Good medicine is not just what’s delivered, but how it’s delivered: a Q+A w/ Sarah O’Leary

Sinclair: You’re the owner of one of the most awesome places of healing I’ve ever been in. How did you get to where you are today?

Sarah: Mend is the product of wanting it to be better than it was the week before. We remain unattached to being right and instead embrace curiosity. Integrative health has the potential to revolutionize how health care is delivered. Rather than addressing broken parts of a machine, we connect the dots. Patients are more curious and engaged than ever. It so happens that Chinese medicine is based on being inquisitive, adaptive and creating flow (ease). We embrace those themes not just in the treatment room but also in the organization and how it operates: Are we learning from our patients? Are we adapting to their needs in this complex moment in health care? Are we creating flow and ease? Good medicine is not just what is delivered, but how it’s delivered.

Sinclair: What’s the best part about going to work each day?

Sarah: The best part of my job: it’s purposeful. When we start with a patient and ask, “Hi. How are you?” (and mean it) the world changes. Listening, reflecting, offering a shift with a word or a needle can change how a husband talks to his wife, how a daughter perceives her childhood history, or how a patient lives with their pain or anxiety. Acupuncturists are constantly poking holes in “what is so” to expand what is possible (the bi-product is more ease in the individual and perhaps in the community). It’s the best gig.

“Healthcare is seeing the awesome person in front of you and helping clear away the ‘dis-ease’ on top of them that’s keeping them from radiating their beauty and purpose.” – Sarah O’Leary

Sinclair: How do you want people to feel after leaving Mend Acupuncture?

Sarah: You know when you take yourself out of town for a day trip or a long hike or you wake after a really solid night’s sleep and your troubles seem lighter and more distant? I want that for our patients when they leave. I want them to have their problems to solve and their bodies squawks to keep talking to them, BUT I want don’t want those troubles or squawks to have them. See the difference? It’s like riding on top of the wave vs. drowning.

null
“Don’t waste your resources on doubt.” – Sarah O’Leary

Sinclair: Where do you hope to see Mend be in the next 365 days?

Sarah: I believe in the saying, “never finish your house.” I feel the same way about Mend. Chinese medicine has stayed relevant because it is has continued to adapt over thousands of years to the people it serves. As keepers of the medicine, it is up to us to keep the roots strong but the branches flexible and able to move easily in the winds of a fast changing environment.

If you want to get specific, some ideas and hopes for the next 365 days is to continue to expand our Eastern offerings for our Western bodies to include easy to understand Chinese Herb formulations, a way for adolescents and kids to access this medicine without the fear of needles, and easier ways to package what we do to make it simple for patients who are new to us to learn about some of the best parts of our medicine. (Did you know that there are treatments for insomnia and angst during the the full moon? Or that your pulses can reveal a cold that’s waiting in the wings?) Acupuncturists have so many fun secrets! Our generation of acupuncturists’ job is simply to share as much as we can, so the population knows how to use acupuncture.

Sinclair: I was able to meet some of your awesome team members. They were super kind and welcoming. What’s your philosophy when it comes to building and fostering a solid team and positive work environment?

Sarah: We have 22 current staff, all of whom are brilliant in their own right. I trust them, I listen to them and I rely on them for input and their investment in us as a whole. It’s not the top-down management style I grew up with (in the “do it cause I said so” model), but it’s the only way I know to do it. As a result there seems to be a collective “Mend Brain” where people are thinking about our project even when they aren’t at work.

Anyone who knows me knows, I OBSESS about what we are doing. The luckiest thing happened along the way, there are others who seem to care as passionately as I do here at Mend. Next to parents who loved me, a husband who gets me, and healthy, funny kids, this is the biggest gift anyone has ever given me – being in on a meaningful project together with others who care.

null
“I believe in the saying, “never finish your house.” I feel the same way about Mend.” – Sarah O’Leary

Sinclair: What’s the last thing you and your team did for fun?

Sarah: We are pros at fun. In fact every year I get in trouble with our accountant for it. This month we are kayaking on the Upper Chesapeake, next month our Clinic Director Kim was coerced into having us to her house for crabs (BTW, she is from New Hampshire and has no idea how to pick a crab, but this seemed like a good idea). And at least once a week I spy two or more of our staff being goofy after hours on instagram. Fun seems to comes easy here.

Sinclair: What’s something people we often get wrong about healing?

Sarah: People are addicted to “wellness.” Is my water alkaline enough? What’s better – Paleo or Vegan? Should I be taking the probiotic Gwyneth Paltrow is taking? Is my qi balanced?…

It’s anxiety and control in sheep’s clothes folks. You are not broken. You don’t need complicated fixing. I fell in love with Chinese Medicine for it’s resilient, simple and intuitive approach to health of the body and mind: Are you breathing? Are you resting? Are you moving? Are you getting love and connection? Are you eating real food? It’s easy, it’s cheap and there no rules to feel bad about.

