Bridging the body, mind and soul

Clinic focuses on prevention instead of intervention

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Bridging Health Clinic ribbon cutting

SUMMARY: Bridging Health Clinic, co-owned by Brandon (’10, ’15M) and Katie (’12M) Cunningham, opened in Harrisonburg in November 2021. The clinic promotes a variety of pathways to individualized, holistic well-being.

By Amy Crockett (’10)

Scissors in hand, Brandon Cunningham (’10, ’15M) stands before a crowd gathered outside of Bridging Health Clinic on a crisp afternoon in November 2021. With his family by his side, their longtime dream of healing and inspiring patients in the community is being realized at BHC’s grand opening.

Located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the clinic promotes a variety of pathways to individualized, holistic well-being. “We’ve actually had this idea for a while, when I [first] met Katie 12 years ago,” he said before cutting the ribbon.

BHC is a family venture. Brandon’s wife, co-owner Katie Cunningham (’12M), is a board-certified massage therapist. In her sessions, she empowers clients to self-manage their symptoms. Brandon’s mother, co-owner Rebecca Golladay, who has worked in health care for more than 35 years, is BHC’s registered respiratory therapist.

The Cunninghams met during Brandon’s last undergraduate semester in the School of Nursing in 2010. Katie had just earned her massage degree and was pursuing a master’s degree in special education. “I was really fascinated with that lost art that she was practicing that’s not really recognized as much in modern medicine today,” Brandon said.

Diving into Katie’s massage therapy books, they would practice on and teach one another, learning about the different ways to approach medicine. “That’s kind of what started the idea of having some sort of place to help people,” Brandon said.

Bridging Health Clinic community
Community members celebrate the grand opening of Bridging Health Clinic in November.

After graduating from JMU, Brandon gained medical experience at a clinic in the area and then at a local hospital as a nurse, but he grew frustrated with the lack of comprehensive medicine in the mainstream health care system. “When you’re in a corporate setting, people are worried about numbers and not really about the patient,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic afforded Katie and Brandon more than a year to develop a business plan for BHC. Their approach to treatment begins with being present with patients, allowing them to answer their own questions and ultimately navigate their own path.

“I quickly learned in my career that you can’t really change people, but you can create space for them to where they feel comfortable,” Brandon said. “Show them that you care about them, and sometimes that’s all people really want or need.”

Bridging Health Clinic is fee-for-service, aiming to fill in health care gaps by focusing on prevention. “Medicine is complex, and it requires multiple resources and help,” Brandon said.

Early in his career, Brandon treated a patient in their 30s with high blood pressure. “All they needed was some nutritional counseling,” he said. “I tried to set that up, and insurance didn’t want to pay for it.” The eye-opening experience fueled him to further his education in nutrition and pursue his own kind of practice, free of the limitations of insurance companies.

BHC encourages patients to take charge of their health before they get to a place where they need a lot of intervention. “In the insurance world, they kind of dictate how you can treat someone,” Golladay said.

Along with family medicine and primary care, the Cunninghams knew they wanted to incorporate plant medicine into their practice. In 2019, Katie and Brandon completed the nine-month Sacred Plant Traditions herbal school in Charlottesville, Virginia. “One of the reasons I probably went into medicine and nursing is because it has so many branches,” Brandon said.

The pandemic also offered Katie and Brandon more downtime to become specialists in nutritional coaching and personal training. Already a certified yoga instructor, Katie was able to complete her Pilates certification as well.

BHC integrates massage therapy, nutrition coaching, functional fitness, telehealth and medical cannabis consultation, education and exercise classes, and workshops into its services. “We don’t want to just hand out pills but actually teach people how to get better, stay better and feel better,” Golladay said. BHC also provides educational wellness videos on its YouTube channel.

The Cunninghams’ shared joy for educating and caring is a reflection of their instructors at JMU. “I had some fabulous teachers along the way. They were tough. They hold you accountable,” Brandon said of nursing professors Linda Hulton, Amy Graham, Andrea Knopp and Jamie Robinson.

A board-certified massage therapist, Katie Cunningham (’12M) empowers clients to self-manage their symptoms.

Katie’s most memorable professor, the late David Herr, brought an electric excitement for learning into the special education classroom. “He was wild and crazy, standing up on the table,” she recalled. “That passion was super impactful for me, and then I apply it here, teaching workshops, instructing fitness classes and showing clients how to help themselves.”

With the establishment of their new business and family ties to the area, Katie and Brandon are committed to serving the Shenandoah Valley. They hope to grow BHC and gain the respect of the community as a model to wellness. Once overhead is met, they envision an outdoor space with an herb garden while expanding their staff with another massage therapist.

“My goal is empowering and educating the community with information that I believe is true and doing my best to not misinform the population,” Brandon said.

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Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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