By Alexander Germanis
For thousands of years it has been well understood there are certain things essential to survival: food, water, shelter — and in order to survive changes in seasons and environments — raiment.
These things are essential to merely living. Should one suffer illness or any other sort of imbalance in one’s life, the essentials of survival are not enough to bring back that balance or restore one’s health.
In Peoria, Essential Wellness Pharmacy is a place where they recognize and understand the many things essential to not just living, but to living a happy, healthy, long, and balanced life.
A career of wellness
The owner and operator of Essential Wellness Pharmacy is Bill Kalman, RPh. Raised in Orion, Illinois, Bill set out on the path of healing at a young age. “I have always had a desire to help people live healthier lives,” Bill says. “My dad had opened an independent pharmacy in Orion in the early 70s, which he had for about 20 years. Growing up around our family’s pharmacy, I saw the interaction my dad had with his customers. It inspired me to become a pharmacist myself.”
Although Bill’s original dream was to take over the family pharmacy, he eventually took a different path, graduating from the University of Iowa, College of Pharmacy in 1990 and heading to Peoria to launch his career. While garnering years of pharmaceutical experience in the tri-county area, Bill married his wife, Monica in 2002, had two children, and finally found his way to Essential Wellness.
Opened in 2009 by Jeff and Stacy Robins, Essential Wellness was started as a way to better approach health and wellness. About 20 years ago, Jeff began studying functional and integrated treatment approaches to improve patient health and heal the body or prevent further damage. “He started combining compounding, bio-identical hormone replacement and lifestyle changes with vitamin supplementation [to replace] conventional disease treatments,” Bill says.
The end result was Essential Wellness, which Jeff used to expand his goal to improve the health of Central Illinois. Bill’s 20-year relationship with Jeff and Stacy led to him working for them starting in 2013 and then taking over from them two years later. “Coming to Essential Wellness was the step in my career to go beyond simply filling and checking prescriptions to helping patients improve their lives and their health,” Bill shares. “Given the proper information, nutrition, or supplementation and lifestyle changes, many patients have improved their health conditions or reversed them completely.”
Bill then set a new store mission: “To empower our patients to make meaningful changes in their health and wellness, to reclaim energetic and active lives through inspirational education and listening intently while offering the highest quality health care products.”
Holistic not homeopathic
The human body is much more than just a physical machine. When it starts to break down, the causes and, subsequently, the fixes are not always straightforward. Looking at the “bigger picture” of a person’s health or lack thereof is part of what Essential Wellness does. Although it is a pharmacy, sometimes this holistic approach means they may not believe prescription drugs are always necessary.
However, Bill points out, that does not mean they are what is termed as a “homeopathic” pharmacy. “Even though we are known as the “pharmacy that doesn’t like drugs,” there is a time and place for conventional prescription medications,” he states. “Conventional Western medicine uses prescription medications to alleviate the symptoms of a disease. If a condition is severe enough, a medicine may be needed to get the condition under control from the start of treatment. Treating conditions with natural treatments, supplements, or lifestyle changes can take longer periods of time to correct whatever changed in the body that led to the condition. Conventional medications can bridge the gap between detection of a condition and actual healing of the body. At that point, it may be possible to wean off of the medication without the condition returning.”
Bill goes on to explain that while their holistic approach is often confused as homeopathy, this is certainly not the case. “Homeopathy may include natural treatments but is not necessarily looking at the whole body,” he says. “The basis of homeopathy is to take a substance related to a condition a person is experiencing and dilute it down to a state where the exposure may be only a single or very small numbers of molecules of that substance. The theory behind this approach is to give the immune system minute exposure to something, which in larger quantities, leads to a negative reaction. Through this exposure, the body will hopefully produce an immune response that will counter larger exposures in the future, thus preventing a larger reaction.”
Holistic treatment, on the other hand, is simply the treatment of the whole body, including mental and social factors, and how a body is supposed to function. The pharmacists at Essential Wellness then use their knowledge to determine what may have changed or what was damaged that led to the symptoms of a disease.
“We do very little homeopathic treatment at our store,” Bill adds. “When it comes to boosting the immune system, we use known methods to improve its function. This can be through individually compounded medications, supplements, and nutritional and lifestyle changes.”
Compounding: an apothecary art
One known method to improve the function of the body is one upon which the entire apothecary’s art used to be based: compounding. “Pharmacy compounding is the art and science of preparing individualized medications for a patient, for both humans and animals. The compounded medication is prepared based on a practitioner’s prescription order,” Bill describes. “Individual ingredients are mixed together in specific quantities to get the strength, flavor, and dosage form for that patient.”
While compounding made up the apothecary’s profession in its early days, with the advent of large pharmaceutical companies, the need for compounding has dwindled. It still serves a very viable purpose, however. “Compounding allows practitioners to prescribe medications in strengths and forms that are not commercially available or have been discontinued by the manufacturers,” he says. “Also, compounds can be made to avoid allergies or sensitivities, such as being free of gluten, dairy, soy, or other allergens. Often the most difficult of pets can be given a form or flavor that they will actually take.”
“Within the past 20 years, a movement in integrated and functional medicine has created a greater demand for compounded medications with the individualization of treatment,” Bill reveals. “Compounding is one of the main things we do.”
Customer service: another dying art
It is no secret that big companies are geared toward making big profit. Pharmaceutical companies are no exception. In order to make that profit margin bigger and lower overall costs, prices go up and personnel are let go.
“A decrease in personnel means less staff to attend to customer needs,” Bill points out. “At Essential Wellness, we pride ourselves on the customer service we provide. Our goal is to provide our patients with service they need and deserve in a time of illness.”
With a highly knowledgeable staff, Essential Wellness offers something that sets them apart in their line of work: one-on-one consultations with the pharmacist. These consultations can be done in person or over the phone, covering everything from the patient’s health conditions to their concerns. The pharmacist will also go over current prescriptions and supplement usage and discuss what changes will need to be implemented. The fee for the consult is $60 for a half hour. “When looking at the overall cost of a physician visit and the time allotted for a patient, it is quite a bargain,” Bill says.
He goes on to explain the further benefit of these consultations and the other interactions with their patients. “We develop a relationship with them. Our patients become like family to us. We have seen that having a close, caring relationship with our patients has driven them to work harder to improve their health. We genuinely care about them and about them getting better. Patients seem more willing to continue therapies when we support them through it. It also adds an element of accountability for the patient to follow through with the recommendations.”
Already in the top percentile nationally for compounding pharmacies, Essential Wellness is concentrating on maintaining a strong foothold in Peoria by continuing to take care of the their patients. But as their patients are coming to them from outside the Peoria area, Bill sees expansion as a very logical goal. “Our motto is ‘Guiding Central Illinois to health and wellness — one patient at a time,’” he says. “[But] I would love to bring our holistic, integrated, and functional approach to patients in other locations.”
Their approach to supporting health is as much through lifestyle changes and supplementation as it is through medications. Essential Wellness is, after all, the pharmacy that doesn’t like drugs. “By giving the body what it needs to run right, people can have much healthier lives,” Bill sums up. At Essential Wellness Pharmacy, he says, “We dispense health.”
For more information, contact Essential Wellness Pharmacy, 4625 N. University St., Peoria
Phone: 309-681-8850 or visit essentialwellnesspharmacy.com
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