Know Your Heroes: Leisa Bellmore

Know Your Heroes showcases the many different people and roles that make up #TeamUHN. We celebrate these people, who strive to make the world a healthier place every day.

Name: Leisa Bellmore, MSc, ST
Title: Shiatsu Therapist, UHN
Number of years working in health care: 20, including 11 at UHN’s Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre
Hometown: Toronto

I decided to get into health care because I wanted to do something that had a very direct impact on people. I was impressed with how effective shiatsu was for me, and was fascinated by anatomy and physiology.

My role here at UHN is to help artists overcome the mental and physical stress and strain that can accompany their lives so they can continue creating and performing at their best. I aim to enhance health awareness and encourage patients to take an active role in their care. I also try to raise awareness of shiatsu therapy through practice and research.

COVID-19 has affected me by preventing me from seeing patients for a number of months, which I missed terribly. Instead, I offered virtual self-shiatsu training sessions – something usually offered in clinic – teaching patients self-shiatsu and other self-care techniques to better manage their health and well-being. Also, I lecture internationally and had numerous speaking engagements cancelled. On the personal side, I had more time to slow down, reflect and focus on several research projects, which was positive.

The thing I love the most about my job is seeing the change in people after several treatments, especially in those living with persistent pain or mental health issues. Helping them to gain some control over their symptoms can have a huge impact on quality of life. It’s wonderful seeing how shiatsu often acts as a catalyst to adopting healthier lifestyle habits.

The most incredible thing I’ve seen at work is the impact of touch, particularly with patients who may be more vulnerable – those living with serious health conditions, experiencing mental health issues or overcoming trauma. It’s amazing seeing the transformation in people. Touch enhances our sense of self and allows us to feel connected, grounded and whole.

I’m inspired by every challenge that arises. I love being made to think differently, to learn and to overcome a challenge.

One of my personal heroes is Malala Yousafzai because she has shown remarkable strength, courage and grace in advocating for women’s rights.

I sometimes worry about equal access to health care, not only Western medical practices, but complementary and integrative health care – that is, the diverse healthcare systems and practices that are distinct from allopathic medical practices (such as shiatsu and acupuncture), but can often be integrated with them to provide greater health outcomes.

I’ve found joy recently from so many things: the spring and summer flowers, seeing my patients again, feeling the warmth of the sun, a fine meal, the smiles of my loved ones and playtime with our dog.

My favourite book is Wind, Sand and Stars (Terre des Hommes) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry because it is part memoir, part prose and part philosophy. It has some of the most beautifully written passages and thought-provoking commentary on what it is to be human.

My ideal day off is a leisurely walk with our dog, brunch cooked by my husband, a bit of gardening and lounging on the deck with a good book and a glass of rosé.

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