Meet a Health Hero: Dr. Maureen Kelly
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Name: Dr. Maureen Kelly
Role: Founder of The Wellnest
Who or what motivates you to be healthy?
When I turned 60, my daughter told me she needed me around for at least 40 more years. Let’s just say since then I’ve been really good about getting in my four miles of walking a day.
Describe a health or fitness-related turning point in your life.
An epiphany I had at one point was that as miraculous as western medicine is, it is not all there is to health and wellness. Humans are more complex and all aspects of what we are impact one another. It is well documented that a physical problem or diagnosis such as cardiac surgery or infertility can lead to anxiety and depression. There is no reason not to acknowledge this upfront and seamlessly have the support in place when needed.
For over 25 years I have worked with women at all stages of life and listened very carefully to their health goals and challenges. For many of my patients, I am their primary physician, regardless of whether they also see me for gynecologic, endocrine, or fertility care. The thing I have heard the most frequently over all those years is that people want to live healthy lives, they want to feel the best they can, they hear the advice given but they don’t know where to look for the support they need to get there. I realized at that point that in Philadelphia, finding that support was piecemeal and that created an impediment. That’s why we started The Wellnest, to create the kind of place where all people in Philly could get the ongoing, even daily, support in all areas of their health and wellness.
What policy would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
This may or may not be a ‘policy’ per se, but with Philadelphia being such an amazing hub for medical education, I believe that physician educators here such as myself have an obligation to teach the future physicians of this city and country to be sensitive to the overall picture of a person’s health, regardless of why the patient is entering the health system. This includes all aspects of wellness — physical, mental and spiritual. Specialization is necessary and wonderful but we need to integrate all that we can in helping our patients achieve wellness. For example, when an individual comes into the health system for a gastrointestinal bypass, we can’t ignore that that person may also need psychological, nutritional, and exercise support for years to come in addition to their post-operative care. I know a podiatrist who has accurately diagnosed and referred many young women with an endocrine condition that I treat, polycystic ovarian syndrome. One knows immediately how thorough and attentive he must be when he interviews his patients who come to him for a foot disorder!
What’s the most important part of your health or fitness regimen?
I have to answer this question in two ways. The first way is to say, consistency. Put simply, the people I know who are the healthiest and strongest late into their lives are the ones who exercise most days of the week and eat fresh, nutrient-dense foods in small portions regularly throughout the day. But the other more complex way to think about a “health and wellness regimen,” which I don’t think people necessarily consider, is that your health and fitness is tied to many things. Yes, it’s related to your fitness and your diet, absolutely. But overall wellness extends way beyond these things. You have to continually ask yourself: How are my relationships? Am I satisfied with my career choices? Am I learning about things I want to be learning about? Am I paying enough attention to my spirituality? These things ultimately contribute enormously to our health and our happiness, and our regimen and lifestyle need to tend to these factors as well.
What is your number one piece of health-related advice/encouragement?
I think the most important thing for people to think about is that your health is in your hands and in every choice you make throughout each day. Protecting and maintaining your health is an ongoing, daily thing, and sometimes it means making some serious adjustments in the way you live your life and sometimes small steps are needed. One cannot look to a pill or a quick cleanse to achieve health, but caring for your body and your mental wellbeing has to be integrated into how you choose to live. This may sound daunting, but if you look in the right places you can find the people to build your support team and the information to empower you to live a very long and healthy life. The outcome of taking good care of yourself couldn’t be more worth it.
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