Dedicated to providing compassionate, confidential, and affordable health care for the men and women of Door and Kewaunee counties, one would expect the Wellness Center of Door County to be located in an austere building with a formidable edifice so typical of medical facilities.
But the welcome mat is always out at the Wellness Center, and the door swings open to reveal a pallet of warm colors and whimsical art. Reflecting the warmth of its environment, the Wellness Center staff meets the needs of each client with a compassionate, caring approach.
It has been five years since the Wellness Center first established a clinic in Sturgeon Bay. And although the 1968 marketing slogan “You’ve come a long way, Baby” may have encouraged something negative, it resonates well with the considerable accomplishments of the clinic “that could.”
While some thought that an independent health center that focuses primarily on reproductive health couldn’t survive in Door County, it is obvious that it can indeed thrive – serving more than 2,600 individuals since its establishment in 2003. The acquisition of a permanent facility site a mere two years later proved auspicious, setting the stage for an expansion of services, enhanced community outreach, and an increase in employed staff. Long thought to be a clinic for only uninsured residents, the Wellness Center welcomes clients with and without insurance. In fact, the Wellness Center has recently been added to WEA and United Health Care network of providers…and more are pending.
The menu of services provided by the Wellness Center of Door County ranges from routine physical examinations, including screening for breast and cervical cancer, depression, anxiety, suicide, tobacco and alcohol dependence and other specific issues that impact wellness.
It is clear that Executive Director and Nurse Practitioner Michele Geiger-Bronsky and her staff are passionate about the work they do. Sexual and reproductive health care is an area of particular strength for the Wellness Center team who consider information regarding options and education of paramount importance to their clients.
Pregnancy testing, affordable birth control options, testing of and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and the provision of vaccines such as the hepatitis, tetanus and human papillomavirus vaccine are all available at the Wellness Center. In the past year the staff has taken on another critical service – conducting sexual assault examinations for males and females.
“Actually, the Wellness Center is the only site in Door and Kewaunee counties where there are Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. SANE nurses complete an intensive training program which prepares them to complete a non-biased interview and physical examination with an emphasis on the collection of forensic evidence.
“It’s a little bit of CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) following one of the most traumatic episodes a person could ever possibly experience,” says Geiger-Bronsky. “We do this work in collaboration with the Sexual Assault Center and law enforcement when warranted. It is very difficult work and requires a great deal of attention to detail and of course, compassion; it changes you as person and as a clinician.”
One service that the Wellness Center of Door County does not provide is abortions. Clients who present with an unplanned pregnancy – and 53 percent of all pregnancies in the US are indeed unplanned – are provided with information as to their options. The client’s decision is supported without pressure which allows the individual to make the best personal decision.
Resource information is provided including the opportunity to speak with persons who have chosen adoption as an option. “Each individual client must make the choice that is right for them. We are here to help them as their health care provider, but it is a personal decision,” emphasizes Geiger-Bronsky.
Clients who choose termination are provided contact information for the four locations (Milwaukee, Dane, Outagamie and Brown counties) that have providers of those services. Geiger-Bronsky adds, “While abortion is certainly a ‘charged issue’ for many, it is important to remember that the provision of safe and sanitary locations for women to seek all forms of health care must remain intact.”
In addition to fulfilling the needs of potential childbearing clients, at the other end of the spectrum are the perimenopausal and postmenopausal clients who are in need of assistance with management of their symptoms. “We see lots of clients with ‘power surges’ as many of us fondly describe hotflashes! Some of our staff has personal experience with these issues, as well, and we can offer an added level of reassurance, normalcy, and additional strategies,” Geiger-Bronsky explains.
The expansion of services, and ultimately space, is of foremost importance to Geiger-Bronsky who leads a staff of seven. Most recently, colposcopy has been added as a service for clients who have abnormal cervical cancer screenings (PAP tests). A colposcopy is a procedure that allows the medical provider to visualize a woman’s cervix with an external instrument much like a microscope. This procedure is also useful during sexual assault exams as internal photographs can be well documented for forensic use.
