Bella co-founder credits Christ with health clinic’s phenomenal growth

State of the art health center uses best of nature, science to offer holistic family and women’s care

Roxanne King

Four years ago, nurse practitioners Dede Chism and her daughter Abbey Sinnett opened Bella Natural Women’s Care as a state of the art health clinic offering care that is natural, scientific and holistic. When they opened their doors that Dec. 8 they had no patients—but they did have hearts full of faith and hope.

Now called Bella Natural Women’s Care and Family Wellness, the practice boasts 7,000 patients and registers some 200 new ones a month at its offices located at 180 E. Hampden Ave. in Englewood.

Due to demand, Bella added family medicine in 2016. That practice has grown so much that Bella is now expanding its 4,000-square-foot clinic by 1,200-square feet, primarily for family medicine. Bella also runs two satellite clinics in partnership with Catholic Charities’ Marisol Health offices. And the Bella model is being replicated around the nation.

“The success of our office is because Jesus is in the house,” Chism told the Denver Catholic during a tour of Bella that started in its chapel.

The chapel is essential in that the founders’ credit inspiration for Bella to the Holy Spirit.

“My daughter and I had just finished a very difficult medical mission in the high Andes in Peru where we encountered much brokenness,” Chism recalled. “I said to her, I think Our Lord is asking us to bring this back home. Abbey said, ‘I’m hearing the exact same thing.’

“It was like the Lord said, ‘There’s brokenness everywhere. There’s poverty everywhere. Come and care for my people back home.”

Returning to Colorado, they won the support of Archbishop Samuel Aquila, who  dedicated Bella when it opened two years after the duo’s initial inspiration.

“We made the decision with Archbishop Sam to open as a nonprofit under the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Denver Archdiocese,” Chism said. “He discerned it as an authentic movement of the Holy Spirit.… He made a prediction that this would be bigger than we could ever imagine. He said, ‘Mark my words, there is a need.’”

Chism marvels that Bella’s tremendous growth is so apparent in this 50th anniversary year of Humanae Vitae, the prophetic 1968 encyclical letter of St. Pope Paul VI on the regulation of birth, and on Archbishop Aquila’s recent pastoral letter on human sexuality, “The Splendor of Love.”

“When Pope Paul VI encouraged men of science to find a different way to care for people—care with dignity that is in line with God’s plan for his children—we had pioneers [in natural regulation of fertility] such as Dr. Thomas Hilgers, founder of the Pope Paul VI Institute. We’ve now hired our third physician for Bella: Dr. Kathleen McGlynn, who is one of Dr. Hilgers’ prodigies.”

Armed with a background in cutting-edge science addressing infertility, problem gynecology and obstetrics, McGlynn joined Bella in March.

“We find our methods for restoring the body and hormones as they need to be is as effective if not more effective [than in vitro fertilization],” Chism said.

Bella prides itself on embracing the dignity of the human person and using the highest standards of obstetrics, gynecology, fertility, nutrition and family health. In keeping with their life-affirming care, they also offer abortion reversal.

“Always a vital part of our care is a sincere compassion and respect for life,” said Chism, who authored “The High-Risk Pregnancy Sourcebook” (Lowell, 1997). “We want to support women in the best way that cooperates with their bodies. We bring that same level of care for body, mind and soul to the family.”

Patients say the quality care and reverence each person receives at Bella is unique.

“I am so grateful for Bella!” Denver resident Shaina Stein Palumbo wrote on Bella’s Facebook page in February. “From the moment I walked in the door to the moment I left, I felt transformed. I left with a sense of strength, femininity, ownership of a plan of care, and love. It is difficult to find a medical office that is willing to look outside of the box and provide genuine care. I am so glad that I have found Bella!”

“I wanted a practice that was not only focused on women’s care, but one that also valued the life of my child,” wrote Aurora resident Sheryl Clements in July. “I credit their proactive approach with allowing me to give birth to a healthy baby, and I have not been at a clinic that was so attentive.”

Since 2014 Bella has grown from a staff of six people to 34. The medical staff includes three doctors, a nurse midwife and five nurse practitioners.

In 2016, Bella partnered with Catholic Charities to offer clinical services at the agency’s Marisol Health centers in Denver and Lafayette. Last year, Bella became the model clinic and co-founding organization for the national Pro-Women’s Health Center (PWHC) Consortium, an initiative that unites clinics across the nation committed to standards of excellence in health care for women.

