Meet our Director
Lisa Gussack is the founder and director of Full Circle Women’s Health. Her vision throughout her 28 years as a practicing midwife was to build a midwifery practice within an integrative center of medical and healing specialists. This center would serve families through all phases of life — birth through adolescence, during childbearing years and beyond. Full Circle Women’s Health is the manifestation of this dream: a women’s health practice within the integrative center of Full Circle Family Care. We invite you to come to Full Circle and see how Lisa’s passion for holistic and empowering health care options, and the synergy of talented, like-minded, like-hearted healing professionals, can aid your family’s well being.
My Path to Midwifery — In 1974, while a postpartum nurse in Boston, Massachusetts, I read Suzanne Arms’ book “The Immaculate Deception.” Her exposure of the inconsistency between current obstetrical practice and the centuries old wisdom regarding pregnancy and birth led me to find my calling as a midwife. Even as a relatively new nurse I could not comprehend why the practice of obstetrics was not consistent with what women knew of birth in their hearts – that it is a normal, natural event requiring little or no intervention. I saw how routine obstetrical practice left women thinking that there was something wrong with their pelvis, their baby or their body, which made pharmaceutical and surgical interventions necessary during labor and birth. And not knowing otherwise, women believed it. I felt compelled to join forces with a movement to empower women in their ability and right to have a normal births.
As a candidate for my bachelors degree in nursing at Northeastern University, I chose The Re-emergence of The Profession of Midwifery as my independent study project. I apprenticed with nurse-midwife Helena McDonough, who soon spearheaded the movement for midwifery to be legalized in Massachusetts and opened the first private midwifery practice in the state. My work with her included researching hospital birth centers to learn their policies, procedures, and protocols for establishing in-hospital birthing centers for this new midwife practice. Helena met with strong resistance from nursing and medicine, and yet she persevered in creating new policies that gave women a voice in having a family-centered birth. I saw how the women she empowered in health care carried this through to all aspects of their life.
I set my sights on going to midwifery school at Columbia University, and there I completed a joint masters degree program in Nursing and Public Health. After graduation I completed an internship at Booth Maternity Hospital in Pennsylvania and was fortunate to be exposed to midwives from all over the world. Many of these midwives were from countries where the predominant birth professional is the midwife and these countries had significantly lower rates of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality (sadly, this is still the case). My confidence started to build; even though midwife assisted birth in the United States was less common, it was the preferable, safer, and more satisfying experience for mothers, babies, and families. Routine inclusion of fetal monitoring, restricted movement, epidurals, and Pitocin has only resulted in a doubling of the cesarean section rate and no improvement in maternal and fetal outcomes.
In 1982 I joined with Aleida Llanes-Oberstein, CNM to open the first midwifery-owned private practice in Queens, New York. We were granted admitting privileges in the local hospital. There was a growing group of birth professionals and women who were determined to be heard and take back authority of their pregnancy, their labor, and their birth. Families wanted education and empowerment, rather than indoctrination into hospital policies and routine medical care. Midwifery made great strides on a national level, as these families lobbied for legislation that ensured women’s rights to choose midwife assisted births and insisted that insurance not limit a woman’s access to midwifery care. Women organized, marched, protested, lobbied, and supported midwives as we together fought for midwives to practice our trade and for women to choose their prenatal and childbirth care provider.
A Center is Born — Through the last 28 years I have been in private practice, with the exception of two years as a hospital or physician employee. I have had the privilege to practice full scope midwifery care, and I gained as much wisdom from witnessing women and their partners birth their babies as I did in all my years of formal education. There are as many variations in birth as there are individuals in this world. I’ve learned that the most important thing I can do is to help a woman is to listen and observe them in the context of their family and culture. Full Circle Women’s Health and Full Circle Family Care are the culmination of my experiences and hopes as a midwife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a granddaughter. It is our belief that birth should be an empowering experience, and that a mother should always have a voice in her prenatal, birth, and postpartum care. We welcome family members at prenatal visits and at the hospital at the birth, according to the mother’s wishes. We take time to listen, and hear, an expectant mother’s questions, concerns, fears, and hopes for her birth.
My Hope for Clients — Many women come to our practice for gynecological and primary care, and we welcome the opportunity to offer compassionate, informed choices for women’s health issues throughout the lifespan. We are joined by the skilled practitioners of Full Circle Family Care in offering top quality, integrative health care for women and their families. Our Shop at Full Circle offers expertly selected products and resources that are safe, natural, and effective for enhancing your family’s health and wellness. We want you to have the best health care possible and I welcome you to visit our practice and find out how we can assist you and your family.