What does good health mean?

For traditional pharmacies, it means dispensing drug prescriptions and nationally marketed consumer products. But at Wellness RX good health means a lot more.

Wellness Rx is working to make health care feel better. That means a sensible mix of the tried and true, the old and the new. It also means venturing beyond conventional boundaries to provide fully coupled care for a person’s body, mind and heart. Practicing what is sometimes called “narrative medicine,” Wellness Rx founder and director Ed Ullmann and his team know that they need to know the full story of what makes each patient tick. It’s all part of the process of finding the right blend of conventional drugs and natural treatments to boost each individual’s immune system and help the body make itself better.

What does good health mean besides dispensing elixirs and medicines?

Health comes in large part from freeing your body from stress. You might find a sense of peace with, say, a walk in the woods, an appreciation for art and music and all the pleasant aromas of life.  When you do, it’s liberating.

In the same way, good health for a pharmacy means stepping out beyond the chains of the drugstore chains. The Wellness Rx shop looks like it was painted by Norman Rockwell, full of quirks and eccentricities. One section features a display of the pharmacy’s own branded product line. But nothing is mindlessly set in stone. Products can be blended to a customer’s needs and tastes. When a little boy refused to take a needed remedy because he couldn’t stand the taste of it, Ullmann set out to blend at least a dozen iterations until the boy would willingly swallow it. Personalization unlocks everything. No chains here.

What’s the evidence that a new paradigm is in formation? Go to the Wellness Rx website to watch a video interview by Ed Ullmann with the local superintendent of schools. It’s an upbeat discussion voicing a firm faith in the kindness, the competence and the youthful dreams of the students. Or go to the shop and witness the care and encouragement Ed  gives the local young people who intern there.  In fact, Wellness Rx is more than a health care center. In many ways, it has become a community center and a media center, too, producing its own series of videos, blogs and podcasts. Education, it turns out, is good medicine.

When you enter the store during a long, bitter cold winter, the shop seems less like a Rockwell painting and more like a long Russian novel, as characters bundled up in their own stories and  maladies come in from the snow to make their woebegone entrances and happier exists.  The region, with all its craftsmen and tourists, sees more than its fair share of accidents. And more often than not you’ll find Ed Ullmann convincing walk-ins that they’d better seek treatment of an infection or a rash before it gets worse. Once Ullmann has convinced them to begin a treatment, day by day he follows up.  More and more patients appear. Wounds disappear. Such is the power of word of mouth and heart to heart when folks see an idea working.

Many patients have no health insurance. That’s why Wellness Rx has stepped beyond another boundary. They’ve formed an ancillary 501c charity that subsidizes the cost of care for patients who can’t afford it and, like the community at large, can’t afford not to.

Ed’s enthusiasm is contagious. To get the big picture, you should have seen the scene during the shop’s COVID inoculations. Ullmann tells us: “In all my years, I’d never experienced such pure joy as in those intensive weeks. You’d step outside the curtain and find people laughing… laughing with relief and in the knowledge that their neighbors were stepping up to help. We had more than a dozen volunteers pitching in. The community had come together in a common compassion united by a crisis.”

The picture extends beyond the landscape of the store, reaching out to a wide network of wellness practitioners, all listed in common purpose on www.wellnessrxllc.com: yoga instructors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, experts in meditation and mindfulness and aroma and vibration treatments along with the local physician’s offices, visual artists, writers, and Fromer Market Gardens. It’s a greenhouse that grows nutritious vegetables year round, producing the antidote to processed foods and supplying organic produce for local chefs and their stylish restaurants. Health, it appears, also creates wealth.

In fact, Wellness Rx is the hub of an ecosystem of care, supported in large part by the unprecedented largesse of the Hunter Foundation founded by Chuck Royce and directed by Sean Mahoney. The Wellness Center itself, Fromer Market Gardens and even the local golf course—among many other establishments in the brightly painted town of Tannersville—are what they are because of the vision of the Foundation. If you can do well, you can do good. In fact, ever since the Foundation asked artist Elena Patterson to paint the town in exotic colors, things immediately felt brighter. This proved once again, that whether it’s SoHo, DUMBO or a small village in Greene County, artists lead the way to city and town renewal.

In many ways the Center is part of a movement sometimes called #TheVillageGreene for the way it is leading the sped-up spirit of a new migration of refugees from Brooklyn and other exotic places, as professionals of all sorts begin to work from anyplace they make their home.

Good health also means that the pharmacy industry in general needs to learn that there is another way to serve the public and make themselves better: a fervently moderate approach that gleans the best aspects of all kinds of medicine. That’s why Ed Ullmann has begun speaking with the major pharmacy schools about a new paradigm of micro, hyper-local pharmacy practice as a remedy to the impersonal, painkilling, sometimes perilously unresponsive national chains. And why not? Why would skilled and talented young pharmacists want to spend their lives tending a counter dispensing over the counter drugs and prescriptions. Why wouldn’t their experience and creativity count for something more? And how would the profession benefit by considering only the best of all possible worlds?  The best and the brightest would follow. And in their example, they’d lead.

Ed Ullmann has been a successful CEO, a politician and an entrepreneur. But he’s prouder of the vision for his pharmacy in a small town than anything he’s done before. Perhaps it’s because his far-sighted idea for a pharmacy that sells not just drugs, but care and knowledge and books and beauty is tailored to each individual who walks into or works in the store. He’s proud of  creating a drugstore that takes as much pride in what is being created outside in the town as inside the shop in their pharmacy lab.  And the very mystique of it all is forwarding the Wellness brand online though its line of products that owe as much to scientific discoveries as natural remedies.

Aside from dispensing drugs, Wellness Rx is dispensing well-being and hope. And it’s looking to nature and the human body for ways to make the world feel better.

Our world will never be a paradigm of pure happiness, void of disease. In fact, up on the mountaintop now, ash trees are dying en masse due to the Emerald Ash Borer pandemic. But if you’d ask Ed about it, he’d point to a picture of a clearing in the woods not six months after the stand of ash trees had to be cut down. A stream of springtime rivulets is running through it now. Green grasses and tree seedlings have recarpeted the forest floor.  Ullmann would say: “Let’s take inspiration from the way the forest recovers. When you let the sun shine, good things grow.”

When you start over, good things often grow.

A.D. Lubow is the creative Director of  ADLubow.com
and co-author of The Boy and the Boy King, After The Race: A Tale of Two Olympians and The Song of Agnes