Even as early as the late 1700s, Asheville has enjoyed a reputation as a healing retreat. The city’s and surrounding region’s moderate climate and altitude were considered ideal for advancing the recovery of convalescing patients, particularly those suffering from respiratory diseases, such as tuberculosis. Over time, physicians who had recommended the city to their patients began relocating to the region themselves, establishing medical practices that would form the base for what has become a thriving health care community and a center of medical innovation for western North Carolina and beyond.
A major player in Asheville’s history as a health-care destination is Mission Health, which began as a small, five-room hospital in downtown Asheville, which a group of women opened in 1885. Today, the health system serves families from 18 counties and includes six hospitals, including Mission Hospital, the region’s only dedicated Level II trauma center, and the planned Mission Hospital for Advanced Medicine, which will combine Mission Hospital's Memorial and Mission St. Joseph campuses in downtown Asheville. The 12-story, 600,000-square-foot project is a key component of Mission Health’s plan to meet the future health needs of western North Carolina as part of its Mission Future Ready initiative. The construction will also add an estimated 2,300 jobs and pump $160 million into the local economy.
“As the region’s only state-of-the art, tertiary-quaternary medical center, the new Mission Hospital for Advanced Medicine facility will equal or exceed the world’s best,” says Ronald A. Paulus, M.D., president and CEO of Mission Health. “We believe that when combined with the exceptional skill and compassion of our nurses, physicians and other caregivers, this unprecedented new facility will establish a new standard in patient care and ensure that everyone in western North Carolina will have access to state-of-the-art technology and the best possible care for many decades to come.”
Diversity in Practice
In addition to Mission Health, Asheville is home to several traditional medical facilities, including Park Ridge Health, the region's only faith-based hospital, which offers services in more than 30 areas of care, such orthopedics and sports medicine. CarePartners provides rehabilitation, home health, adult care and hospice services for patients throughout western North Carolina, and the Charles George VA Medical Center offers veterans in western North Carolina preventative and general care as well as mental health services, rehabilitation and treatment for spinal cord injuries.
CBS News referred to Asheville as the “New Age Mecca of the East” — an appropriate title considering the number of holistic and therapeutic facilities that call the city home. The Asheville Salt Cave, for example, offers salt therapy and massage as well as meditation, sound healing and yoga as does Still Point Wellness, a healing arts spa. OM Sanctuary, a holistic education retreat, promotes balance of the mind and body through a series of seminars, workshops, nature excursions and holistic treatments, and students at the Daoist Traditions College of Chinese Medical Arts hold acupuncture clinics for the public at a reduced rate. Residents can also find rest and relaxation at Shoji Retreats, Suraj Spa, Asheville Therapeutic Massage and the award-winning spa at The Omni Grove Park Inn.
“Some believe that there is a powerful energy vortex that is created by crystal formations in the mountains and that this draws New Age devotees to the area,” says Ellen McGinnis, spa director, The Omni Grove Park Inn. “However, it could be that health-minded people are drawn here for the beautiful scenery, the abundance of outdoor activity, wellness and alternative practitioners, as well as a vibrant community of diversity.”
McGinnis says wellness and therapeutic healing complement traditional medicine because those services can provide “better mental clarity, improved alertness and can be used to even enhance healing or recovery time for many illnesses.”
“Massage therapy is no longer considered a luxury, but has real preventative and restorative wellness benefits,” she says. “Having regular massage sessions will reduce stress levels and aids relaxation, improves circulation, reduces blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, enhances athletic performance and improves range of motion.”