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Women's Integrated Health Network - Kingsway

When Dr. Karen Proctor established the West End Women’s Integrated Health Network (or WEWIN) she was inspired by the Kingsway neighbourhood where she both lives and works. “It really is a village within the city,” explains Karen, who understood that her patients at Back on Track Chiropractic and Massage Clinic prefer to stay local as much as possible. “If I am referring a patient to someone else for care, I would much rather be able to tell that patient that the office is ‘down the street near Humber Optical’, rather than ‘downtown in this giant professional tower’. And I think my patients like it better too.”

But WEWIN is not just about geographic location. While it is a great benefit that all nine members live and work in the Kingsway area, what was even more important to Karen was that all of them saw eye-to-eye on their approach to patient care. Each of these women believe that integrated healthcare is the way of the future – and that if they aren’t able to solve their patient or client’s problem, the best thing to do is to refer them to someone who might be able to.

And so, in summer 2017, Karen began to seek out local, like-minded professionals with whom she could collaborate in order to provide her patients with the best possible care. Some she found through referrals from her patients themselves. Others she knew through professional connections. Some were practitioners that she or members of her family had seen as patients/clients in the neighbourhood. Now, nine women make up the interdisciplinary health network that is WEWIN. 

“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” muses Stacee Forrester, Registered Massage Therapist (RMT). “Well, it also takes a kind of village to heal a client or patient.” The WEWIN village looks a little differently than your typical medical team. Each of the women has their own practice, and they work out of separate offices. But while they don’t share the same physical space, they still make up a cohesive team.

“There are fantastic people around all over the city, but I don't necessarily know what they do or what they specialize in,” explains Karen. Adds Dorothy Gornik, Registered Holistic Nutritionist: “I love to walk up here [to Bloor]. I love that about our neighbourhood. And that’s the key for me – if I’m going to recommend somebody, I want it to be someone I know and someone within this area. People don’t want to drive across the city.” Through WEWIN, Karen and the team have gotten to know each other and their specific expertise, allowing them to confidently refer their patients to each other when appropriate.

This “village” approach encourages the patient to be comfortable. “My clients trust me. So if I suggest that they go see Karen, they trust that referral and feel so looked after,” says Rochenda Howard, Registered Physiotherapist. “It expands my practice and creates a multi-disciplinary practice among us.” 

“It’s nice to work in a more holistic matter – getting to know my client and figuring out how to help them, even in a way that’s outside my scope of practice,” explains Stacee.

“You have to look at the whole picture,” adds Dorothy. “It’s about whole health – internally, externally, mentally, physically. As a whole team we can address all of those.”

The interdisciplinary network has obvious benefits for the patients and clients, but also for the women who make up WEWIN. “We have different training and different points of view,” explains Dr. Nahid Ahmedzadeh, Naturopathic Doctor. “Someone might go to Carolyn and uncover that their posture was wreaking havoc on their gut. And that’s an education piece for the patient and for me as well, in terms of how I might approach a similar problem in the future.” 

Observing these women together, it is clear that their professional collaboration is fueled by their genuine respect and affection for each other. According to Karen: “We laugh, we have fun. It’s really easy and comfortable.” With Nahid adding: “And we all genuinely want what's best for the patient.”

They make it a point to meet in person quarterly at one of their local homes, the first meeting happening back in July 2017 at Dorothy’s house. Although they often share ideas and ask questions in a private Facebook group, these face-to-face get-togethers are the best way for them to feed off of one another. “It’s always easier to get ideas as a group,” says Dorothy. “If you have collaboration there's no better way.”

Down the road, the women of WEWIN would like to become even more involved in the Kingsway neighbourhood with a desire to do more community outreach, including education sessions. They have noticed that there is a great appetite for it in the community, and they hope to become a trusted local source of health and wellness information.

The team reflects that the bottom line is that “you’re not alone”. This is true for the women of WEWIN, who now have a local professional network to leverage; but it is also true for the residents of the Kingsway, who can tap into such diverse and extensive expertise within the borders of their very own community. 

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