Have fun with your work! Life is stressful enough. — Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy what it is! There are always going to be frustrations, but you ultimately need to be having fun in order for anything to be worth your time. We have a great time together, we are incredibly passionate about integrative therapies and helping people, and it is so much fun developing and implementing new ideas.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindy Camardella and Sara Hess, Co-founders of Integrate MEdicine.
Melinda (Lindy) Camardella — Lindy, as a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, found connecting with patients to be a fundamental gift of being a practitioner and building a community of people whom you care for and learn. She often saw patients frustrated with limited awareness of all their to treat their specific condition. Lindy wanted to connect and care for more people and give them options to improve their health at home. Every health practitioner has limited time to treat patients. Still, Lindy envisioned a way to increase her community of care and reach those who wouldn’t usually have access to integrated health options because of cost or location. Our initial product sales are going towards the development of resources to broaden access to care.
She currently is practicing at Momentum Health Center in Arlington Heights, IL. Board Certified in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine through the NCCAOM. Advocacy and advancing integrative health care are a passion and priority for her. She currently serves as the President for the Illinois Society of Acupuncturists and is the External Communications Chair for the national association of the American Society of Acupuncturists.
Sara Hess — Sara has been an educator and involved in helping people through volunteer work and community organizations. Interested in finding ways to care for her family that incorporate multiple healthcare approaches, she has explored many options. Acupuncture, chiropractic, essential oils, nutrition, exercise, and homeopathy were methods to improve pain, allergies, anxiety, sleeplessness, and other health concerns for her family. In that research and use, she is always excited to share what she has learned with others in the hopes that it might help them as well. Also, Sara serves as PTA President at her children’s elementary school and still finds time to tutor other kids in the evening. She demonstrates through her actions the importance of education and is now using her skills to inform people about health.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
We are not strangers to the “jump in and solve it” attitude that is necessary to owning a small business. Both of us had examples of entrepreneurial spirit from our parents, who were small business owners.
Sara — For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a teacher. I would play school when I was younger, use old textbooks, and ask for gradebooks as presents. I completed my BA and MA in education and reading; after teaching middle school and high school for 12 years, I stayed home for a couple of years with our young kids. I continued to be involved in education but also started exploring other career paths. In the meantime, I was researching and utilizing different integrative therapies for my own family’s health needs: asthma, allergies, stress, pre-and post-natal needs. After a few conversations with Lindy about expanding the reading of integrative medicine and the ability to teach more people about how to be aware of the spectrum of options, the idea of combining our expertises was born.
Lindy — After completing an undergrad in Economics and Business at Illinois Wesleyan University, I still had a desire to relate to people in person instead of through spreadsheets, so I went back to school at Loyola University to prepare for a path in medicine. Still, after getting into medical school, there was something tugging at my heart. In reflecting on my personal health path and how I wanted to care for people, I realized I had been greatly impacted by integrative medicine via acupuncture and chiropractic. After a quick shift in direction, I enrolled at Pacific College of Health Sciences in Chicago, IL. Upon graduation, I started and built my practice over the last 9 years. Seeing a need to educate people on how to navigate integrative health care brought me to the idea of Integrate Medicine and flourished with my partnership with Sara.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” Nelson Mandela
This has been something that we have to remind ourselves of regularly. We haven’t found a comprehensive resource for integrative options that is comparable to what we are creating; sometimes, we look at each other after a frustrating experience and say “This is why no one has done this before.” But, just because it hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it! So we keep going back and finding different ways to tackle the obstacles we come across.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
We love the podcast “How I Built This” by Guy Raz. It’s so inspiring to hear about the persistence and resilience of people in so many different entrepreneurial situations and challenges. In particular, the episode on Spanx: Sara Blakely resonated with us, as female entrepreneurs who see a need for something that doesn’t currently exist. Even if there were challenges and limited finances, she still pursued her goals. As a way to give back, Blakely started The Red Backpack Fund to help other women entrepreneurs get started on their passion. Similarly, we use profits to benefit those who do not have financial access to Integrate Medicine resources.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Lindy — I was working as an Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner. Having completed my Doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine the year before, I was trying to figure out my next endeavor, while still regularly treating patients in my clinic at Momentum Health Center.
Sara — I was in education, still doing some part-time work, while also at home with our young kids. Much of my part-time work came to a halt at the beginning of the pandemic.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic? Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
For the first two and a half months of the pandemic, our families were quarantined together, which included four adults and six kids. Outside of managing e-learning, grocery shopping and cooking, we had numerous hours to talk about life and aspirations. Prior to the pandemic, Sara had visions of starting her own company, and Lindy had seen gaps in the healthcare knowledge of integrative therapies. This was our “Aha moment” — bridging Sara’s background in education with Lindy’s experience in healthcare, we created Integrate Medicine. By bringing the two together, we hope to provide reliable resources for people who are trying to navigate their own health and wellness journey. We provide the option to try integrative remedies in your home with kits tailored for specific needs, as well as resources on the different interventions available.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Our goal has been to build up resources on our website, which is going well. We regularly have ideas of what else we can add, and we are excited to continue the process of providing education around integrative medicine options, as well as access to the different products we have researched and used. Our commitment to providing researched-backed information and products continues to drive us every day.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
As a team, we are extremely grateful for each other. It has been so helpful and valuable to have another person to motivate, bounce ideas off of, and divide tasks. We’ve found our strengths and experiences to compliment each other well.
