We’re doing something different today! My good friend, Dr. Calla Jayne Kleene, asked to interview me so my audience could get to know me better.
This episode is Part 1 of a two-part series. In today’s conversation, I share how I got introduced to functional medicine and my clinic’s humble beginnings. I also talk about my doctoral project, some day-to-day challenges of being in business, and the most rewarding part of my job.
Medications that often tend to get over-prescribed:
- Statin medications
- Medications to manage blood sugar
- Proton Pump Inhibitors
- Birth-control pills
Listen to the Episode
“I was raised in a really healthy family, and so I think my appreciation for staying healthy started young because my parents were self-employed and had a super high deductible.”
– Dr. Stephanie Gray
About Dr. Gray:
Stephanie Gray, DNP, MS, ARNP, AGNP-C, ABAAHP, FAARFM, is a functional medicine provider who helps men and women build sustainable and optimal health and longevity so that they can focus on what matters most to them! She helps women in midlife who feel like their bodies have betrayed them step back into their bodies by restoring optimal hormone levels so they can … regain their sleep, figure, and mood and feel amazing once again. She is known for keeping hormone replacement therapy sexy, safe, and effective. She has been working as a nurse practitioner since 2009. She completed her doctorate focusing on estrogen metabolism from the University of Iowa in 2011. Additionally, she has a Master’s in Metabolic Nutritional Medicine from the University of South Florida’s Medical School. Her expertise lies in integrative, anti-aging, and functional medicine. She is arguably one of the Midwest’s most credentialed female healthcare providers combining many certifications and trainings. She completed an Advanced Fellowship in Anti-Aging Regenerative and Functional Medicine in 2013. She became the first BioTe-certified provider in Iowa to administer hormone pellets also in 2013. She is one of Dr. Nirala Jacobi’s SIBO Doctor approved practitioners, and she is also one of Dr. Jill Christa’s certified mold literate providers. She has appeared on numerous podcasts, summits, and TV interviews. She is a contributor to various health publications, including Mindbodygreen. She is the initial author of the FNP Mastery App and an Amazon best-selling author of her book Your Longevity Blueprint. She is host of the Your Longevity Blueprint podcast and co-founder of Your Longevity Blueprint Nutraceuticals with her husband, Eric. They enjoy spending time outdoors with their son William. They founded the Integrative Health and Hormone Clinic in Hiawatha, Iowa.
“Knowing that I’ve played some role in their transition back to freeing them from their sickness to function so they can accomplish whatever it is in life, be that grandparent at that soccer game without their joint pain, or whatever it is, that just makes it worth continuing!”
-Dr. Stephanie Gray
In This Episode:
- What led me to become a healthcare provider? (4:24)
- How I got introduced to anti-aging medicine. (7:26)
- How having the right to prescribe helps me in my role as a functional health care provider. (9:04)
- What drew me to research breast cancer for my doctoral project? (10:51)
- What I learned about estrogen while doing my doctoral project. (12:27)
- A summary of my doctoral project. (12:52)
- When should girls start having their hormones tested? (17:47)
- Why we need traditional medicine. (19:12)
- Where I feel conventional medicine has gone wrong. (20:18)
- Some of my day-to-day struggles and challenges. (27:40)
- What makes my job so rewarding? (34:45)
Links & Resources
Dr. Gray’s Social Media Links:
Facebook: @ drstephaniegray
Facebook: @IntegrativeHealthandHormone Clinic
Instagram: @ longevityblueprint
Follow Your Longevity Blueprint
Download a free copy of the ebook How To Create Resilient Health
Dr. Stephanie Gray 0:05
You cannot out supplement a poor diet. You have to feed your kids real food, but you're going to pay for them up front but they're going to save you money on the back end
Welcome to your longevity blueprint podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Stephanie Gray. My number one goal with this show is to help you discover your personalized plan to build your dream health and live a longer, happier, truly healthier life. Today we're doing something different. My great friend Dr. CJ Kleene asked to interview me so that my audience could get to know me better. This is part one of a two part series. In today's episode, I'll share how I was introduced to functional medicine and the clinic's humble beginnings. I'll share a bit about my doctoral project and some day to day challenges being in business along with what has been the most rewarding part of my job. Let's get started.
