Memorial Wellness Center relocates, expands services

Memorial Wellness Center is now offering expanded services in its new downtown Springfield location, including a culinary medicine program that is the first of its kind in central Illinois. The center opened May 9 at 320 E. Carpenter St.

“Our program is unique in this region as patients benefit from health care professionals being involved in every aspect of their care,” said Dr. Nicole Florence, medical director and bariatrician at Memorial Wellness Center. “Unlike other programs that offer a one-size-fits-all approach, our program is customized to a patient’s specific medical needs and lifestyle.” Memorial Health first opened the Memorial Weight Loss and Wellness Center on North Rutledge Street in 2013. Previously, the center’s programming had focused on individuals pursuing bariatric surgery.

Memorial Wellness Center now offers comprehensive and customized treatment options for weight loss and improved health. Services include both surgical and non-surgical weight loss, nutrition counseling, diabetes care, preventive treatment options and wellness programs. Florence is one of two medical physicians and two surgeons who lead the center’s clinical team. Other team members include nurses, social workers, counselors, physical therapists, certified diabetes education specialists and dietitians specializing in weight maintenance and other health problems associated with excess weight. Obese and overweight patients can often have a number of coexisting health conditions, including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, sleep apnea, high cholesterol and mobility issues.

Part of the center’s holistic and evidence-based approach to weight loss and wellness includes an emphasis on the important role food can play in an individual’s health. Culinary medicine is an emerging field that explores the links between food and health. It is an educational and nutritional approach to improving eating behaviors, promoting health and preventing and treating disease through healthy cooking.

“Doctors don’t often talk about the concept of ‘food as medicine’ with their patients,” said Florence. “That’s usually because the doctor may not be as well-versed in that subject or hasn’t had training in culinary medicine, particularly how to apply the principles of a healthy diet to prevent and treat disease.”

Leaders at Memorial Wellness Center and SIU Medicine hope to change that conversation between doctor and patient by offering on-site training for medical students in the center’s state-of-the-art kitchen. Cooking and nutrition classes will also be offered to the public.

“Primary care physicians are the first point in identifying any concerns and encouraging individuals to improve their health. But often there is not enough time to go into detail about how to cook and utilize food as medicine,” said Wendi Schutte, clinical manager of Memorial Wellness Center. “We will partner with physicians and provide hands-on opportunities for individuals to learn to cook nutritious meals that taste great.”

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