By Matt Martinez Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service Published Mar 27, 2021 at 3:01 PM

Erica Arfsten lived most of her life without anxiety.

As a flight attendant with Midwest Express Airlines, she regularly flew between Des Moines, Iowa, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C.

One morning, though, her flight never left the Des Moines airport. The plane was grounded, and she looked on in horror with the rest of the world as two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

After that, things were never quite the same. She would wake up with anxiety attacks at 4 a.m. And she dealt with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder every time she went to work.

“I thought I’m either in the worst place I can be or the best place,” she said. “They’re either going to attack here first or last.”

Her uncertainty about continuing was compounded by the route she had to take: Every day she flew to Washington, D.C., where a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside the district on 9/11.

Arfsten turned to Shalem Healing in the Harambee neighborhood to manage her post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath. Twenty years later, every member of her family has received care at the clinic, and she’s gone from patient to employee.

Dr. Robert Fox, the founder of Shalem Healing, said the nonprofit clinic takes a holistic approach to health care by attempting to treat the cause rather than the symptom of health issues. It specializes in serving uninsured or underinsured members of the community.

The clinic offers services in acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, exercise, lab analysis and primary care, among others. Jonathan Gelfman, Shalem Healing’s director, puts it all under the umbrella of family medicine.

The clinic’s goal is to address the mind, body and spirit, said Fox, who holds a doctorate in acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Gelfman said the clinic also runs Refua Medicinals, a business that combines Chinese herbs grown by Fox with modern nutritional science.

“God provides the cure before the disease,” Fox said, explaining why he trusts natural remedies.   

Arfsten said her 11-year-old daughter, who has autism, has benefitted greatly from herbal medicine from Shalem, which helps her manage her anxiety.

The medicine is meant for more than just physical ailments. Fox uses Eastern healing methods, like acupuncture, to treat anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he can use acupuncture to give somebody a “true perception of feeling relaxed,” which can yield surprising results for first-time users.

“You can use it to create a deeper memory of what it feels like to be relaxed,” Fox said.

Arfsten said acupuncture has helped her to be aware when anxiety is coming and stop it before it occurs.  

Fox tries to inform the community around the center of the benefits of these methods. He’s spoken at Bader Philanthropies in the past about using herbal medicine to treat diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

“These issues are common in underserved, underinsured neighborhoods, but they don’t have to be,” Fox said.

He said the clinic hosts nutritional classes and helps to educate people about chronic diseases such as diabetes.

The clinic is more than just Fox. Dr. Erica Linn, who has a doctorate in nursing practice from UW-Milwaukee, sees patients of all ages. She specializes in brain health and works with children with autism. Arfsten began as a volunteer and helps out as “an extra set of hands and feet” for the clinic’s COVID-19 response, as the center has offered testing since the summer.

Gelfman said Shalem plans to add a behavioral health provider to the team in the next few months as well.

Fox said he wants the clinic’s services available to everyone. Shalem treats people regardless of their insurance status.

Shalem Healing and Refua Medicinals, along with Sam’s Place, an eatery and jazz café, are tenants at 3338 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. The building has been undergoing significant renovations since September 2019. The ideas for the three businesses came directly from Harambee residents through a series of “Chat with Bader” events organized by the Bader Foundation to get to know neighbors and hear ideas on what would enhance their quality of life.

Fox said the clinic has one simple goal: to be a resource for the community.

“Our goal is to help as many people as possible,” Fox said.

For more information

You can contact Shalem Healing at 414-640-5433 or click here to reach its website.