Dr. Calla Kleene 0:59
Welcome to your longevity blueprint podcast. My name is Callie Kleene. And today on your longevity blueprint podcast. We are flipping the script. I get to interview the brain power the founder, creator and owner of your longevity blueprint and owner of integrative health and hormone clinic in Hiawatha, Iowa. Among many things, Dr. Stephanie Gray is a functional medicine provider who helps men and women feel sustainable and optimal health and longevity so that they can focus on what matters most to them. She helps women in midlife who feel like their bodies have betrayed them step back into their bodies by restoring optimal hormone levels so that they can regain their sleep, figure mood and feel amazing once again. She is known for keeping hormone replacement therapy sexy, safe and effective. She has been working as a nurse practitioner since 2009. She completed her doctorate focusing on estrogen metabolism from the University of Iowa in 2011. Additionally, she has a master's in metabolic nutritional medicine from the University of South Florida's medical school. Her expertise lies within integrative anti aging and functional medicine. She is arguably one of the Midwest most credentialed female health providers combining many certifications and trainings. She completed the advanced fellowship and anti aging regenerative and functional medicine in 2013. She became the first bio T certified provider in Iowa to administer hormone pellets. Also in 2013. She has one of Dr. Neurology Cobis SIBO doctor approved practitioners. She's also one of Dr. Jill Kristus certified mold literate providers, she has appeared on numerous podcast summits and TV interviews. She's a contributor to various health publications, including Mind Body green, she's the initial author of that FNP mastery app and on Amazon's best selling author of your longevity blueprint. She is the host of your longevity blueprint podcast and co founder of your longevity blueprint nutraceuticals with her husband, Eric, they enjoy spending time outdoors with their son William, integrative health in hormone clinic in Hiawatha, Iowa. Welcome to the show, Dr. Gray.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 3:03
This is weird. I have to admit we'll have some fun here. But isn't it interesting and kind of difficult reading someone else's bio. I mean, I've done it a million times. And it's sometimes like a tongue twister. And you're like, oh, yeah,
Dr. Calla Kleene 3:13
thank you for that wonderful bio CJ. Tongue twister. But also, I still feel like it really doesn't truly accurately sum up all of the things that you have done and invested. I've always joked with you that the only reason why your book is a best seller is because I wrote the foreword, as you said, and I say that lovingly though, too, because even in that forward, it was so hard to articulate, truly all that you've done. And I feel like this is really, it's seemingly, when you first read, you're like, Wow, it's really impressive. But from my own personal experience of what I observe in you, it's still really lackluster and truly what you have invested in for your patients and your knowledge. And so it's so great to be friends with you. And I'm glad that you agreed to let me interview you so that I can help my patients and in your providers and your followers to listen to really understand more of you on a deeper level and connect with you by answering some of these questions we have outlined for today. Oh, yeah, that's
Dr. Stephanie Gray 4:08
a good idea. I told you I'm a little bit nervous here. I don't know. I'm gonna share but let's hang out it will get rolling.
Dr. Calla Kleene 4:13
Yeah. So can you kind of walk us through what led you to where you're at today? Being a health care provider?
