By Claire Harlin
Working as an internal medicine doctor for more than 16 years at Scripps Health, Mark Kalina was always dedicated to promoting “lifestyle medicine,” as he calls it. In that time he has seen that one of the most effective ways to reverse disease and manage chronic problems is through group treatments that let patients connect with each other.
That’s the premise behind Kalina’s new Solana Beach medical facility, Pando Health Groups, located at 427 S. Cedros Ave. Set to open on March 18, with a grand opening social event on March 14, Pando incorporates both traditional and non-traditional heath care with a group-based approach, letting patients keep their primary physicians and gain the support, education and attention-filled medical visits that many don’t get at their quick, 15-minute check-ups.
“They get more than just medical direction because I’m able to spend a lot of time with the patients all together,” said Kalina. “It’s worked wonders for weight loss, people with chronic pain; it’s kind of a movement now in the country, but after 16 years of practicing, it has really become my passion.”
Kalina was first exposed to group medical care in 1996 at Scripps when he became the director of a program named and fashioned after the methods coined by Dean Ornish, who emphasized group therapy as part of his overall lifestyle-focused treatments. There, Kalina led groups, and that was among many other strategies.
“What I found was that the people who were able to communicate in groups did the best in reversing their diseases,” Kalina said, adding that the groups were particularly helpful for seniors.
Jump forward more than a decade, and Kalina had begun a private practice as well as a group health session in Del Mar as part of the city’s Community Connections program. As a volunteer for that program, he directed the Del Mar Senior Health Forum every two weeks and also served on the nonprofit’s board of directors.
“We would talk about medical things, but we’d also talk about life,” Kalina said.
Meanwhile at Scripps, a former nurse colleague at the Ornish program, Kim Chartrand, decided to look Kalina up after several patients asked for him.
“I used to refer those who were interested in integrative medicine to him,” she said.
After stumbling upon and being inspired by the health philosophies he wrote about on his blog, www.returntohealth.com, Chartrand got in touch.
“He was writing not only about groups but also how he envisioned the new paradigm of medicine,” said Chartrand, who said she personally identified tremendously with the values he outlined.
A little less than a year ago, Kalina and Chartrand began embarking on meetings regarding how they could apply their visions to real life in the form of a medical facility. They specifically sought out a location in Solana Beach, and secured their lease in November on a wide open space that they designed to accommodate their goals.
Healing in every sense of the word, the Pando center is bright, sunny and calming, adorned with lively, green plants that complement clean, white walls and a waterfall that soothes the auditory senses.