When Dr. Jeffrey B. Baker began his journey as a physician around 27 years ago, little did he know he would be practicing medicine in the historic Idaho Falls Third Ward building.
Baker’s so-called dream began when he first attended a conference for integrated medicine. Shortly thereafter, his imagination sparked to convert a historic building into a medical clinic.
With the help of his friend Stephen Loosli, Baker searched for a large building to restore, fitting the needs of his new integrated medicine practice.
The building first began construction right before the great depression and was dedicated in 1937 by President Heber J. Grant, then President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The building served members of the Church until 1981, when it then served the community of Idaho Falls as a place of recreation and then for an Assembly of God congregation. The Third Ward building sat vacant for over a decade, until Baker purchased the building in 2016.
When Baker first visited the building, he knew it was the place, as he described it as a “healing place” and “sanctuary,” hence the name The Healing Sanctuary.
Renovations were originally planned to take six months. However, as they dug deeper into the building, both Baker and Loosli found the project was going to take a lot more effort than planned. The floors and ceiling began to cave and leak after years of wear and tear on the building.
Renovations were not easy and took a toll on Baker’s family. Financially, things became a struggle as the project took nearly three times the predicted cost of renovations. However, Baker described his family as supportive, encouraging him while struggles of renovating the old Third Ward building continued for nearly two years.
“The building was kind of a metaphor for that: If you dig deep, try to clean it up, get it better and it just works better,” Baker said. “And that’s the same way the body will do. Help that body heal, God made the body to heal.”
Baker continued to share his metaphor of restoring the old church building into a clinic as his philosophy on medicine. He said that just simply giving someone a sleeping pill and saying “see ya later” won’t always fix the problem. Healing the body takes much more effort and digging to the root of the problem covering the mind, body and spirit.
Baker said health of the human mind and body is also like the financial sacrifice building the clinic took.
“People sometimes say, ‘I don’t have the money to pay for that lab or do that treatment or that therapy.’ We all have to decide where we are going to spend our money,” Baker said.
Idaho Falls resident Scott Adams designed the renovations. He fulfilled Baker’s philosophy by designing the building to include elements of the original design of a Latter-day Saint chapel often considered a sanctuary of the spirit to local congregation-goers.
Adams said he designed the interior to include soft colors like silver and blues to give a celestial feel to the clinic. The lotus flower was also used as a subtle motif throughout the design as a symbol of serenity.
Baker said he hopes building such a clinic will inspire others to make choices in their lives that will provide optimal healing, such as the foods we eat and the way we spend our time.
The Healing Sanctuary will be open to the public for tours on May 19, showcasing the large amounts of work spent on this project.