Byers Finds Her Niche in Functional Medicine
May 31, 2016 01:49PM
● By Sheila Julson
Amy Byers, N.P.
It’s only natural that nurse practitioner Amy Byers pursued a career in health care and eventually opened her own clinic, Byers Functional Medicine. While she was growing up in Mequon, Wisconsin, her father had his own oral surgery practice. Not only did his career feed her interest in health and medicine, but watching him operate a business also planted in her the seed of entrepreneurship.
Byers was raised in a health-conscious family that valued outdoor time. “I was active in sports,” she recalls. “I was a healthy, happy-go-lucky kid. But during middle school, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. I had a back brace and had to undergo a spinal fusion when I was in eighth grade. I was put on loads of antibiotics post-surgery, which affected my digestive health.” She was not used to being ill, and the experience became a major turning point in her life: suddenly she wanted to learn the “why” behind ailments.
With a combined interest in health and entrepreneurship, she earned a bachelor’s degree in human organizational development from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from nearby Belmont University. She then returned to Milwaukee to begin her nursing career, working at Columbia St. Mary’s hospital and Sinai Samaritan Medical Center.
It didn’t take long before she concluded that conventional medicine often involves masking symptoms with medication. That realization prompted her to enroll in Marquette University’s adult nurse practitioner program, and during that time, her interest in holistic and integrative care intensified. She researched ancestral health and learned about functional medicine, which provided the model of care she had been seeking.
“The American medical system is set up really well for trauma and accidents,” she observes, “but what we’re not so good at is preventive health and disease management. Things like food, movement, mindset and sleep are the foundations of health, yet those aspects are rarely touched upon during interaction with traditional medical practitioners.”
Byers trained with Dr. Daniel Kalish, founder of the Kalish Institute, which operates a functional medicine program for doctors, and earned her master’s degree from Marquette in 2011. In the summer of 2014, she opened Byers Functional Medicine, in Shorewood, sharing an office with a chiropractor and a naturopathic physician. Last fall she moved to her present location in Whitefish Bay.
Having her own practice has allowed Byers to stay true to the model of care that made functional medicine so appealing to her.
“Finding the root cause is how I approach my practice,” she explains. “I don’t chase symptoms, but ask why.” She evaluates every patient in depth by obtaining a thorough health history and examining symptoms. That approach, combined with advanced lab testing, helps her detect hormonal, digestive health and nutrient deficiencies. “It’s like throwing darts at a dartboard,” she says. “You want to hit the bull’s-eye every time, so you’ve got to develop a personal relationship with the patient along with the lab testing to create an individualized care plan that optimizes a patient’s health.”
Byers shares her office space with Barb Heinen, a certified holistic nutrition consultant. “When patients need an intensive level of nutritional care, I’ll also have them work with Barb,” she says.
The partnership is part of her long-term goal of building a network of holistic practitioners in the North Shore area. Byers and Heinen plan to host a monthly Meetup networking group, Evolution of Medicine, as well as a lecture series focused on functional medicine.
It’s clear that Byers derives great personal satisfaction from her work. “I get to know each individual and learn what’s going on with their health and where they want to be, and I can watch them achieve their goals and see how much better they’re doing,” she says. “Another intriguing aspect of functional medicine is that I’m always learning—nothing is black and white or static. There’s always new research coming out, so there’s opportunity to learn and improve my care for patients and to learn from the patients themselves. That growth aspect is always thrilling.”
Byers Functional Medicine is located at 4532 N. Oakland Ave., Whitefish Bay. For more information, call 414-369-3685 or visit ByersFunctionalMedicine.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.