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Dr. LaKesha N. Legree, MD Co-Founder Elev8 MD Wellness Center

University of North America

By Taroue Brooks

Tell us about your business and services.

Elev8 MD is Charlotte’s leading ketamine clinic and holistic health & wellness center. We offer ketamine infusions for treatment-resistant depression, major depressive disorder, postpartum depression, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  We also treat chronic neuropathic related pain such as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Trigeminal Neuralgia.

Ketamine is a breakthrough treatment for depression, anxiety, and pain. It acts differently from traditional antidepressants in that it increases neuroplasticity —the quantity and quality of connectiveness in the brain— and creates new pathways of communication between cells within the brain known as synaptogenesis.

Rather than waiting 4 to 6 weeks for an oral treatment to work, Ketamine infusions are proven to effectively relieve depressive symptoms in up to 70% of patients within hours of their first or second treatment for some. Additionally, ketamine doesn’t carry the negative side effects of traditional antidepressants such as weight gain / loss, changes in libido, interruptions to sleep, suicidality, etc.

What inspired you to become a doctor?

After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, I held various positions with the pharmaceutical giant, Eli Lilly and Co in Indianapolis, IN and discovered my passion for patient centered clinical medicine. I went on to attend medical school at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA and completed my residency in Anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.  I spent many hours at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, the Hospital for Special Surgery and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute.

Having witnessed first-hand, almost daily, the positive impact ketamine had on patients, I recognized this would be the nucleus towards changing the lives of so many people who suffer from mental illness and chronic pain disorders. Specifically, having experienced the loss of multiple physician colleagues to suicide in training and post training, I have committed myself to advocating for high functioning individuals who function in high stress environments because depression and suicide amongst this population has become an epidemic but it is not discussed nor addressed.  I have since poured my heart and soul into creating, developing and nurturing Elev8 MD Wellness Center with the goal of helping patients in Charlotte and beyond.

What should someone expect from you as a patient?

Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and chronic pain can be debilitating. Often, patients have tried everything and come to me as a last resort—which is incredibly unfortunate. Unlike other ketamine clinics in Charlotte, I am a highly experienced anesthesiologist who prides herself on maximizing comfort and ensuring patient safety during ketamine infusions in a posh, spa-like clinical setting. We honor the patient’s journey by offering hope and a path to a better life.

Every step of the way Elev8 MD focuses on holistic patient wellbeing with an on-staff mental health professional, life coach, massage therapist, acupuncturist, IV hydration and nutritional repletion, Reiki touch healing therapy and mindfulness training. We believe in treating the whole person from beginning to end.

Describe the impact that you feel from helping people professionally.

Far more than any other type of ailment, those with mental illness and chronic pain are subject to negative judgements, stigmatization, social exclusion, and prejudices. I love being able to focus on one patient at a time, provide them with my undivided attention, 150% effort, and an individualized holistic treatment plan.

As the leading ketamine authority in Charlotte, our clinic doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to care. We spend time focusing on the individual’s need so the patient is assured a safe medical outcome as well as an enhanced quality of life. I’m humbled and filled with gratitude when patients tell me they “feel the fog lifting” and are freed from the bondage of depression or chronic pain.    

How does your faith align with your work?

Contrarily, my faith does not align with my work at all.  Instead, my faith is at the forefront of my life.  My spirituality and faith is what guides every single decision that I make from the time I give thanks and arise in the morning to the time I climb in bed in the evening and finish the day with thoughts of gratitude.  My purpose and gift in life has always been to help others.  It has been through my own personal life experiences that my roles as an Anesthesiologist and as the Medical Director and Owner of Elev8 MD Wellness Center have evolved.  Everyone has a story to tell however not everyone recognizes the value of the lessons within the stories of their life.  Within every lesson, whether good, bad or indifferent, is an opportunity.  Faith is what allows you to seize that opportunity without knowing how to do it, what the outcome will be or even if you should do it.  Something within moves you and motivates you to put one foot in front of the other.  This is how my faith leads and guides me and enables me to do the work that I do daily.