“Additionally, we are working with nine sites across the country seeking to create their own clinics based on the Bella model,” Chism said, adding that she’s grateful for Bella’s tremendous success.

“Our word of mouth response from patients is astronomical in the medical world,” she said. “Especially when Planned Parenthood and the like are putting so much money into negative messaging [about faith-based clinics].”

Although practicing medicine in line with Catholic teaching, more than half of Bella’s patients are non-Catholic, comprised of other Christians, practitioners of other faiths and people of no faith drawn by Bella’s combination of conventional and natural care.

Bella accepts insurance, self-pay and Medicaid. Patients aren’t refused care and about a third of their patients cannot pay, Chism said, adding that she hopes as people consider end of year giving they’ll consider helping Bella.

“We are excited about what’s going on and how the Lord can do things that would be impossible for man,” she said. “We think the people of northern Colorado will feel hope from what the Lord has done with a couple unlikely girls’ yes.”

BELLA NATURAL WOMEN’S CARE AND FAMILY WELLNESS

180 E. Hampden Ave., Suite 100, Englewood, CO 80113

Bellanwc.org

303-789-4968

COMING UP: Catholic Baby University prepares parents for the real deal

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Heidi and Jim Knous had no idea that something like a Catholic childbirth education existed. But not long after finding out the great news that they were expecting their first child, Brady, they came across an article in the Denver Catholic introducing Catholic Baby University — a program designed to teach expecting parents the nuts and bolts of both childbirth and Catholicism.

“I think it’s special because it gives you an opportunity to step back from all the registries and baby shower… and to really take time to come together as a couple to think about this vocation, what parenthood is … and how you want that to look for your family,” Heidi said.

“I think there’s a lot of distractions when you’re about to have a child,” Jim added. “Everybody knows it’s going to be tough and you’re going through a lot. Everybody’s trying to tell you, ‘You should do this, you should do that.’ But Catholic Baby U really gives you a solid understanding of what having a child is going to be like and includes the values that we learned as a family in raising a baby in the Catholic faith.”

Jim and Heidi Knous and their son Brady, are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver. (Photo provided)

 

The Catholic Baby University holistic program for parents — offered both as a weekend retreat or a six-class series — is the result of the partnership between Rose Medical Center and the Archdiocese of Denver and was inspired by the previously-founded Jewish Baby University.

The classes touch on topics dealing with childbirth instruction, postpartum experience, baby safety and the Catholic faith — and they are taught and facilitated by certified birth and safety instructors, mental health professionals, and members from the Office of Evangelization and Family Ministry of the Archdiocese of Denver.

“Statistically, people become more religiously involved when they have children, so we want to respond to people’s desires to reengage their faith with the coming of their child,” said Scott Elmer, Director of the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver and also a facilitator of the program, in a previous interview. “We want to be there to welcome them, celebrate the new life, and give them the tools they need to incorporate God into their home life.”

For Jim and Heidi, who are parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, the experience of having both the childbirth and Catholic aspects in this preparation did not disappoint, as they learned from each one.

“It was a great opportunity to come back and think about things from a basic level again and how to bring our child into the faith — things that you haven’t necessarily thought of or how you would teach a child something, [like praying],” Heidi said.

“Something we learned [that really made me reflect] was that the bond between me and Brady and between Heidi and Brady are very different. It happens at very different times,” Jim shared. “Right away when Heidi finds out she’s pregnant, then her bonding with Brady already starts all the way until Brady’s born. As a dad, it doesn’t start until he is born and I’m actually holding him.”

Heidi assured the concept of “gatekeeping” also helped them prepare for parenting better.

“[Gatekeeping] is when, as a mom, you get really wrapped up in, ‘Only I know how to change baby diapers, only I know how to feed the baby, only I know how to do this,’” Heidi explained. “And I am someone who I could’ve seen thinking that I could be the only person that knew how to take care of [my child]. But gaining that understanding helped us co-parent a lot easier from the very beginning because I was aware of it.”

“I would tell [expecting couples] that Catholic Baby University is a great place to start, to gain community, to meet other people that are in a similar place that you are in; having people in the same room who are just as excited, just as terrified who also want to learn,” Heidi concluded. “It’s just a really awesome opportunity to take advantage of.”