Dr. Stephanie Gray 4:22
Yeah, I think I share this in my book, too. I was really fortunate to be raised, you know, my family but raised in a family that always just appreciated a more natural approach to health or a parent. My parents always took us to the chiropractor. We always had home cooked meals. We were engaged in physical activity. We just I had a healthy upbringing. And I know not everybody had that, like our parents weren't feeding us mac and cheese all the time. Like the neighborhood kids always had that my mom on Easter Sunday actually joke, one of the neighborhood boys who we saw Sunday at church, I would always have to fix our meal and then he'd come over and I'd have to fix a mac and cheese because that's all he could eat. And it's kind of funny to joke back on that but like, literally I was raised in a really healthy family and so I think my appreciation for I guess staying healthy started young because my parents were self employed, they had a super high deductible. Okay, this is like 3040 years ago right. Now a lot of people have high deductibles back then he worked at Rockwell, you didn't pay anything like to go to the doctor. And so because we had such a high deductible, my parents were always taking us to the chiropractor, that was probably my first real introduction to thinking differently, and that when I was having menstrual cramps, rather than be put on birth control, she put me on some progesterone boosting herbs. I mean, I think she was really ahead of her time back then, we were put on omega three fatty acids, we didn't even have sugar in our home. As I also mentioned in my book, my lemonade stand failed because I didn't put sugar lemonade, because we literally didn't really have it in the home. And so I don't know, I was just raising a family that more appreciated this. And then I guess flash forward. You know, I did go to nursing school, I almost went to chiropractic school, good friends are chiropractors, but I ended up in nursing school, with the end goal of having prescriptive privileges, I think that's what really made up my mind. And I thought if I become a chiropractor, I'm not gonna be able to prescribe, not that I want to prescribe a lot, but I knew if I became a nurse practitioner, I'd be able to prescribe. And so I went straight through got those prescriptive, you know, privileges and the nurse practitioner, Jennifer Swearengen, who's still in practice here in Iowa today, she had her own private practice. And my intent was to shadow her that last semester, because I thought, you know, she's in private practice doing this, again, I was raised in the entrepreneurial family, I thought I want to be in private practice, I want to kind of do things my way and not have to essentially just manage medications all day. That's not why I went to nurse practitioner school. So I shadowed her with the intent of learning how to kind of run my own practice. And it just so happened that she had, she was learning functional medicine. And so the orthomolecular reps who you know, as well came in, and we're really just advising her on, you know, just biochemistry and like how supplements work. And they recommended this liver detox program, and I kind of thought, I have nothing to lose, I'll do this liver detox, and just even thinking back even hearing you read my bio, that 10 years ago, you and I both, you know, we're finishing a Forum's program as a decade ago, that just sounds so long ago. But but even longer than that ago, as I had shadow, Jennifer, I was introduced orthomolecular. And I think that was a huge next introduction to functional medicine, because I thought, oh, gosh, I gotta stay in contact with this company. And they really did help me, I'm sure they've helped you to just learn application of supplements, and, you know, appropriate labs. And so they were a really good, good introduction. And then, so be it. One of my first patients out of grad school gave me a flyer for American Academy of anti aging medicine, I think there was like a Suzanne Somers advertisement or something in there. And I said, I'm going to this, I don't know what this is. But this sounds like this is what I should be learning. And it was and the rest is history. I immediately, I went to the hormone conferences, and then I signed up for the fellowship and just blew through it. And at that time, no one else had completed the advanced fellowship and Iowa only which we both know, the late Marilyn Hines had, she was OB, Jin. And so I think, I guess just when did I hear about functional medicine was a question. So I think my family kind of raised me with that mindset, desiring, wanting to get to the root cause of the problem. And the providers that I fortunately, we saw, you know, also had that mindset. And then I was able to shadowed Jennifer Swearengen, and meet the ortho reps, and then I went to a for him and everything just kind of fell in place. That's the short end of that. And I guess, hopefully that answers the question.
