Delivering Hope International: Training and Equipping Doulas in developing nations

Screenshot 2016-07-27 11.09.07Due to circumstances beyond her control, much to do with where she was born and to the situation in which she entered the world, *Bilen made her living in the most humiliating of ways. Forced to submit she found herself pregnant. Living and working in one of the poorest areas of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Bilen struggled to survive. Not earning enough to make it on her own she was a slave to her “employers”. When she became too pregnant to work, she no longer had a place to stay (because she couldn’t bring in any income) and she despaired of what to do. Thankfully, a Delivering Hope International TM trained worker (doula) had met this young lady and had taken an interest in her.

Trained in pre and post-natal care and follow-up, *Kidist knew this woman and her unborn child were in a precarious position. Going above and beyond, she took her into her home and cared for her, providing food, shelter, and educating her on what to expect in the coming days and weeks. Kidist saw Bilen through her pregnancy, teaching her proper breast feeding techniques and checking to ensure that mom and baby were both healthy and recovering from the birth.

Once the baby was born, Bilen’s “employer” wanted her to return to work quickly, which would be almost impossible with a new baby. Although Bilen desperately wanted to keep her newborn she felt forced to relinquish her in order for them to both to have a chance at survival. Kidist, (being trained in the mission of Delivering Hope International TM and with a heart full of compassion) stepped in and brought this situation to the attention of our director. A partner program was identified and accepted Bilen and her newborn. She spent the next eight months being counseled, educated, trained, and loved. Last September, with her darling daughter in her arms, Bilen graduated and is now working in a nearby town.

Delivering Hope International TM exists to bring hope, healing and compassion to those most vulnerable in our world. Compelled by Christ’s love, we improve maternal, newborn and child health, and promote family preservation and the prevention of orphans. Founded by a group of adoptive mom’s, who met during the adoption process, we volunteer our time and resources to see this mission accomplished. We would love (and need) you to join us by:

We invite you to be a part of something bigger. Join us in equipping women like Kidist with life-saving information to go out in their communities and care for women and children. Because of the intervention of a trained Delivering Hope International TM doula, the fate of Kidist’s baby was changed. Instead of growing up in an institution, she is still in her mother’s arms….exactly where she should be.

*All names have been changed.

Skip Breakfast: Gain Weight By Hope Placher, PA-C, IFMCP


Screenshot 2016-07-27 08.22.39This month I celebrate 8 years as a certified physician assistant. The last four years have been spent practicing with and learning from Dr. Couri – time flies!  As I reflect back on my colorful work history, one of the most common concerns and questions patients ask is why they are gaining weight.  Certainly there can be as many answers to this question as patients I see in a day. However, I think there are some foundational principles that can be applied to the masses to help us maintain a healthy weight. One of the most basic principles is the importance of eating breakfast.

Many men and women feel that skipping breakfast may lower their overall caloric intake for the day. Skipping breakfast is easy when most of us are short on time and patience in the mornings. Perhaps you find that a cup of coffee is the only fuel you need to get you moving and start the day. Unfortunately, not properly breaking our nighttime ‘fast’ impairs our metabolic machinery. Not eating a morning meal means you actually eat more throughout the day.  In fact, a 2005 article published by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition that studied healthy, lean women found that skipping breakfast could impair insulin sensitivity and lead to weight gain. Need more proof? A recent study found that almost 80% of 3,000 people who lost an average of 70 pounds and kept it off for six years ate breakfast regularly. On the other hand, only 4% of those who never ate breakfast kept the weight off.

It should come as no surprise that not all breakfast foods are created equal. Please don’t be upset with me when you’re eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes every morning and not seeing the pounds fall off. Two hundred calories of sugar coated, processed cereal is not the same as 200 calories of dense protein.  Instead, pack in protein-rich foods like eggs, nut butters, a protein shake, or whole grains with nuts. They’ll steady your blood sugar and reduce metabolic fluctuations later in the day. In fact, a 2006 article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has revealed that a protein-rich breakfast can help reduce your hunger hormone ghrelin and increase cholecystokinin (CCK), which signals our brain to stop eating.

