Alumni Highlight: CAM Grad Opens Holistic Wellness Business |

Sep 18, 2020 10:30:00 AM | degrees in CAM Alumni Highlight: CAM Grad Opens Holistic Wellness Business |

MS in CAM alumni Melissa Abbott talks about her new business and overcoming the challenges of online school as a low vision student.

melissa abbott pictured next to a photo of herbs and spices

Melissa Abbott recently completed her Master's of Science in Complementary Alternative Medicine and is well on her way to starting her own holistic health and wellness business. 

Switching gears in her career

Melissa has been a personal trainer and nutritionist for over 20 years and was the senior coordinator for the over-55 program at a local hospital. About 10 years into her career at the hospital, she felt something was missing. "I myself have used holistic health for a long time, and I wanted to incorporate that for my clients and into my work environment. And then I lost my vision," she says.

After losing her vision, Melissa was asked to resign from her job at the hospital or be fired. "Even though I worked for a hospital, they didn’t believe I could be an effective health and wellness coach being blind," Melissa says. Wondering what to do next, Melissa talked to her aunt who helped her do an online search for alternative programs for Masters degrees in the United States. 

"We narrowed it down to three schools, and ACHS won! It was because of their program, their accreditation, and the value of what they had to offer in degrees. It was a no-brainer," she says.

Online school as a low vision student

Melissa faced unique challenges in her education as a student with low vision. "I only have about 20% vision on a good day," she explains. In the beginning, it was challenging to adapt to online education while also learning to adapt to becoming blind at the age of 42. "Not only did I have to adapt to seeing my world in a different way, I had to adapt to navigating machines and devices and accessibility options," Melissa says.

Despite her challenges, Melissa excelled in her program. "One of the things I pride myself on is that even though I have these new abilities, I didn’t want to be behind. I didn't want special treatment," she says. Melissa says that those with vision issues don't need "special treatment," but instead just need to be given the tools to do the same thing that everyone else does with two eyes.

Melissa's capstone project focused on Psychoneuroimmunological Injury (PNI) Resulting from Early Childhood Maltreatment, Stress, and Trauma. "It has been researched in science for over 50 years, but it’s only in the last 5-10 years that’s it’s starting to be used in the gold standard of placebo-controlled double-blind studies with human experimental design," she says. Melissa is working on furthering her research and hopes to self-publish in the future.

Starting a wellness business

Melissa had previously gone to school for business and she and her husband have run their own self-employed business for over 30 years, so she was already well equipped to open her health and wellness business. She hopes to name her the business "HolistiX" and is currently petitioning the name to the state of New Hampshire to make sure it’s not taken by anybody else.

"I'd like to offer wellness services that are all-inclusive of complementary alternative medicine," she says. "Whether someone needs nutrition services, whether they need physical services, I want to encompass mind, body, and spirit while also being a patient advocate."

Melissa explains that wellness is not the absence of sickness, but a holism approach of making sure you have mind, body, and spirit wellness. "I want to create a website that allows people who have chronic conditions to be able to receive optimum wellness because I want them to learn you are not your disease, you are not your condition. You can manage those things and still have optimum wellness," she says.

melissa abbott pictures with a root tonic she made

Melissa will also offer a woman's program focused on growth stages that women are at. She explains the importance of such a program: "Between the ages of 7 to 12, we develop our identity of who we are and whether we accept our bodies. That gets carried through as we go through our twenties and thirties as we try to figure out where to fit in in the world. To really support women from an early age, allowing them knowledge and education that they can take care of themselves now,  will have a profound positive affect as they age and are going through their growth stages."

In addition to the services she offers, Melissa also has a line of products. "I love roots and root tonics are centuries and centuries old," she says. "I’m going to have a whole line of products I’m offering that can be created and cooked per order and per person per their contraindications and health conditions."


Adapting to virtual communication

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many services that were once offered in person are now moved online instead. "I wanted to start a women’s support group for stress management at my local grange. I wanted to do a wellness program in the grange with in-person live events and education classes, and right now I can’t do that," she says. 

Although she prefers face-to-face communication, Melissa says she is confident that she can adapt despite the challenges that an online environment poses to someone with low vision.  She plans to launch her new website next month.

"As I have done most of my life, my resiliency will find a way to make this happen. I’m an eager beaver," she says. 

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I am the social media coordinator for the American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine. 

About American College of Healthcare Sciences

ACHS Founding President Dorene Petersen with three studentsAmerican College founded in 1978, is a fully online accredited institute of higher education specializing in holistic health. Based in Portland, OR; our goal is to make research-driven and science-based holistic health education taught by industry-leading experts accessible to anyone anywhere while still giving students a hands-on experiential learning experience like a traditional college and a strong sense of community, school pride and student bond.

This commitment to our students and graduates reflects in our current survey results that reflect 98% of our students would recommend ACHS to a friend or family member.

We believe education is the most powerful tool for changing an individual and the world around us. 

When a person enrolls as ACHS, it is vitally important that they graduate with tools they need to forge their own holistic and sustainable missions, build up their communities confidently and changing the face of healthcare with knowledge.

Gillian Turner

Written By: Gillian Turner

Gillian joined ACHS after graduating from Linfield College with a BA in Mass Communication and a minor in visual studies. She grew up off the grid in rural southern Oregon and spent time exploring the forest surrounding her house and teaching gardening classes to other children in her garden. While at Linfield, Gillian gained valuable experience in public relations, social media management, and digital art. She was awarded a strategic communication scholarship and inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a national college honor society “that recognizes academic excellence and promotes scholarship in journalism and mass communication.” When not at work, Gillian can most often be found making art, enjoying nature or drinking coffee with her husband, Preston. Her interests include sustainability, mental wellness, and trying to stay connected to nature while living in the city. She studied abroad at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and has traveled to over ten different countries. Her favorite place that she has visited is the Scottish Highlands, and she hopes to visit many more countries in the future.