of women” and of the Blessed Mother’s beauty, Sinnett said.
While the word “Bella” means “beautiful” in Spanish and Italian, she continued, it also means “war” in Latin, fitting for the “beautiful war” that is being waged for a natural, uplifting approach in women’s health care.
Chism added that “care” is being used as both a noun and a verb, and it was chosen over “clinic” or “service.”
Bella Natural Women’s Care will be centrally located in Denver with a fully comprehensive staff, trained to deal with a range of women’s health issues from infertility to weight loss.
Sinnett said the plan to start Bella has received “overwhelming support” so far. People are excited and eager to know when it will be up and running, she explained.
The goal is not only to reach Catholics, however. Non-Catholics may be drawn to the natural approach, seeing the beauty and truth that it contains, Sinnett said, explaining that the younger generation in Denver is “embracing natural.”
“We are a culture of Whole Foods,” she said, adding that this natural approach can carry over into the realm of health care. “Our bodies were made and they were made well.”
Chism agreed that the clinic will be able to serve all people, regardless of faith, and will not need to proselytize.
“Even if somebody doesn’t know God, God knows them because he made them,” she observed, and so even without a doctor preaching, patients “are going to leave us desiring to know their Creator.”
Women’s health care is “so intimate” and “so personal,” she continued, that it “deserves a different level of care and respect.” She voiced hope that the new clinic will help attest to women’s natural dignity and beauty of women.
Chism acknowledged that the journey so far has not always been easy, and the future contains many uncertainties.
“It’s super scary,” she confessed. “It is a tricky time.”
However, the mother-daughter team is motivated to risk the unknown in order to offer excellent women’s health care in a way that fully respects their patients’ dignity.
“This isn’t a political decision,” Chism explained. “It’s about meeting the need. This is basic medicine and basic nursing.”
Ultimately, she said, they are moving forward with Bella Natural Women’s Clinic because they trust that the Lord will guide them through uncertainty.
“It’s God’s venture, not ours,” she said.
Women in Denver, Colo., may soon be able to receive health care from a women's clinic that offers a Catholic approach to natural, comprehensive care.
Catholic Health Care, Women in the Church