Short on time in the mornings? No sweat. My food prep always includes breakfast food. An easy egg casserole with veggies can be thrown in the oven Sunday night and quickly reheated throughout the week. Blend a protein shake or smoothie the night before and keep it in the freezer. Brown turkey sausage at the beginning of the week and enjoy that with avocado toast. It doesn’t have to be fancy-just full of protein.


Hope Placher, PA-C, IFMCP

August Recipe: Spinach, Tomato & Ricotta Frittata

Screenshot 2016-07-27 09.01.35

  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 Tbs. whole milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen, thawed, chopped spinach, squeezed dry
  • 1/2 oz. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small plum tomato, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Whisk the eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Add the spinach, half of the Parmigiano, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper and mix well. Melt the butter in a 10-inch oven-safe nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.

Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the egg mixture and cook until the eggs begin to set, occasionally lifting the sides with a spatula to let uncooked egg run underneath, 3 to 5 minutes. Lay the tomato slices over the eggs and dollop the ricotta around the tomatoes. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper and then the remaining 1/4-cup of the Parmigiano. Bake until the ricotta is heated through, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving. Serves 4-6.

What’s On Our Horizon? By Dr. Michele Couri, MD, FACOG, ABIHM

Dr. C article picture for web

“With the New Day Comes New Strength and New Thoughts”     -Eleanor Roosevelt

We are well into summer, and I thought I would take this opportunity to update all of our patients and readers of what is new at the Couri Center. As a very dynamic and ever-evolving practice, there are many state of the art treatments and educational opportunities available here. We want nothing more than for our patients to have access to a vast array of resources that empower and enhance the lives of women of all ages.

One of the most exciting new additions to the Couri Center is Renee Alwan Percell PA-C. Renee is a physician assistant whom we are very grateful to have joining our team. Renee received her Masters in Medical Science-Physician Assistant Studies in 2005 from the Arizona School of Health Sciences. In 2004, Renee completed her OB/GYN rotation with me, and I witnessed firsthand her dedication and passion for her patients. Renee is a champion for women locally and globally, as she has experience working in a women’s clinic during her time in the Peace Corps. In addition, Renee has provided preventative and acute care for women during her time working in a community health center. She is looking forward to helping in our community and providing optimism and excellence in patient care. Renee will be an extension of my office-based services, as she will be performing well-woman examinations, pap smears, breast exams, and will be seeing patients for a variety of gynecologic issues.

In addition to Renee, there will be 2 more new lives at the office, however these are of the baby variety. I am more than thrilled to announce that our other physician assistant Hope Placher is expecting twins, a boy and a girl. They will most likely make their debut in October, and we couldn’t be more excited for Hope and her husband Jesse. Hope recently completed her certification in Functional Medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine. She continues to provide integrative gynecologic care and in my opinion, is the area’s leading expert in integrative gastroenterology as it pertains to food sensitivities, gut inflammation, and imbalances in the beneficial bacteria within our gut called the microbiome. Hope also continues to assist me in providing our harmonié bioidentical hormone pellet therapy. This personalized and completely individually tailored hormone replacement system that is plant-based has revolutionized the treatment of perimenopausal and menopausal women throughout central Illinois. In all my years of providing gynecologic care; I have not encountered any other hormone replacement system that even comes close to its effectiveness and safety profile.