The future is bright for the Wellness Center of Door County. Assisted by teammate Jeanne Kuhns, reproductive health nurse clinician who joined the staff in 2004, the duo have recently been joined by registered nurse Heidi Derbick and Sandy Schumacher, women’s health nurse practitioner. Support staff includes office assistant Stacia Dick-Schuster, accounts assistant Beckie Coyer, and receptionist Linda Ruth.
Dr. Kim Winburn is the Wellness Center of Door County’s collaborating physician; she provides consultation and case review. “Kim meets with us monthly to review cases and, of course, is available via phone in between those meetings. It’s a great collaboration for all of us; we optimize strategies for clients and we all teach each other. We’re the local experts in family planning and STD issues so it’s really fun to exchange those ideas. When clients need referrals the Wellness Center team makes those arrangements to make that process as seamless as possible,” Geiger-Bronsky also states.
The team of Wellness Center women is in good hands with Geiger-Bronsky as their visionary leader. Honored in May 2008 for her work in the area of women’s health, Wisconsin’s former First Lady Sue Ann Thompson recognized Geiger-Bronsky as a 2008 Champion in Women’s Health with the presentation of an award in Madison.
Building a well-balanced board that is proactive in guiding the mission of the Wellness Center has been a priority over the past few years. “We have worked very hard at recruiting the right fit of board members that truly understand and value the work we do in our community,” says Geiger-Bronsky.
There are also numerous special events in support of the Wellness Center’s mission. Events in past years have included the Pink Classic, a golf outing held in June where proceeds support the provision of breast cancer screening services for men and women in Door County.
Other events further the clinic’s efforts, as well. “Connection Receptions,” hosted by supporters, assist in educating community members about the Wellness Center’s services. Additionally, concerts presented by a number of local musicians including Wellness Center staff member Jeanne Kuhns, and most recently America’s Got Talent runner-up, Eli Mattson, have raised substantial funding for the Wellness Center.
“Eli performed two sold-out benefit concerts at Southern Door Community Auditorium,” Geiger-Bronsky reports. “We couldn’t do this work without all of this incredible support and we recognize the value of each artist’s time and their contributions to our efforts.”
One might think that the Wellness Center has all of its bases covered. However, the needs for this non-profit organization are indeed great. Geiger-Bronsky explains, “All of these incredible services we provide are done in a vintage house of less than 900 square feet. Plans are underway to expand to the house immediately north of the current property on 5th Avenue in Sturgeon Bay (the Wellness Center also offers services in Sister Bay one day a week).
“This expansion will double the current exam room space from two to four, add a dedicated room for procedures, provide heated storage area, and establish ergonomically appropriate space for staff and volunteers,” she says. “But all of this requires support from our clients and the community at large. Funding needs to be in place before expansion plans can become a reality.”
And volunteers are essential to the Wellness Center mission. Geiger-Bronsky adds, “There are so many things we could use help with, from take-home projects to on-site tasks like gardening or clerical jobs. We need assistance with committee work, help with fundraising and workshops. The list is endless!”
A colorful banner hangs over the Wellness Center’s reception room window. The squares on it carry the words courage, joy, spirit, celebrate, community, equality and diversity. “These words represent who we are,” Geiger-Bronsky smiles. “We don’t have a bean counter at the door. We have total control of the way we practice health care here. Clients choose us because of the manner in which we provide services. Just look at some of the testimonials that are on our website for what we hear almost daily. We love the work that we do here.”
For additional information or to make an appointment, at either location in Sturgeon Bay or Sister Bay call (920) 746-9466. The Wellness Center of Door County is a non-profit 501(c)(3) community organization that needs your help! Volunteers and donations are always much appreciated. Visit www.wellnesscenterofdoorcounty.com for further information.