Why do you think mental illness is such a taboo in our society?

We have been taught to think of mental illness as a taboo. It goes all the way back to ancient Greece when a “stigma” was a brand used to mark slaves, criminals, and persons suffering from depression, autism, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Sufferers were often imprisoned, tortured or killed.

Unfortunately, taboo and fear of mental illness is still prevalent in today’s society. As healthcare providers, I believe we can lead the conversation and help our communities talk about mental health without shame, embarrassment, or fear. Particularly mental health amongst healthcare providers.  We give so much of ourselves for the well-being of our patients that we often neglect our own well-being and allow the stressors of life to compound in both the workplace and home/social settings without any type of release.  It is all too often a pressure cooker situation that sadly ends in suicide.

Specifically, as a black female physician, I have recognized that this topic is extremely taboo in our communities and culture because we have been taught to be strong, to shake things off and to pray our way through it.   It is imperative that I inform the masses within our community that it is okay to not be okay at times.  We don’t have to have it all together all the time. I think the phenomenon of the strong black woman can be both a gift and a curse.  We also must learn to avoid the temptation to place value upon what others’ perceptions of us may be.  As much as we have been taught through generations to pray over difficult situations, we must learn to acknowledge and accept that the Lord created mental health providers along with mental health pharmaceuticals that are available to help get you through the transition of a difficult yet temporary situation.

One in four of all adults in the United States suffers from mental illness, which means if you haven’t experienced it personally, it’s still very likely to touch you through a friend or family member. The sooner we enable conversations to happen, the better.        

What advice would you give your younger self?

Opportunity comes dressed in the strangest circumstances!  For example, I saw firsthand the benefits of ketamine in the operating room and watched patients emerge from depression, anxiety, and surgical pain faster when ketamine was used. 

By experiencing a tumultuous job loss as an anesthesiologist in a large private practice group and witnessing depression amongst colleagues in addition to the loss of a colleague to suicide and finally going through a bout of depression myself, I recognized that a stand-alone ketamine clinic— with the right holistic approach to care— could offer people a level of compassion and hope that they could not otherwise find elsewhere.

I would tell my younger self to approach situations with grace and gratitude and know that “everything is an opportunity with the right attitude.” 

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur?

Plan for a lot of hard work, planning, investing, and networking. Be prepared to be overwhelmed and scared, but also be prepared to watch your dream come to life before your very eyes!

Entrepreneurship can be summed up by one of my favorite Mark Twain quotes, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 

How has the entrepreneurial experience been thus far?

Challenging, expensive, tiring and fretful at times BUT very much rewarding ALL of the time.  I am enjoying the process all the while being grateful for the opportunity to offer hope to those who lost it somewhere along the way.  Hearing someone tell me that they want to live again, literally, makes everything I do worthwhile.

What does success look like to you?

I love being able to focus on one patient at a time, providing them with my undivided attention and 150% effort. It yields a safe outcome, an outstanding patient experience, and ultimately an enhanced quality of life for that patient.

Elev8 MD Wellness Center is successful when we use ketamine and individualized integrative therapies to regenerate hope, functionality, and wellness for patients who suffer with treatment-resistant depression and chronic pain.

Where would you like to see your business in the next five years?

Elev8 MD Wellness Center opened its doors in January of 2019. So far, we have been profitably growing with patients who respect and benefit from our individualized approach to treatment.

Local medical practices continue to refer their most difficult patient cases to us and we are experiencing higher recovery and remission rates than the 70% publicized by the American Society of Ketamine Physicians. Over the next five years, we expect to increase patient capacity significantly and expand geographically to keep pace with the Charlotte region’s growth.

Follow Us

Facebook: @elev8md
Instagram:  elev8md_charlotte
Twitter: @elev8md
Linkedin:  Elev8 MD Wellness Center

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