Another new addition here at the Couri Center is the MonaLisa Touch® Laser system. The MonaLisa Touch® is a novel, FDA-approved life-changing treatment for women who are experiencing vaginal dryness, burning and itching, pain with intercourse, or urologic symptoms such as urinary frequency and urgency related to the loss of estrogen due to menopause. It is a vaginal carbon dioxide laser that completely restores the vaginal and vulvar tissue to their healthy premenopausal state. This painless treatment takes less than 5 minutes per session, is done in the office without the need for anesthesia and eliminates the above-mentioned symptoms without hormonal therapy. Because of this, it is particularly well suited for breast cancer patients or other patients who cannot or prefer not to use hormone replacement therapy but are suffering with these symptoms nonetheless. I cannot reiterate enough how successful this therapy is, and if you are interested in learning more about it, I encourage you to attend one of our free MonaLisa Touch® educational lectures. For more information about the MonaLisa Touch® System including our lecture schedule, please refer to our website at:

Last but not least, I would like to take this opportunity to expand on a new trend that is universally occurring in healthcare today, not just here at the Couri Center, and it involves the efficient utilization of advanced practice nurses and physician assistants in expanding access to care for patients worldwide. I have said over and over that we are blessed with the best patients in the world. I have been in practice now for 15 years and by the grace of God, have built a wonderful practice full of very inspiring and motivated patients. In order to be able to keep up with the volume of established and new patients that seek our services and to be able to continue to see patients in timely fashion, I heavily rely on my teamIMG_0119 copy of 2 advanced practice nurses, Sue Lang and Terry Polanin, as well as our 2 physician assistants, Hope and Renee. Inherent to comprehensive gynecologic care is surgical services and advanced procedures. As the practice grows, I invariably spend more time in the surgical and procedural realm of the practice, i.e. performing hysterectomies, endometrial ablations and other gynecologic surgeries and procedures as well as performing the MonaLisa Touch® laser procedure as outlined above or inserting bioidentical hormone pellets. Because of this, the less complex services such as yearly well woman exams and pa
p smears typically are more and more being performed by our advanced practice nurses or physician assistants. We are seeing a trend towards this redistribution of services nationwide due to physician shortages and increasing patient volume tied to Obamacare. I am currently in the process of recruiting additional physicians to work at the Couri Center, but until that happens, I ask for your patience during this time. I have the utmost confidence in the skills of Sue, Terry, Hope and Renee as I have personally trained them all. In fact, I along with many of my family members see Sue, Terry, Hope, or Renee for our gynecologic care.  I trust them that much. In addition, I personally review every patient chart and office note that is generated by one of the APNs or PAs, and if there is a more advanced problem that requires the services of an M.D., of course the patient will be seen by me. It is a given that the face of medicine is changing worldwide, but we will never compromise on patient care or on compassion. That is a promise, and that my friends, is definitely not new.

To Your Health,

Dr. Couri

MonaLisa Touch® Internal and External Pre-treatment Instructions


The MonaLisa Touch® Laser stimulates new collagen production which helps to promote improved vaginal and vulvar health.

  1. Shower or bathe the morning of treatment so that the area to be treated is clean.
  2. Dress in loose fitting pants and cotton underwear on the day of treatment.
  3. You will be asked to empty your bladder immediately prior to being taken to treatment room.
  4. Procedures will be explained and consent forms will be signed.
  5. You will then undress from the waist down.
  6. Dr. Couri will perform a pelvic exam then she will apply a topical anesthetic called RectiCare® in the opening of the vagina and on the vulvar area prior to the laser treatment.
  7. Please bring a book or something to read while you relax and rest for 10-minutes to give the topical anesthetic time to numb the area.
  8. If you feel like you need to empty your bladder again, please let us know prior to starting the procedure. Your bladder should be empty.
  9. You, as well as everyone in the room, will then wear protective eyewear provided to prevent eye damage while the laser is in use.
  10. The internal laser will be performed first; it takes 5-10 minutes to complete. You should expect minimal discomfort. Most of the discomfort is caused from initially inserting the probe into the vagina.
  11. The external laser will be performed next; it takes 5-10 minutes to complete. You should expect minimal discomfort. If you have discomfort, Dr. Couri will apply more RectiCare® to numb the area again.
  12. Most patients resume normal activity, as tolerated, immediately after procedure.
  13. Wait 1-day before showering or bathing and avoid the use of hot water until treated area is completely healed.
  14. Avoid exercise for 3-4 days after procedure.
  15. Avoid sexual activity for 7 days after procedure.