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Carolyn Coker Ross, M.D.HEALTH, BALANCE, EXPRESSION
Woman whose work is about healing

Written by TIFFANY KOHL PANZA
Photography by KIMBERLY DAWN

If one could combine the wisdom and positive energy of these three women, it seems wholly possible they could solve many of mankind’s most perplexing problems in a single day.

They are in the business of improving lives, and their Successes can be measured not only in an annual report or conference room, but also in the indescribable value of a well-lived human life. Read on to meet these extraordinary women.

CAROLYN COKER ROSS, M.D.
As a young resident in preventive medicine, Carolyn Coker Ross quickly recognized that people needed to change their behaviors to improve their health. She was so fascinated by the connection between lifestyle and illness that her lifelong question as a doctor became this: What would it take to help people heal? She began in primary care for women, and after opening three women’s centers and developing weight management programs within her practice, she has focused her work mostly on eating disorders for the past few years.

Ross currently is the medical director of the Eating Disorder Center of Denver (EDC-D). She also is a speaker and the author of two books, one on healing and one on eating disorders, and is at work on a third book about binge-eating disorders.

“I talk a lot about how you can’t run this really big life that all women want to have without a strong, healthy body to do it,” she says, knowing this from personal experience. Many years ago, Ross was swimming in work and family commitments and wasn’t caring for herself. “I had an experience with illness myself, and Western medicine wasn’t working well,” she says. “I had to explore other options beyond what I was taught in medical school.” She then completed a two-year fellowship at Dr. Andrew Weil’s program in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona and began to incorporate strategies for mental wellness and alternative remedies (acupuncture, massage, dietary supplements and more) into her traditional medical practice.

As a doctor who for years has treated women who have pushed themselves too far and as a busy, accomplished mother herself, Dr. Ross has some strategies for managing it all. She is a believer in mindfulness (being present in the moment) and body awareness. “The way I juggle is focusing on what I’m doing when I’m doing it,” she says. She also advises paying close attention to the cues from one’s body. “If I feel really anxious or very revved up, or I’m not sleeping well, I know I’ve gone too far and I need to back off,” she explains. “It’s about giving yourself permission to have balance in your life.”

In her second book, Healing Mind, Body, and Spirit: An Integrative Medicine Approach to the Treatment of Eating Disorders, she reminds readers that body and spirit are of equal importance to the mind and that healing is about balancing all three. “Ask yourself, is my spirit being nourished by this job? This relationship? It’s about reconnecting with yourself,” she says.

As for Ross, she loves the complexity of her job and finds eating disorders to be a fascinating set of diseases to treat. She’s excited about the collaborative research being done by EDC-D and the Children’s Hospital and other institutions. For example, a recent research study indicates that dietary supplements eliminate the need for prescription medications to treat digestive problems and sleep disorders, which are common for patients at EDC-D. But Ross stresses that everything she implements is based on solid research. “We are doing things in a responsible way, and we are proving that what we are doing is working,” she says.

EDC-D offers three different programs: partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and evening intensive outpa-tient. Additional outpatient therapy is also available, and EDC-D offers free screenings. To learn more, visit www.edcdenver.com.

Doni LuckettDONI LUCKETT
Doni Luckett is a living testament to the power of positive thinking. She’s the Chief Experience Officer and mastermind behind Divine Basics, a successful lifestyle company. “My company is about helping women stay connected using writing as a central theme,” she explains, adding that it is especially important for women to reignite the connection with the self.

The company’s flagship product, the Penfleurs floral pen, was created to give women a beautiful instrument to inspire lovely penmanship and to write meaningful prose. The pen and the company were created with the intention of bringing a classically modern touch to the age-old art of writing and to encourage people to keep in touch with friends through letters or to keep in touch with themselves through journaling. “It’s to inspire you to something bigger,” Luckett says.

By the time she was 12 years old, Luckett had lived in five countries. While her childhood was enlightening in most ways, she didn’t build everlasting connections to people. As a young adult, she turned both inward and outward to feel more connected. After working in PR and marketing, in pharmaceuticals, and as an editor, she reached a turning point in her career and decided to fashion her hobby into her job.

