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Where Patients Don't Need Patience 

The Center for Longevity and Wellness (3601 Houma Blvd., Suite 300, Metairie, 885-7360) is a model for what medical clinics can and should be: a practice as focused on keeping people well and improving their lives as it is on treating illnesses.

The center is based on a concept new to this area; patients pay a $300 annual membership but have unlimited access to internal medicine Drs. Leonard B. Kancher and G.M. Weiner -- including their home telephone numbers -- and their support staff. Patients also can receive appointments on the same or next day after they call, the services are covered by most insurance, plus there's a medical spa on the premises. There also is a retail area that sells herbal and all-natural skin-care products, spa accoutrements and pharmaceutical-grade dietary supplements.

"We're the first medical practice in this area to do what around the country they call 'boutique' or 'concierge medicine,'" says Stan Melancon, director of development at the center. "We don't call ourselves that, however." The $300 annual fee allows the doctors, who have practiced medicine for 30 years and still are on staff at East Jefferson General Hospital, to lower the number of patients they see in a year from about 4,600 to 2,000 and give each patient the time they need with the doctor. The fee is waived for people under 35 to accommodate those who are just starting out in their careers or finishing school.

"What you're getting for your $300 a year is unprecedented access to your doctor," Melancon says. "You get the doctor's home number, direct line at the office, his email address (and support staff numbers). You can always get through to a person." Plus the time you spend with the doctor is not limited by his need to get to other patients.

"It's tough to provide the kind of care we want to provide in a 15- or 20-minute encounter," says Dr. Kancher. "We want to provide the service people want in a one-on-one environment. What the practice is all about is wellness care, feeling good and personalized care. It's not about when the doctor can see you; it's about when you want to see the doctor.

"This is our effort to redesign the health system. It's broken and this is our effort to redesign it -- to put the system in place not only to add years to [a patient's] life, but life to their years."

Visiting the center also will change your perception of what a doctor's office should be. The waiting room is outfitted with comfortable chairs, soothing art, subtle hints of aromatherapy and a wall-mounted fountain that furthers the feeling of calm. The staff adheres to appointment schedules and even considered not putting in a waiting room at all.

"We're trying to do as close as we can to appointment times," Melancon says. "If you do have to wait a few minutes, it's in a relaxing environment. If you need to spend an hour with the doctor, you're not going to be rushed out of his office because he has other appointments. You can spend the time you need." In addition, the clinic has its own X-ray facilities and a special bed that painlessly measures bone density and body fat indexes.

The spa offers a range of massages, customized skin care treatments and the center soon will expand into a space that will accommodate yoga and tai chi classes, a wellness dining cafe and juice bar as well as health seminars.

Shaken Not Stirred

Starbucks Coffee Co. (with locations citywide) has introduced a new line of handcrafted beverages it calls "Iced Shaken Refreshments" that include iced coffee and tea in fat-free customizable flavors.

Available for a limited time is the Tazo tea lemonade, which features lightly sweetened Tazo ice tea that's shaken with lemonade and ice. Remaining on the regular menu are Tazo iced tea, lightly sweetened Tazo Passion herbal tea or Tazo traditional black tea shaken with ice; or fresh-brewed Starbucks coffee in your choice of flavor, lightly sweetened and shaken with ice. The teas used in the new Starbucks beverages were specifically designed by the Tazo Tea Company for serving over ice. Starbucks then designed a custom process to use shakers to aerate the coffees and teas to enhance the distinct flavors in the beverages and produce a frothy drink.

In addition to its coffee bar products, Starbucks is a leading retailer and roaster of specialty coffee, with 6,500 retail locations in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Pacific Rim. It also sells bottled Frappuccino and DoubleShot coffee drinks as well as ice cream.

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