“You don’t need to know everything, you just need to know what you don’t know.” – Sarah O’Leary

Sinclair: You offered some excellent insight about the power of acupuncture in your interview with Baltimore STYLE Magazine. What would you say to someone who wants to try acupuncture, but feels afraid?

Sarah: The needles are our biggest barrier at first. At health fairs, as visitors ask, “does it hurt?” I simply move them to a chair, dab a point with an alcohol swab and say, ‘let’s do this point”. Once a patient has been needled once (with our whisker thin needles) the fear is gone. It’s nothing like having a shot or blood drawn.

Sinclair: I love the environment and the space in Mend. It’s super relaxing. Who’s the genius behind the design?

Sarah: I’m a Libra. The space matters, the textures matter, color and light and scent matter. It’s simply selfish indulgence.

null
“I ask patients not to shy from their power, their purpose. I am inspired by the risks they take and try to fulfill my purpose in turn.” – Sarah O’Leary

Sinclair: What’s something you wish you could say to your 16 year old self?

Sarah: I hated school. I finished high school early and moved out of my parents’ home at 17 years of age with no plans for college. It was a great home, and a great school. There was no reason to run, I was just restless and needed a change of scenery and to explore the work world before taking school seriously.

I wish I could say, “Sarah, trust yourself. You don’t like sports, that’s ok. Your attention span does not like history books, that’s ok. You get people, and you love work and are curious about smart businesses, that will work just fine. You’re doing just fine.”

Sinclair: Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?

Sarah: My husband, Mike, listens to me every night. He knows nothing about acupuncture or health care really. But Mike lets me drone on and on and hear my own worries and then usually tells me I am overthinking it (but not in that patronizing way). He invites me to know what to do next. Most of us know what to do next. When that doesn’t work… I call on a handful of trusted consultants. Really. Hiring expensive talent with more experience than me is always money well spent. You don’t need to know everything, you just need to know what you don’t know.

Sinclair: When was the last time you practiced self-care? What did you do?

Sarah: I am super utilitarian. I find joy in productivity. Nonetheless two times per week I meet with a funny, 26 year old personal trainer named Bethany who reminds me that I have a body and if I don’t ask it to work the way it was built to work (intended to sweat and lift and pull and push) it won’t let me keep going at this rate (the utilitarian definition of self care). So the last time I took care of my body-self was Wednesday in the company of Bethany who handed me my ass.

Sinclair: When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

Sarah: Every damn day….when it comes to paying our taxes, or hiring once more, or signing on the dotted line of a new lease, there simply is self-doubt. Am I the right person to steward this ship? I get a break from the doubt and worry when when I am in the treatment room and get to be with people and their worries. I am reminded how many of us will focus on our worry and forget about our power, our birth-duty. I ask patients not to shy from their power, their purpose. I am inspired by the risks they take and try to fulfill my purpose in turn. Sign the lease. Hire the best damn people. Pay the bills. Don’t waste your resources on doubt.

Sinclair: What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

Sarah: Work hard and be nice to people. I found a letterpress poster with those words last year and bought it as fast as my online credit-card-transaction-fingers would let me. What else is there in life other than good work and human connection?

Sinclair: It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work. What’s your five word acceptance speech?

Sarah:  Thanks guys for co-creating new-traditional health-care.

Sinclair: Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you truly believe to be true. What would you say?

Sarah: I believe people are generally uniquely awesome. Look at an Ansel Adams or Richard Avedon portrait; humans are complicated and beautiful. Health care is seeing the awesome person in front of you and helping clear away the ‘dis-ease’ on top of them that’s keeping them from radiating their beauty and purpose. I believe that simple truth.

💎💎💎

Acupuncturist Sarah O’Leary, L.Ac. is the owner-operator of Mend Acupuncture, an acupuncture focused group in Maryland. Sarah was born into a healthcare family; the landscape of healthcare has changed dramatically in the last 3 generations. Sarah’s personal mission is to bring acupuncture’s methods (patient centered, effective, non-pharmacological care for many physical and mental/emotion conditions) into the current healthcare fold.

Learn more about Mend: Instagram | Website

🌟 Featured Awesomeness 🌟

Sarah said: We love our first time visitors. New to acupuncture or new to us? We try to make it easy:

  1. Enjoy a focused, convenient treatment in our Community Clinic for just $25. No fine print. Schedule here.
  2. Let us check your benefits to see if insurance will cover a more in-depth experience in our One on One clinic. Use our insurance verification tool
  3. Hint: Take 20% Off your first session with us with the coupon on the bottom of our home page. 

Quick review from Sinclair: I’ve had two Community Clinic sessions so far and I’m hooked. I get to go, relax, and get myself together. I feel the pain in my wrist and knees going away as well. Mend is so dope, and the staff is amazing!