She launched Divine Basics in 2001 and today touches women’s lives on a daily basis through her messaging and products, including pens, journals and invitations. Luckett has achieved a reputation as a national expert on living a connected life and has been featured in numerous onair interviews. Her columns have been widely published in newspapers. She often speaks at conferences and is developing a series of seminars called Yoga for the Writer’s Soul and Yoga for the Creative Soul. What does Luckett do when she has a bad day? “I’m a big proponent of ‘feel your feelings.’ If you don’t, they will come back when you least expect it or linger. Journaling is probably the biggest way that I do it, and I journal all the time,” she says. She also practices yoga and meditation to release negativity.

Of all her achievements, Luckett is most proud of the balance she has created. “I’m pretty pleased with my family life and being able to balance work with getting together with friends and doing fun things,” she says. She also points out that individuals need to be selective with their time. “People sometimes don’t take into consideration that doing happy things may add almost as much stress as the not-so-positive things,” she explains. “I have a job I love, and I can still overdo it.”

A high-energy person, Luckett finds it difficult to do nothing, but recognizes the importance of downtime. “If I’m procrastinating, that tells me I’m tired and I don’t realize it,” she says. “Usually if I rest, I find my energy comes right back.”

Luckett reminds us that one person’s relaxing activity is another person’s stressful activity. “You really need to know what makes you happy, what helps you relieve stress, what helps you balance, what
helps keep you connected,” she explains.

“I go to the grocery store and read magazines. That’s a fun thing to me.” Visit www.divine-basics.com for more information.

Debrah ZephDEBRAH ZEPF
Even though she logs 50 to 60 hours a week at work, Debrah Zepf is happy and energized. “It’s my choice. It’s my spiritual journey as well as my life journey,” she says. As owner of Holistic Herbal Health, Zepf is board certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners as a holistic health practitioner, board certified by the American Naturopathic Medical Association as a master herbalist and is a clinical aromatherapist, massage therapist and licensed in therapeutic touch.

Clients come to her seeking alternative assessments and treatment for a variety of health problems and to simply learn how to make healthier natural choices for their bodies. Zepf says good health is about maintaining balance among one’s physical, emotional, spiritual and mental states. “I like to say I integrate some Eastern and Western medicines. I have M.D.s I refer back and forth with who understand my philosophy,” she says. “I cannot diagnose, but I assess the body and what the organs are doing.”

Zepf, a native Canadian who has lived in several countries around the world, first began learning about therapeutic touch, known as reiki, in 1990. Her travels around the country and the world inspired her to learn the secrets of herbs and natural healing, massage and aromatherapy.

After returning to the United States, it only made sense to create a healing arts center where she could offer patients a menu of services in one place. She opened Holistic Herbal Health two years ago. The services offered include the IonCleanse foot bath, which helps remove toxins from the body; the Electro-Acupuncture of Voll (EAV), a noninvasive machine that determines health imbalances of the body; and the Infrared Sauna. Other popular services include nutrition consultations with an on-staff nutritionist, essential oil therapies, therapeutic touch and massage.

Although there are many reasons people come to Zepf, some of the common concerns are gastrointestinal problems, weight loss and menopause. Of the 450 patients she currently is working with, Zepf says only about 10 have not returned. “I’m having great successes whether they are small or large,” she says, but stresses that her treatments are not a fast fix. If a person tries to make too many changes at once, the body may shift into crisis mode. “You don’t come here for a quick fix. We find answers and slowly work on it,” she explains.

To maintain her own health, Zepf relies on faith and spiritual guidance, is vigilant about avoiding pesticides and pollutants and believes in continually educating herself for personal growth. Her philosophy is to live a healthy, happy life. “If I can’t do that, I shouldn’t be helping other people on their journeys,” she says.

What is her best advice for other women? “Take time to be aware of what’s happening in your body. Breathe. Be aware of your surroundings,” she says. Zepf also conducts monthly educational seminars about a variety of topics from muscles to menopause. Learn more at www.rootedinhealth.com.