Between her appearances at the United Nations in New York and at the Wilson Center in D.C., Desiree Watson, a member of the GW4W Advisory Board and Founder & CEO of Wellness Interactive, sat down for an interview on a rainy Monday afternoon.
Desiree grew up near Buffalo, NY as one of sixteen children. Her mother, who Desiree describes as her first boss, gave birth to all sixteen children (12 daughters and 4 boys) and ensured that thirteen of those sixteen children went to college. “We are who we are because of her and my father. At other relatives’ funerals, people are still talking about our mother,” Desiree recalled.
Today Desiree serves as an expert in integrative, complementary, and alternative medicines. Desiree’s journey to this medicinal path began with a veritable “ah-ha” moment during her first pregnancy in her early thirties. When she was just 21 years old, her reflexologist determined she had fibroid tumors in and surrounding her reproductive organs. Eleven years later, the same tumors made pregnancy a nearly fatal undertaking for Desiree for as her baby grew, so did the fibroid tumor. Five months into the pregnancy Desiree went into labor. Her obstetrician stabilized her and stopped her contractions. Though she refused her physician’s recommended four months of hospitalization, Desiree returned to the hospital every other day to check her amniotic fluid to ensure the baby did not lose its fight against the fibroid tumor for her blood supply. Even though the baby and the tumor grew side-by-side, Desiree delivered a healthy baby girl to term.
Desiree’s second pregnancy – somewhat of a miracle after her death-defying first – brought along her second “ah-ha moment”. While, at the time, she knew a little about alternative medicines, Desiree delved into research about treating fibroid tumors. Upon discovering the paramount importance of hydration to providing fluids to both her fetus and the tumor, she increased her water intake and avoided milk and sugar. After nine months devoid of the medical crises of her first pregnancy she delivered another healthy baby girl. It was at this moment that Desiree realized that thousands of women needed the same information she found in her research. “Equipped with that information, many more mothers and babies would live through pregnancy.” Filled with inspiration and drive, she began speaking wherever she could (churches, community centers, etc.) about alternative and complementary medicine. “Big pharmaceutical companies ran the U.S.,” she explained. “It was a lonely place then, and I sought information abroad.”
At a dinner at then Vice President Al Gore’s home, even the surgeon general had not heard of integration and reflexology as treatments to complement standard medical care. Since the recent exponential growth in alternative medicine for the mainstream, Desiree’s friends and colleagues approach her with incredulous awe saying, “You were talking about these things 30 years ago!”
Through it all – the growth of her career, the birth of her children, and other critical decision moments in her life – was Desiree’s husband – the CEO of a health insurance company. Desiree and her husband travelled together worldwide on many business trips, and at any given time with up to 100 CEOs. They constantly shared information with each other and he consistently encouraged her in business. Desiree came to understand that the most important observation was sharing information. With her strong beliefs and ease in sharing she had a seat at the table – able to engage her travel companions about wellness and alternative medicine in order to have a positive impact on community and corporate social responsibility.
GW4W welcomed Desiree to its team with open arms. Her extensive background in alternative medicine, her commitment to sustainable wellness for women, and her connection with the Global Wellness Institute, made her an immediate top recruit for the board. “Everyone at the Institute knows that I’m their go-to advocate for women” she explained. As the mission of GW4W closely resembles the work she does for her own company, Desiree readily accepted the position. With her willingness to travel, to provide expertise in running businesses and nonprofits, and to be an advisor to the GW4W Executive Team, she has substantially helped to grow the awareness and success of GW4W to date.
When asked, “what advice would you offer other women about the importance of wellbeing?” Desiree responded, “You must make the time and create the space to think about what wellness, goodness, and health you will bring to your community and family. As women, we must be advocates for our own health. We must understand what health and wellness is. We need to understand the history of medicine, including complementary and alternative medicines. The United States may have ‘the best medicine in the world,’ but we must recognize that medicine is available to save lives and it should also emphasize keeping people well by offering less invasive and natural treatments, such as acupuncture, that have been around for thousands of years.”
The health system in the United States is a money making business run by pharmaceutical companies and hospitals. It’s important for women to know it and learn how to better navigate this system, because for women, as the primary health caregivers, it’s imperative that we stay close to the issues at hand.