In the middle of the pandemic, Dr. Ken Grey saw that the old ways of doing medicine were no longer really serving anyone. People weren’t going to the doctor because they didn’t want to sit in a waiting room and potentially contract the virus. And by not going to the doctor, they weren’t tending to their health care needs as well as they should have been. Add to that his own frustration with not being able to sit with his patients face-to-face, and the holistic physician got to thinking…. How else might he get patients the health care information they needed?
The answer for Grey was to find a way to put curated health care into the palms of their hands via an app. Shortly after the nation went into lockdown in March 2020, a friend introduced him to an app designer who helped develop Vell—short for “very well”—which Grey refers to as the world’s first holistic health system designed to optimize a user’s health on demand and connect people with wellness resources in the surrounding community. Solutions aren’t one-size-fits-all, says Grey, because different patients respond to different modalities. Initial investors in the Vell app included Chesapeake Bank visionary Marshall Warner, HealthITq CEO Rebecca Quammen, and Fidelity Investments executive VP Bill Loehning, among others.
“[Vell] is an opportunity for users to be educated properly through curated information that is targeted by their daily interests in health,” Grey says of the app, which has a $4.99 monthly subscriber fee. “For instance, one day you might have a headache, and the next day you might be dealing with arthritic pain or PMS. The app allows you to focus on those priorities and offers advice on things like nutrition, supplements, fitness, mind, and
binaural sound therapy that can help reduce symptoms.”
Vell is, in essence, a scaled-up version of Grey’s more than two decades of experience with using his hands and heart to help others feel better. Born in New York City, he grew up watching his father struggle with kidney disease and hypertension and seeing friends of his succumb to drug-related deaths. Concerned about safety, his father decided to move the family to Port St. Lucie in 1989, when Grey was 13, for a much-needed change of pace and place.
Grey had originally found a calling in the performing arts, but that changed in 1993 when he suffered a car accident that put him into a chiropractor’s care. It was his first experience with something other than “conventional” medicine, and it instilled in him a curiosity about other forms of healing. While working in the arts—as both a private
instructor and an art teacher at Turtle River Montessori—he completed school at the Atlantic Institute of Oriental Medicine and became a licensed doctor of Oriental medicine and acupuncture.
“I was probably the only student who didn’t have a business plan,” says Grey. “All I knew was that I wanted to go where I was needed and do the best I could for the patients who found me. At first I did house visits, then I went to work for a dentist and we became the first to use acupuncture as an anesthesia and relaxation process. After that, I was approached by a medical doctor at Jupiter Medical Center about taking up office in his practice, and we became the first at Jupiter Medical to offer acupuncture with surgery.”
A self-described healer, Grey has practiced integrative medicine out of Jupiter Medical Center for the past 20 years. It was there that he met his second wife, Heather, a decade ago through one of his patients. “It took a while to get Heather to go out with me,” he recalls. “After about four months, it happened to be her birthday, and I thought maybe I’d take her out for tea. Tea turned into dinner and dancing, and a few weeks after that, we introduced our kids to one another. It was an immediate match with our kids, just like Heather and I were an immediate match, and we’ve all been together ever since.”
Now married seven years, the couple and their blended family of seven children enjoy time together whenever they can, going to the beach, boating, and traveling. Favorite destinations include “anywhere with a nature element,” says Grey, whether it’s tromping through the forests of Nantahala, North Carolina or white-water rafting and skiing in Colorado. The family patriarch also loves spending the day cooking for his family at their
Jupiter home while the kids splash in the pool or curl up in front of the television.
Of course, with such a large brood, it can be challenging to find family time, notes Heather, who works as an aesthetician across from Grey’s office. “We’re all quite busy because the kids are involved in hobbies and sports, but we’re really fortunate because they’re all such good kids.”
Their 23-year-old daughter, Paris, is working as an oral surgeon’s assistant while finishing up college at FAU. Like her dad, she hopes to work in health care after she graduates. Then comes Leilani, 20, a Palm Beach Atlantic student and an aspiring chef who has been a line cook at Food Shack. Eldest son Asa, 18, works at Cafe des Artistes while a senior at Dwyer High School and hopes to major in business in college. Eighteen-year-old Marley is an aspiring boat captain and attends Palm Beach State, 15-year-old Angelina is a freshman at Jupiter High and works as an independent hairstylist, and 12-year-old Koa is a gifted soccer player who is homeschooled. The Greys are also the legal guardians of Heather’s 4-year-old grandson, Kailo, who will start pre-K in the fall.
Having his family’s support is an added blessing as Grey starts to work longer hours to expand Vell’s reach. Among other things, he has reached out to local first responders about using the app to help them deal with back pain and on-the-job stress and anxiety. He’s also approaching corporations about utilizing the app for their employees who might be looking for other ways to manage their blood pressure. “So far, the feedback we’re getting has been great,” he says. “This is something that prioritizes employees and their concerns and offers them immediate solutions right at their desk.”
“Physicians can also benefit from this by connecting with their patients on the app to monitor their current health trends,” he continues. “Sometimes there’s not enough awareness of how a patient is doing with compliance between doctor visits. Vell can bridge that gap.”
Dr. Ken Grey reveals some of his favorite ways to unwind at home in Jupiter
Meditate: “The beach, usually at sunrise”
Flow: “One of my favorite yoga poses is the headstand because it offers a change in perspective.”
Eat: 1000 North, Food Shack, Coolinary
Shop Fresh: Sprouts, Carmine’s, Cod & Capers Seafood
Cook: “I like making any soup because it involves a lot of fresh herbs and vegetables and a lot of love with the stock. For me, cooking is a meditation and an expression of love for my family.”
Read: “I like to read portions of books every day, usually devotionals like A.J. Russell’s God Calling, because they help me get centered and be more effective.”
Our area is positioned to become the next big hub for tech start-ups
Jupiter is fertile ground for nascent technology companies in the biotech and health spaces right now, drawing some of the most innovative thinkers in these fields with a mix of incubator space and cash incentives. The boom has been almost two decades in the making: In 2006, Florida lured Scripps Research Institute to Jupiter with $579 million in taxpayer dollars. That same year, the town established a $3 million economic development fund geared toward creating bioscience jobs in the area.
Companies like Alphazyme, which develops and produces molecular biology enzymes, are among those who benefit from this business-friendly environment, which empowers the company to bring more affordable, high-quality treatments to cancer and infectious disease patients. And last May, Beacon Pharmaceutical broke ground on what will be a 150,000-square-foot biotech incubator and manufacturing center geared toward keeping pharmaceutical production in state. Once completed, it will accommodate and be a source of financing for up to 70 companies. “The east coast of Florida is going to be where most of the great health technology is going to come from,” says Dr. Ken Grey.
Last year, Verizon (which conducts studies about businesses) ranked Jupiter the twentieth best town in the nation to launch a small business, in part because of its educated residents, reasonable commute times, and access to broadband internet. For local start-ups like Vell, the future certainly looks bright.