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Lisa's holistic life

By Brigitta Gough
On November 15, 2017

Lisa Donohue is more than just a professor of health. She stays active and operates her own alternative medicine. Photo Courtesy of Lisa Donohue. 

Lisa Donohue was practicing for her senior ski patrol exam in Buffalo, New York at Kissing Bridge Mountain. Her sister said that she should date one of the workers on the mountain named Joe. One night, Donohue was there practicing with her sister and she pointed him out.

Donohue raced him down the slope.

“I smoked him down the hill,” the Castleton University adjunct professor of health said with a laugh.

They got onto the ski lift together and as they went up the lift they talked. When she asked him to remove his goggles, Donohue realized she had already met him.

They had met seven years ago, briefly, but he didn’t remember her. Donohue decided to ask him on a date – but in a unique way.

“If you were going to eat SpaghettiOs, would you eat them with a spoon or fork? Don’t answer all at once. I will have my people contact your people if you get the answer right and I might just let you take me out,” Donohue said, recalling the moment.

He answered “spoon” and three years later they were married.

Before their wedding, she told Joe that he had to bring something with him if he wanted to marry her.

“She said ‘On our wedding day you must bring a white rose,’” Joe said.

But on that wedding day, it was Donohue who brought the rose.

“In my family, a single white rose means love,” Donohue said.

She explained that she worried he would forget the rose because he hadn’t even known where he was going to stay the night before their wedding.

Donohue pays attention to every detail in life so she remains organized and things are done the way she likes.

Students know her as a professor at Castleton, but outside of the classroom Donohue loves to be outside in nature, horseback riding, skiing, sailing, writing and decorating. She tries to incorporate her love of nature and decorating into her second job, as co-owner and practitioner at her holistic health clinic in Wallingford, called Thrive Center of the Green Mountains.

She has elements of nature placed or hung throughout the building including a pheasant in her massage room, an end table with tree branches for legs and a clock on her wall framed in tree bark and small sticks.

Donohue and her husband opened the clinic 17 years ago. He is a practicing chiropractor and she practices over 12 modalities of holistic health including massage, reiki and acupuncture. She got into holistic medicine because of her grandmother, who was always making different concoctions using plants while working on her dairy farm.

It had always interested her.

She did not begin her career in holistic health, however. She studied marketing at Canisius College of Buffalo and got a dual Master’s degree in Health Promotion and Marketing from Ohio State University.

After college, she worked in health promotion in the workplace, advocating staying in good health, but she was always more interested in the holistic side of things. This interest caused her to make the change to the holistic health field and later open the clinic.

Not all roses

In 2012, Donohue fell off a horse. She hurt her back so severely that she couldn’t stand straight for months despite numerous visits to different doctors to seek help.

“It was like someone threw gas on me and lit me on fire. I was in a heap of pain,” she said.

She did energy work on herself, used apple cider vinegar, flaxseed oil and fish oil for the inflammation and Joe did chiropractic work on her until she got surgery on Valentine’s Day in 2013.

Less than a year later she fell in her garage.

“I body slammed so hard that I didn’t know where I was,” Donohue said grimacing at the memory.

She had to get another surgery within a year and two weeks of the first one.

“It was by far one of the hardest segments of my life,” Donohue said.

She struggled with the pain. She had to throw her 5-year-old son Myles’ clothes up the stairs in the morning so he could get ready for school because the pain was so severe she couldn’t climb the stairs.

“I still kept pushing through, working and doing everything, but I would feel like a sitting duck,” she said.

Now she can move normally again, but it was not easy for her to get to this point.

“It taught me a lot about resilience. I didn’t sleep for years. Every night I would be up on the hour. I never had a scenario where I didn’t have this pain,” she said.

Joe said it’s really frustrating for Donohue when she can’t work.

But before her accident, Joe was diagnosed with cancer on tax day of 2005. He and Donohue had started their practice five years before this. They were going back and forth between Boston and their home in Wallingford. They did not solely rely on the doctors for his treatment either. Donohue did energy work on him and changed his nutrition plan.

“We went from working with Shamanic healers to working with his orthopedic oncologist surgeon in Boston, who little did we know was in like the top three in the nation,” Donohue said.

If it hadn’t been for the Rutland Regional Medical Foley Center, they would have had to close their practice altogether, but they made it work by bringing work on their trips to Boston and working as much as they could while they were home.

Now, Donohue only takes a break from her work once a year. She teaches at Castleton and works full time in the clinic but still makes time for her favorite activities on the weekend with her family.

“People will say to me all the time ‘Lisa how do you do it all?’ and I’d say ‘I don’t’ because you give up one thing to get another. You can do anything but you can’t do everything,” she said.

Her Castleton life

As a professor, Donohue inspires her students to take care of themselves and has even helped one student use holistic medicine on her own.

Junior Meg Elrick, who is in Donohue’s Alternative Medicine class, used reiki to help herself and music therapy to help her grandmother in the hospital.

“I was sick for a little while and had to miss one of the classes. She sent me the link to listen to reiki music and it’s supposed to help with your mind and soothing. I gave it a try. I was in lying in bed and you play with your energy and it helped,” Elrick said.

She believes that it helped her get better quicker. She noticed the difference as soon as the day after practicing it once.

After watching a student presentation, Elrick then decided to try another aspect of holistic health to help her hospitalized grandmother: music therapy.

“She was unconscious for, I think it was like 12 hours and then we had some of her favorite music come in and we started singing with her and she woke up,” she said with a big smile.

Elrick quickly told Donohue about both experiences and was amazed at how well they had worked.

“She’s very connected with her students. She’s incredibly passionate about her work,” said Director of Career Services Renee Beaupre White, a frequent guest speaker in Donohue’s class.

Junior Brianna Heading described her teaching style as very hands-on and not lecture heavy.

“The first part of the semester, we talked a lot about mindfulness and meditation so she brought us outside and we just practiced it and stuff like that,” Heading said.

During her classes, she is very positive and high energy. She has students bring snacks to class for presentations and she jumps in at the end of their presentation to give them feedback and more information on the topic.

“I think it’s fun and it makes the three hours go by quick,” Heading said.

After one student’s presentation on music appreciation, she played a song that she said was one of her favorites, “No Matter What” by Badfinger. She danced along to it and encouraging students to do the same.

Her Mantras

    Donohue believes in many things, including the mantras and sayings that she says and uses as decorations in her clinic. Above the door frame of her massage room she has printed on the wall ‘I have enough, I do enough, I am enough!’

She has sayings that she tells her students, one of which resonated with Elrick. The saying is ‘everybody has a story and every BODY has a story.’

“That really resonates with me because you never know what someone is going through and that’s kind of what she’s all about,” Elrick said.

She uses quotes like these to add to the good energy of the classroom before starting class. She creates the same good energy throughout the clinic with decorations, which have a calming effect the second you walk in the door.

“She’s genuine and she’s very caring. She always wants to be sure she does a good job. She goes above and beyond her time,” said Becky Johnson, a patient at the clinic for more than 12 years.

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