In her 20s, Judy Mackey was introduced to a complementary Eastern approach to medicine when diagnosed with a chronic illness. “I had to self-manage my care because people didn’t even understand what Eastern medicine was. I had to start owning my own health. I didn’t know you could because I always thought that you went to the doctor, they told you what to do, you take this drug, and that’s it. This was the first time somebody spent six hours just to help me understand what was going on in my body…and help me identify that I was causing my own issues by diet, etc. One of my doctors said, ‘You have your own inner pharmacy. Your body’s a very smart machine. We just need to know how to work it.’”
Mackey’s life was changed: “When you’re given a gift like that, it became my dream to give it back.”
Brenda Smith was a managing partner at the national accounting firm of BKD when she met Mackey. “We’ve known each other for 30 years. She was a BKD client, and I worked with her on a number of different businesses of hers over those years.” Smith also felt called to be the COO of First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, where she spearheaded the launch of a new Presbyterian denomination. Smith convinced Mackey to develop—and fund—a complex health plan for the new entity. “I felt like I owed her because she stepped up more than I initially thought she would have to,” Smith says. In turn, Mackey recruited Smith to join her and Dr. Michael Barber, a noted local cardiologist, in their effort to establish a new kind of wellness center. “She did owe me,” says Mackey
“I asked Judy and Mike [Barber] where they would want to have it, and Judy said the Garden of the Gods Club. And why not? With that setting, it’s the perfect place.” Together they presented a business plan to the Club. They received a warm response along with an unexpected bombshell: The Club was going up for sale in a month. Mackey proposed to Smith that they buy it, and their proposal became a purchase. They turned their lack of hospitality experience into an asset by questioning everything. Smith’s humility shows when she talks of those early days: “I hesitate to say this. We brought energy back to it; I think we just brought it alive again. To this day, we can’t believe that we really own it; we’re more stewards of the property. There’s no reason we should have gotten it; there were two bids higher than ours. We’re both people of faith, and we think the Lord had a bigger plan in all of this.”
They set about to establish a world-class wellness center and spa among the towering spires of the Garden of the Gods. In 2018, STRATA Integrated Wellness and Spa opened its doors to those seeking a more comprehensive approach to health. “Think of it as a primary care center that does both conventional and Eastern medicine all in one place,” says Mackey. “Medicine has become very siloed; you might have an internist, a cardiologist, your primary care. They never talked to each other. Even Eastern medicine did silos: acupuncture, chiropractic, naturopath. It took us almost two years to get everybody to talk and look at the whole person and work together.”
Caregivers and the patient work to identify issues and plan solutions, employing the best of traditional and Eastern techniques. “Conventional medicine does the best testing ever,” says Mackey. “We do all the tests and then work on a treatment plan together.”
Note that “together” is a theme that runs through all of our conversation. It’s no accident; examples are everywhere: Mackey + Smith, caregivers + patients, West + East, Garden of the Gods + STRATA...
“We try to see if the body can readjust itself,” adds Mackey. “Pharmaceuticals are our last resort. We’re trying to figure out why you have high blood pressure first. People are not used to that approach; it takes a longer commitment to get the body to readjust so that it can naturally heal. They start seeing that their body is shifting. ‘I have more energy, I’m sleeping better, I’ve even started to lose some extra pounds.’ We have people who can golf again; they have more endurance. They start seeing some of the places they felt were deteriorating come back.”
At STRATA, the concept of integrated wellness runs deep, extending to every corner of the patient experience. Doctors, clinicians, and therapists investigate problems and their root causes with the patient; together, they develop a plan that allows patients to take ownership of their own health. The plan combines the genius of conventional medicine with the wisdom of centuries-old Eastern practices. Concierge relationships weave wellness into the patient’s daily life in a long-term continuum of self-care and health care. Complementary therapies blend with naturopathic, chiropractic, and acupuncture to create a holistic approach to wellness.
Integration doesn’t end there. Garden of the Gods Resort and Club is the perfect setting for such a journey, merging a quest for life-enhancing health with the benefits of a life-altering vacation. The distractions of daily life fade away in the extraordinary destination, blurring the distinction between health tourists and locals. The patient role blends into a guest experience, meditation is inspired by a stunning environment, innovative treatments are followed by soothing hands and flowing waters, improved nutrition is paired with exceptional dining.
The AAA four-diamond Garden of the Gods Resort and Club was recently named one of the “Top 25 Best of the Best Hotels in the United States” by TripAdvisor and was featured in Travel + Leisure as one of “11 Female-Owned Hotels Around the World with Amazing Stories.” STRATA Integrated Wellness and Spa was recognized by the International Spa Association as an Innovate Award Winner.
It’s clear that Mackey and Smith have succeeded in setting a glittering gem among the red rocks of the gods’ own garden. And they did it together.