A holistic approach to health and well-being
Podesta Wellness is more than just a place to get massages and therapy. It’s a wellness model that corresponds to a more functional medicine. This holistic treatment model looks at the root causes of everything by using biology, genetics, current chemistry, the gut, brain, hormone access, and how all of these systems relate to each other.
Dr. Arwen Podesta, owner and founder of Podesta Wellness, is a psychiatrist specialized in holistic, integrative medicine, addiction medicine and forensic psychiatry. In 2012, she started Podesta Wellness as an office-based psychiatric practice that incorporates holistic medicine, including nutrition, massage therapy, psychotherapy with two counselors, and two acupuncturists on site.
Podesta Wellness is much different from your mainstream health care provider. “The mainstream medical use of pharmacological agents or physical interventions only treats or suppresses symptoms. It’s a reductionist theory where symptoms are treated as though they are not related,” says Dr. Podesta. While it’s a little bit outside of her scope to treat primary care illnesses, she communicates closely with specialists to make sure her patients get the care they need.
In the driving seat – The Entrepreneurial Physician
Dr. Podesta has always been more entrepreneurial than most physicians and wanted to be more autonomous, as opposed to working for a hospital system. Her goal was to be at the forefront of offering the best treatment possible, independent of the insurance- and hospital-driven care.
She first discovered her interest in chronic diseases and the genetics of the disease model at a massage therapy school in Northern California. As a massage therapist, she worked closely with doctors who treated chronic illnesses. After completing her undergraduate degree, she went to medical school at Southern University of California in Los Angeles.
Stabilizing the mental health of the city after Hurricane Katrina
In 2004, Dr. Podesta fell in love with New Orleans while interviewing in the city. After Katrina, she migrated between central Louisiana and New Orleans to see the patients that were at charity hospitals. After finishing the residency process, she accepted a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at Tulane University and joined the faculty. Meanwhile, she pursued her added specialties in addiction medicine and holistic and integrative medicine.
After working as a full-time faculty member at Tulane, and transitioning to Townsend Addiction Treatment Center, she decided to create more of a holistic model for her patients in 2012. Five years later, Podesta Wellness now consists of eight practitioners and two business managers.
Besides running Podesta Wellness, Dr. Podesta has been the medical director of Odyssey House Louisiana for ten years, a non-profit behavioral health care provider with an emphasis on addiction treatment. She is also medical director of two other treatment centers: ACER and Dependency Pain Treatment Center. In addition, she is a consultant at the drug court for Orleans Criminal District Court. Until today, she is still a faculty member at Tulane and LSU.
Who is seeking care at Podesta Wellness?
“The people who seek help at Podesta Wellness usually have very good health literacy. Some are looking for a more advanced work up of their psychiatric, psychological or physical ambiance. Others are looking for advancement in their cognitive skills or sharpness. There are also
individuals who struggle with all stages of addiction or trauma. The core commonality of all of our clients is that they’ve usually been through a lot of different care that didn’t work for them, and they are very motivated to find something that will work for them,” said Dr. Podesta. Because of the fact that the practice doesn’t take insurance, patients can receive care that is doctor-driven, rather than insurance-driven.
Expectations – Biggest success – Lessons learned
Dr. Podesta says, the business started a little slower than expected because in a non-insurance-driven field word of mouth and efficacy is everything. “It took about 18 month to get to our full capacity, “ she said. When it comes to her biggest success as a healthcare practitioner, she considers it as one of the most rewarding feelings when patients tell her that she has saved their lives.
The only downfall she experienced as a business owner was when she tried to deal with insurance. At that time, patients were sent to her based on proximity, but were often not interested in the holistic model. This disconnect caused irritation and frustration in some of those patients. “The self-motivated patient is really the best patient for our model, “ she said.
Advice to entrepreneurs – Subsidize your revenue
Dr. Podesta has three pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs. First, you should have other contracts going during your start-up phase. “I think that the contracts I was doing during my first couple of years were really subsidizing the business, and I didn’t have to worry about overhead of the building or the business,” she said.
She also thinks it’s absolutely necessary to consult a business strategist. Every professional should be focused on what they are best at, and let other people do what they are best at.
Lastly, she is convinced that it’s important to have excellent web presence, findability, and reputation.
Why does holistic medicine have such a high demand in New Orleans?
“It was a good feeling to be able to help stabilize the mental health of the city after Hurricane Katrina. There is a huge need for holistic and integrative treatment,” Dr. Podesta said. Anyone who lives in New Orleans knows that we take life and pleasure very seriously, which drives the need for people to take their wellness seriously. When it comes to other practitioners in the same field, Dr. Podesta says that everyone truly collaborates in the fight against health issues. “There is just such a huge need in the city, so it doesn’t feel like we are competition,” she said.
Vision for the business – Expansion
In the next 5-10 years, Dr. Podesta would like to double the size of the practice, by expanding to 12 practitioners, and moving into a bigger space. She would also like to add an expert in primary care, so she could have basic primary care procedures done in-house.
Dr. Podesta’s favorite things to do in New Orleans
Dr. Podesta loves to go to art exhibits and shows with her husband Alex, who is an artist himself (Locals may be familiar with his “Bunny Men” exhibit that pops up on neighborhood rooftops). One of her favorite things is bicycling through City Park when the magnolias are blooming or stumbling upon a random crawfish boil.