IDAHO FALLS – In the middle of a residential street in Idaho Falls is an old brick building. Longtime residents of Idaho Falls remember the 90-year-old structure as the old Third Ward building for a Mormon church congregation.
But it’s been more than three decades since the building served that function. Today, it’s a medical clinic owned by Dr. Jeff Baker called The Healing Sanctuary.
“About 18 years ago, my mind started opening up to other ways of helping people to improve their health,” Dr. Baker tells EastIdahoNews.com. “I dreamed of owning a center (where we could) look at the root causes of disease and incorporate things that have benefited people for thousands of years.”
Dr. Baker practices integrated functional medicine, a holistic approach to treating people. Baker remembers being at a conference with other doctors who felt dissatisfied with what he calls the “next pill for the next ill” mentality towards conventional medicine.
“I wanted to understand why (the patient) is feeling this way and what are the possible sources for that,” Baker says.
With 2,500 patients and counting, Baker says the holistic approach is working and is having a positive impact in people’s lives.
Baker told us about a 28-year-old woman who had been throwing up 60 to 70 times a week since she was 4-years-old. Her family was ready to send her back east to get a stomach pacemaker for stomach paralysis.
Baker dug deep to determine the cause. He didn’t find anything. Later he learned the woman had moved with her family when she was 4-years-old, and the vomiting was part of a deeper emotional issue tied to that event.
Baker recommended hypnotherapy. After one session, the woman told Dr. Baker she was 80-percent better.
“A couple more treatments. Resolved. No more throwing up. No big, expensive stomach pacemaker,” Baker recalls with emotion.
Since they opened, Baker says he has seen similar outcomes over and over again in many other cases.
Baker says they try to treat the whole person — emotional, mental, spiritual and physical and continue to expand the services they offer. Karen Bender practices naturopathic medicine at The Healing Sanctuary.
“My training involved learning about natural treatments like herbs and supplements,” Bender says. “But it also involves pharmaceuticals. We try to meet the person where they are so we integrate using both of those.”
“We still give prescriptions because they can be helpful for people,” Baker says. “It’s not that we’re against (conventional medicine). We use all of these things to help someone achieve optimum health.”
But what is equally as intriguing to people as the medical services is the building’s history.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began construction on the building in 1927. It was dedicated in 1937 by then church President Heber J. Grant.
Mary Jane Fritzen grew up attending church in this building. She told the Deseret News her father was in one of the first bishoprics of the Third Ward and her mother was the organist.
It served as a LDS church building until 1981, when it was sold. Another denomination used the building for a short time. More recently, efforts were made to turn the building into a charter school, and then it was used as a temporary haunted house to fund a prospective culinary school. In both cases, public outcry from neighbors stalled the projects.
When Baker bought it in 2016, the building had been vacant for more than 10 years. Dr. Baker moved into this new location in February. The Healing Sanctuary had been in business at a different location since January 2017.
“This was a place for many people to find spiritual healing. When we walked in, we felt a positive energy. It feels good to be here,” Baker says.
Baker feels his journey from an OB-GYN physician to practicing integrated functional medicine in a newly restored building is a metaphor for patients.
“My hope is that people will come here and start on a new path of health and wellness as we help them identify what is out of balance (in their life) and what needs to be restored.”
Dr. Baker and his staff will give tours of the building during a grand opening of The Healing Sanctuary May 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They’re located at 187 E. 13th Street. They are open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.