Carrie Levine, CNM is the founder of Whole Woman Health and a person who is near and dear to Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness. One of the things we love about her is that she embraces sharing her extensive knowledge and experience with the community. She speaks at many educational events for practitioners and the public, including events at Coastal. You can find a link to one of her presentations at the end of this interview.
As part of our ongoing series spotlighting area practitioners, Carrie has generously agreed to answer some questions. Read on to gain insight into what fuels her passion for exceptional care.
At the end of this piece, you will find detailed information regarding Carrie’s practice and how you can get in touch with her.
Please tell our readers about your practice.
I practice women’s health and functional medicine. I provide routine gynecologic care, and root cause medicine for a variety of other chronic illnesses and diseases of lifestyle. These include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel.
Where did you grow up and how long have you lived in Maine?
I grew up in suburban Boston and came to summer camp in Maine as a kid, starting at 7 years old. I used to say when I was younger, “I know I want to live in Maine because I want to live someplace where I don’t need curtains on the windows.”
I did part of my undergraduate at the University of Maine at Orono and went back to Orono to take science prerequisites when I decided to pursue a health profession. I did my midwifery program through a distance-based education program so that I could be in Maine.
I worked in Baxter State Park and for Outward Bound in Newry when there was a base there. I’ve worked as a nurse at Maine Medical Center and Midcoast Hospital back in the olden days when it was in Bath. I was also a candy striper at Miles Memorial Hospital shortly after I graduated from college when I was exploring health professions.
I’ve lived in Maine consistently since 1999.
What prompted your interest in practicing medicine?
I knew when I was an undergraduate that I wanted to work in Women’s Health. When I was a student at Orono, I was a Peer Counselor in the Women’s Clinic, and at the time the Director of the clinic was Ruth Lockhart, who went on to be one of the founding members of the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, a feminist health clinic in Bangor, Maine. I loved it! As a student I did a lot of education: birth control, sexually transmitted infection stuff. It was the late 80s, so AIDS was at its peak, so there was a lot of AIDS education going on.
I kind of got in a groove of just finishing my undergraduate, without really knowing what I wanted to do. So, after a year and a half at Orono I went to New Mexico for a semester on an exchange. Then, I went to Syracuse University for two years and got a degree in Public Relations and Women’s Studies. I really ended up in Public Relations because what I was most interested in was small-group communication. That interest was a result of leading outdoor trips for people and watching the process that happened there. I was super interested in the gender aspects of communication, which at the time were largely stereotypically nurse-physician. At Syracuse the closest thing to small-group communication was Public Relations.
I knew I would never work for a PR firm in New York City, and after I graduated, I journeyed back to Bangor and met with Ruth. She looked at me and asked “What do you want your life to look like? How long do you want to be in school? How much debt do you want to have?”
We talked about the option of becoming a nurse practitioner and that felt like the right match for me. However, when I applied to school, I ended up applying to Midwifery school due to the scope of lifespan. Midwives care for women through the entire lifespan including the childbearing years, and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners take care of women through the lifespan except for the childbearing years. I didn’t want to exclude childbearing women from my care. Once I got into midwifery and realized the diversity of its roots – being in nursing, medicine, social work, public health, and a variety of other disciplines, it felt very right to me.
So, what prompted my interest? I was interested in caring for women, and I was trying to figure out how. In that conversation with Ruth, I was vetting being a naturopath, versus being a yoga teacher, versus being a healthcare professional. She helped me narrow it down to a nurse practitioner, which was super helpful.
When I finished school and started practicing, I got the only midwifery job in the state at what was then Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta (it’s now Lincoln Health). I did that for seven and a half years, and during that time had two of my children, and I was not fantastically suited to the lifestyle of a Midwife. I think the combination of being on call, anywhere from 50% to one in five over those seven and a half years, and having my own children, and breastfeeding my own children for at least half of that time really left me feeling not particularly healthy.
How did you make the transition from practicing as a midwife to integrative medicine?
I like to tell people I was a really weird kid, in that I was reading books on Transcendental Meditation by Dr. Herbert Benson when I was 12 years old, I was doing yoga when I was 14, and I took a class in high school called “Mind-Body Healing” for gym credit because I hated gym. That class had mandatory three-hour Sunday sessions a couple of times throughout the course of the year. The woman who taught it, Marilyn Howell, was a Feldenkrais instructor, so we learned about Crystal Healing, Feldenkrais, Reiki, and various other modalities. I was always interested in learning about and practicing alternative modalities.
I was a young woman who had severe menstrual symptoms: cramping, throwing up, and passing out. When I was 18, I read Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book, “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom,” leading me to decrease my dietary fat, increase my aerobic exercise, and make a bunch of lifestyle modifications. After making these changes, I got better.
I knew when I was attending births that it wasn’t quite the right fit for me, and I had sort of been looking for something the entire time. Eventually, a position at Women to Women came up (a medical practice in Yarmouth). When I went there, I realized that there was a language for the ways in which I understood health that I had never been exposed to before. It felt perfect. People used to say, “Oh my gosh, you commute from Damariscotta to Yarmouth?” And I would say, “Are you kidding? I go home at the end of every day, I sleep through the night, and I get to do what I want.” It was not hard. Working at Women to Women introduced me to Functional Medicine. I was given the great opportunity to apply functional medicine in clinical practice through the Institute for Functional Medicine. I took their five-day foundation course and I was absolutely hooked.
If you were to give one or two tips or healthy behaviors to adapt in order to live a healthy lifestyle, what would they be?
I would have three:
- Eat lots of vegetables
- Move your body
- Focus your mind on gratitude
Can you describe a situation in which all the pieces fell into place while treating a patient?
I am taking care of a woman in her 70s who came to me with severe joint pain, chronic diarrhea, and metabolic syndrome. We worked the functional medicine matrix from all the different angles, and she did her part in terms of testing and treatment. She is now symptom-free and a well woman. When she walks into the clinic, she says, “I feel great” and that makes my heart sing!
What has surprised you the most about having your own practice?
That’s a tough one – I would say how long it has taken to build it.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
At one point in my life, I wanted to be a serious Mountaineer, and the biggest mountain I’ve ever climbed is Mount Rainier.
What changes do you expect to see in functional medicine over the next few years?
Expect to see or hope to see? I hope to see it become more prolific, I hope to see some gender equity in education, and I hope to see it explode within the primary care environment.
If you weren’t a medical practitioner, what would you be doing?
I’m super-curious about hemp farming in Maine, and how that can contribute to fiber production and sustainable clothing.
What do you like to do, when you’re not working?
I like to read, write, hike, do yoga, run, sail, cook, garden, and be outside.
Where is your “happy place?”
Any place warm, sunny and outside – that’s beautiful.
Carrie sees patients at 608 River Road Newcastle, Maine & 100 Brickhill Ave, Suite 304, South Portland, Maine. Directions are available at the practice website: www.wholewomanhealthcare.com. You can also choose phone consultations.
Schedule an appointment by calling 207-563-7000. Once a patient is established, scheduling and communication can also be done via the patient portal.
Whole Woman Health is credentialed with Community Health Options (CHO) and can bill them directly on your behalf for office visits. If the office visit is for your annual visit, it’s likely to be covered per the Affordable Care Act. For other services, reimbursement will depend on individual policies and deductibles.
For most other plans, Whole Woman Health does not provide direct insurance billing, although many services will be covered by your insurance. Payment can be made by cash, check, or credit card. Whole Woman Health will provide you with an itemized receipt that you can submit to your insurance company for reimbursement if the services you received are covered by your policy.
View Carrie’s talk on her treatment modality and the role of functional lab testing, below.