Additionally, our families are extremely supportive; our full-time, working husbands are consistently encouraging us, making time for us to work and hit each set of goals we set. They celebrate our wins with us and help us through our obstacles, and we absolutely couldn’t do it without them. Our kids are also huge supporters, and we are grateful for their presence in this process.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be patient — this is a process that takes time! We have so many visions and goals for the growth of Integrate Medicine, and sometimes it can feel frustrating when we aren’t accomplishing them as fast as we thought or hoped. We both have kids at home e-learning and are still working simultaneously. We remain committed to this endeavor and have a resolve to stick with it, but realize that it is a journey that will not be completed in a month. As we work to inform people what our company is about, we know it takes time and are excited for opportunities to continue the education process.
- Don’t try to be an expert at everything — There are many things we don’t have the expertise to do (or the time to learn it)! And we shouldn’t! We’ve learned to lean in to people who have more experience, expertise, or perspective in certain areas; we can learn from them, but we can also allow them to do things for us that it is not beneficial for us to learn to do ourselves. For example, my brother has more experience with software, website building, and user experience; using his knowledge and expertise, helped us get some things accomplished with our website that we were struggling to do on our own.
- Not everyone will understand what you’re doing — When we first came up with Integrate Medicine, and we shared with family and close friends, they were all so supportive and excited for us — whether they truly understood what we were doing or the long-term benefits we could provide. After doing some work getting the business model structured and getting through the beginning stages, we had a meeting with a business mentor that went really well! He provided some suggestions, told us about a few things that he’d seen work, and gave us referrals for people that may provide some help in areas in which he did not have expertise. But, when we set up a meeting with one of them, this gentleman did not understand our business model, our goals, or much of anything that we talked with him about. At the time, it was incredibly discouraging, and we weren’t positive what to do next. After a couple of days of processing, we were able to pull out a few helpful suggestions, as well as realize he did not understand the model of an internet-based business, nor did he have enough background knowledge on integrative medicine to be providing suggestions on that aspect, and that’s okay! Every now and then we repeat something we heard once, “If no one thinks your goals are crazy, then you’re probably not aiming high enough.” This helps us keep things in perspective and reminds us of all of the amazing things we have in our world that, at one time, many people thought weren’t possible!
- Focus on your own positive impact, big or small — Related back to our previous situation, we’ve found we need to stay focused on ourselves and the impact we’re making; it’s critical to look within to envision a better future. We have big goals and aim to make a big impact, but we need to remember that sometimes the things we accomplish may have a smaller impact, which is just as important!
- Have fun with your work! Life is stressful enough. — Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy what it is! There are always going to be frustrations, but you ultimately need to be having fun in order for anything to be worth your time. We have a great time together, we are incredibly passionate about integrative therapies and helping people, and it is so much fun developing and implementing new ideas.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Initially, everything felt like it was up for grabs. There were days that we didn’t even change out of pajamas. We quickly found this wasn’t sustainable, so we made sure to get dressed every day, exercise at least three times a week, eat nutritious meals, and make space for some alone time. It’s not easy, but making these conscious decisions as regularly as possible has had a significant impact for both of us. Additionally, we’ve found that being intentional with our news and social media consumption has helped us to be informed, while not falling into traps that are unproductive for our own mental well-being.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
We would love to see more people be proactive participants in their health journey. On a larger scale, we hope to see medicine and its practices come together. Often the most sustainable opportunities for individual health and environmental health involve more individuals doing what they can to stay well instead of waiting until they are in need of more expensive medical interventions that not only cost more but have a greater negative impact on the environment.
With these two pieces as the priority, we envision all forms of health care to fall under the umbrella of medicine so practitioners feel less threatened by something unknown, and instead feel a willingness to perfect their craft and work together with other practitioners as a TEAM.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
We would love to have lunch with Vivek Murthy, MD/M.B.A. who advocates for a healthier and more compassionate America. I have followed him for years and admire his passion to help reduce the opioid epidemic and move health care to one that is more well rounded and utilizes less pharmaceuticals.
As moms and entrepreneurs, we would also enjoy having lunch with Kendra Scott. It is always inspiring to see someone who is also balancing being a wife, mom, and businesswoman. So many times, the little voice inside that says you can do this gets drowned out by daily needs, but starting to set aside time to follow your own passion adds up then you can find ways to positively impact humanity.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find all of our resources at integratemedicine.org; here, you’ll find our physical kits and products that can be shipped to you, in addition to our blog, videos, and links to reliable information.
Additionally, join is on Instagram (@integratemedicineinc), Facebook (@IntegrateMEdicine), and LinkedIn (Integrate Medicine, Inc.). We have exciting products, educational opportunities, and fun conversations that we’d love for you to be a part of!
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!