Too hot for you? Try some cryotherapy at the new Chambers Center in Morris Township

COOLER HEADS PREVAIL: Volunteer bobs in -135 degree cryotherapy tank, at opening of the Chambers Center by PALM Health, July 10, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Public television’s favorite doctors, Deepak Chopra and Dean Ornish, came to the grand opening of the Chambers Center for Well Being five years ago with a prescription of love, compassion and forgiveness for wellness.

That prescription got updated Wednesday at the Morris Township facility, rechristened the Chambers Center by PALM Health.

PALM stands for Personalized Advanced Lifestyle Medicine, a venture started in St. Louis in 2016 by cardiologist Lauren Munsch Dal Farra.

Lauren Munsch Dal Farra, M.D., PALM Health founder, at opening of the Chambers Center by PALM Health, July 10, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Although she may not be a marquee name on PBS, Dal Farra knows something about star power. With her husband, Brice Dal Farra, and brother-in-law Claude Dal Farra, she started a production company that has made films with Vera Farmiga (Higher Ground) and Jane Fonda (Peace, Love and Misunderstanding).

She also owns the agency Statement Advertising in Los Angeles, and is founder of Anthropedia, a nonprofit that promotes “integrative” medicine.

PALM will run the revamped Chambers Center in a joint venture with the Atlantic Health System, parent company of Morristown Medical Center; and the MCJ Amelior Foundation, founded by the center’s namesake, businessman and philanthropist Ray Chambers.

In its prior incarnation, the center promoted mindfulness, stress reduction and healthy lifestyles, Lauren Dal Farra said. PALM promises “a stronger integration” of those services and medical therapies, for a “whole-person approach” to health.

A “medical concierge line” will provide around-the-clock access to physicians in primary care, internal- and functional medicine, and to specialists in cardiology and gastroenterology.

New offerings also include a cryotherapy tank for immersion in sub-freezing nitrogen (eases joint pain and boosts endorphins, according to Membership Director Anney Perrine), an Infrared Sauna (penetrates the skin to produce toxin-cleansing glandular sweat, she said) and a Salt Room for meditation with blasts of “micro-ionized salt” (to simulate the calming electrochemical effects of a day at the beach).

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click/hover on images for captions:

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Re-set your Circadian rhythms with biofeedback. Re-wire your brain with “neuroplasticity exercises,” as Morris Township Mayor Jeff Grayzel and Morristown Councilman David Silva did on Wednesday, learning complex juggling patterns.  Visit the Intravenous Room for drips of vitamin- and mineral supplements and chelation therapy. Acupuncture?  Of course.

Couples counseling, cardiac programs, personal training, nutrition consults, stress management, sleep restoration, massage, skin care, gluten-free brownies and spinach smoothies in the café …the Chambers Center by PALM Health is part clinic, part spa.

“We knew when we saw their center in St. Louis that they had that secret sauce,” said Atlantic Health Senior Vice President Amy Perry. “We knew that they were going to offer something to our patients and our consumers that was different, that would really provide a new way of staying well.”

The problem before, said Amelior Foundation President Christine Gilfillan, who is Ray Chambers’ daughter, was “we didn’t have somebody with the vision to successfully operate an integrative health center.

“When we met with Lauren and her team they had a vision for what a successful integrative health center should be,” Gilfillan said. “We couldn’t be happier.”

Atlantic Health is part of a trend that has seen hospitals affiliated with Yale, Duke, Johns Hopkins and other leading medical schools add alternative medicine programs.

Morristown Medical Center is not content to remain simply as New Jersey’s top-ranked hospital, said Finn Wentworth, who has helped raise $150 million as chairman of its foundation.

“We’re looking to be one of the top hospitals in the country. And in order to do that, integrated health care plays a pivotal and critical role,” Wentworth said.

But critics note that many alternative therapies are unproven.

“The people running the hospitals are doctors, but they also have MBAs. They talk of patients as customers. Customers have demands. Your job is to sell them what they want,” Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University’s medical school, told STAT News.

Membership at the Chambers Center by PALM Health runs from $500 to $4,200 a year. While insurance plans often cover portions of some services, such as brief doctor visits, membership fees allow longer consults that enable the 70-person staff (called “Navigators”) to tailor individualized treatment plans, said neurologist Sita Kedia, chief medical officer for PALM.

Integrative medicine should become more affordable when insurance companies realize it can save money by preventing illness, predicted Dal Farra. Members of the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues are PALM clients, she said.

An avid hiker, Dal Farra and her husband have boys aged 16 and 17, and a Bernese Mountain Doodle puppy. Her interest in integrative medicine dates to medical school, and a month-long rotation in a hospital renal ward, she said.

A patient was readmitted three times because he was too depressed to take his medicine.

“I saw that there was a huge and immediate need to address the underlying causes of chronic illness and chronic readmission into the hospital system. And that needed to be done from a whole-person approach. So we couldn’t just be treating the kidney failure. We had to treat the person.”

That involves figuring out “how do we change our outlook, our thoughts, and our self-awareness, as a means to develop a sense of meaning and purpose to actually be motivated to make changes in our lifestyle,” Dal Farra said.

The challenge is not so different from making character-driven, uplifting movies at BCDF Pictures, she contends.

“The leadership that’s required bring a film from concept to the screen is the same type of leadership that’s required to assemble a team of different wellness practitioners and employees at every level. It’s a creation.”

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