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$6M Center for Well-Being offers spa-like atmosphere

MORRISTOWN – Dean Ornish and Deepak Chopra, international luminaries in the field of integrative medicine, flew to Morristown Thursday to help celebrate the opening of Atlantic Health System’s Chambers Center for Well Being.

Hundreds who supported the $6 million, 20,000-square-foot center — a veritable hub of healing techniques and practitioners — filled a festive tent outside the center for talks and a meditation led by Chopra.

World-renowned doctors Dean Ornish and Deepak Chopra helped celebrate the opening of Atlantic Health’s 20,000-square-foot Chambers Center for Well Being in Morristown. iPHONE VIDEO BY LORRAINE ASH 10/9/14

Afterward, they got tours of the center, situated in the heart of Atlantic’s Outpatient Ambulatory Care Center at 435 South St., a building that also houses the health system’s diabetes, and endocrine institute and metabolic medicine center, as well as practices in pediatrics and cardiology, among others.

“We’re deeply grateful, honored and humbled to have this magnificent facility named after us,” said New Jersey philanthropist Ray Chambers, speaking on behalf of his family. “It has been a dream.”

Twenty-five years ago, the spark to create such a center was ignited over dinner with friends at Pierre’s Restaurant on Route 202 in Harding, he explained. The original vision was a center that would not only treat patients but teach people how to prevent illness, all while drawing on global healing traditions.

The Chambers Center of Well Being, designed by the Rockwell Group, has the ambiance of an upscale spa.

Director Emilie Rowan said it features 11 practitioner rooms for doctors; 15 treatment rooms; five doctors and a nurse practitioner to provide integrative medical care; and 40 practitioners in massage, acupuncture, craniosacral work, nutrition, lifestyle coaching and more.

Additionally, there is a Luvo Café, serving only healthy, natural or organic meals with gluten-free options; a Well Being Marketplace; a kitchen where cooking and nutrition will be taught; a fitness facility and multiple meeting rooms in which classes will be offered in emotional freedom techniques, Nia, Pilates, Qi Gong, Zumba, Jin Shin Jyutsu, singing bowls and more.

“We want to really reach into the community and provide people a way to create a road map to health,” Rowan said. “We want to help them move toward a different way of living.”

Integrative medicine, a philosophy of healing in the making for decades, is dedicated to treating the whole person, mind, body, and spirit, all at the same time. It differs from the traditional allopathic approach of treating just a disease or condition.

An integrative approach to health brings to bear the collected wisdom of conventional Western medicine as well as complementary treatments, including herbs, acupuncture, biofeedback, yoga, stress reduction techniques, and much more.

In other words, a person treated with integrative medicine does not have to choose between a doctor and an alternative healing mode or two. The approach includes, and even coordinates, them.

Karen Kessler, chairwoman of the Atlantic Health System board of trustees, put it this way: “We’re going to take that expression, ‘What hurts you?’ and turn it on its head. Now we’re going to say, ‘How good can you really feel?'”

Chopra, a doctor of traditional western medicine and Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing from his native India, has been an international forerunner in integrative medicine for decades. He has penned 80 books on physical and spiritual health, including the best-selling “Super Brain” and “The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life.”

In the tent at the opening of the Chambers Center for Well Being, he spoke of an underlying premise of the integrative approach.

“You are not a noun. You are a verb. Nouns are fixed,” Chopra said, tapping the glass podium. “But you’re an activity. Your brain is an activity. Your genes are an activity. Your body is an activity, and it’s so dynamic that it’s changing every second.

“So if somebody gives you bad news — you have lost your money, you have cancer — you react immediately,” he went on. “Your blood pressure goes up. Your cortisol goes up. Your adrenaline goes up. Your platelets get sticky.”

But in seconds, all that can be reversed by feeling love, compassion, joy and community. Biology changes in a second, he explained, citing studies recently conducted with Eric Topol, a digital cardiologist, geneticist and researcher.

“We can see that, within seconds of what happens in your mind, your brain responds,” Chopra said. “Whatever happens in the brain, the body responds.”

That mind-body cascade is what, experts say, makes integrative medicine effective. A change in attitude, thought, belief, or reflexive emotional response can bring about real physical healing.

In his world-famous Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California, people can participate in Chopra’s signature Perfect Health plan, which now is being offered at the Chambers Center for Well Being. The two places are the only ones the plan is available nationwide.

Dr. Dean Ornish, widely known for his Program for Reversing Heart Disease, also spoke Thursday, emphasizing that healthy integrative practices can actually reverse bad cardio health. Medicare now covers those who participate in his program, which also will be offered at the Chambers center.

“This is the first time that Medicare has covered an integrative medicine program,” he told the crowd.

To do so, the national social insurance program for senior citizens created a new benefit category—”intensive cardiac rehabilitation.”

The coverage indicates another national sea change toward integrative medicine. By 2017, a total of $4.5 trillion a year will be spent in the U.S. on preventable diseases, according to Dr. Mimi Guarneri, medical adviser for the new Chambers center.

“The cost of inaction is high,” she said.

The new center isn’t just for adults. It will treat children, too. Integrative pediatrician Annette Cartaxo, who has a background in developmental and behavioral pediatrics, is on staff.

“So many kids have chronic illnesses — immune, digestive, neurological. There are children with anxiety and 3-year-olds who have OCD and can’t go into a supermarket,” Cartaxo said. “We also see too many young children and adolescents with depression. That should not be.”

With an integrative approach, she views each child’s situation from many angles, including food, environment and how both impact genetics.

“So many kids have allergies and asthma,” she said. “I just read an article that acupuncture helps asthma. I know some nutrients that will decrease asthma. Now we can offer that to parents.”

Chambers, a private equity investor and founding chairman of the Points of Light Institute, is known for his roles in building the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the Prudential Center as well as his humanitarian work for children worldwide and with Malaria No More, an organization dedicated to ending malaria in Africa.

Lorraine Ash: 973-428-6660; lash@njpressmedia.com