Dr. Calla Kleene 8:17
Yeah, well, just to kind of piggyback off that functional medicine. And just like with your, you know, all the nursing school that you had to do, learning the cellular energy, how we gain energy from a cellular level, from the fats, and carbs and proteins, we eat the Krebs cycle, and just how functional medicine really then like fills the gaps of functionally, here's what goes wrong if we're lacking these basic nutrients. And so functional medicine really brings that like whole cellular, biochemical, physiological response internally, and allows you to apply it with each individual patient. Totally. So you started foundationally. And you had talked about to even just the reason why you pursued the nursing is so that you could have the prescriptive rights. But what I witnessed you Stephanie, with so many of your patients, to have the prescriptive, right to be able to prescribe also allows you to pull patients off medications that they don't need, or that are potentially causing them more side effects or creating other disease as a result. So I think to not only just to prescribe it to legally and safely pull patients off medications that are not serving them well.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 9:20
Yeah, I think we there's a huge over prescription of statin medications, medications to manage blood sugar, the proton pump inhibitors, the SSRIs. I mean, you name it birth control pills. I like to patients come here, many times one of the first goals is get me off drugs. I say that's great, but we had to like rebuild your body first. Once you're feeling better, right? Once labs are looking better, then we can slowly start to wean off those medications. But yeah, that's a strength and what we do here and I love that and patients appreciate that that they can finally rather than just be put on medication for three decades, someone's finally analyzing their med list and helping them achieve those goals. Well in
Dr. Calla Kleene 9:55
finding the holes that the reason why they might have let's say high blood pressure, high cholesterol because they're lacking that foundation, also you build them up foundational. And you're like, you don't even need an egg whatsoever, because we've got you so healthy as a result of that process.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 10:09
Dr. Calla Kleene 10:09
Very cool. So hey, a huge part of your research has been in breast cancer. Can you tell me one, why were you drawn to breast cancer to research in the first place, but what you found out and how you built upon that knowledge over the years, really hard to remember
Dr. Stephanie Gray 10:23
when I looked back at like what my doctoral project was, because again, it was so long ago, but what must have happened is I must have already attended in a forum conference when I was in grad school. So maybe I misspoke earlier, because I don't know how else I would have even known about estrogen metabolism. But that really fascinated me, I think, because I had endometriosis, painful periods, whatnot. And I had to pick a project. And, you know, many of my, well, this does make sense because I was in practice, sorry, so long ago, I was practicing as a nurse practitioner while I was getting my doctorate. So it was upon graduation that I heard about nurse practitioner graduation, I heard about a forum and then I was going on, you know, for my doctorate while I was practicing, but still in school. And I think I was just really interested in learning about estrogen metabolism, because breast cancer is so prevalent, right one in eight, it might even be one in six women, I don't know. But as leading cancer deaths are women. And I knew that many health care providers didn't really know of any sort of new approaches to breast cancer prevention, where a lot of patients are just put on estrogen blocking drugs. Many of these patients are not advised on diet at all. And I just knew that there had to be more I guess. And so I kind of took it upon myself with my doctoral project, I thought this is going to be an opportunity for me to learn more, just because I knew I was going to be prescribing hormones and practice and I wanted to assure the safety of their use. But also it would be helpful for me as far as trying to get to the root cause of my endometriosis, I knew there was a link with this poor estrogen metabolism. And I thought this would be a great opportunity for my former for my classmates, and for my educators, when most of them were doing projects on like community vaccinations or, you know, some sort of, you know, clinical guideline update. And here I am talking about estrogen metabolism and breast cancer, improving estrogen metabolism, or breast cancer prevention, and it was a different topic for sure. And I definitely got quiz as you're presenting here. I don't even know as you're defending your project, I definitely got you know, quizzed and, and I did well, and I passed and graduated. But it was really, really interesting even to see how the knowledge has progressed from that time. And I can kind of summarize essentially what my project was on. But, you know, back then, what I had learned was that estrogen is not dangerous, right? It's how our body excretes or metabolizes that eliminates estrogen after estrogen does its job in our body binds to receptors helps with hot flashes or whatnot, we then have to excrete that. And some women based on genetics, but also just based on lifestyle can't excrete estrogen as well as they should be. And that's something that we could test for. So my project was on how we can test estrogen metabolism and then how we can improve it. And so for patients who are listening, a lot of our patients have done urine hormone testing, they've done Dutch testing the dried urine test your precision analytical, but really the summary of which is hard to sum it up in just a few minutes. But unlike genetics, right, patients who have genes for breast cancer are really only five to 10% of the population. So we know the other 80 90% is all related to environment. And so we can't change genetics per se, but we can change our environment. And so if on this test, if a patient has endometriosis, cysts fibroids, breast, uterine, prostate, ovarian, even colon cancer or high risk for that, if we find on this test, that they're poor estrogen metabolizers, we can improve that using nutrition. So there are certain markers we look at on this test, most dangerous is called Four hydroxy Asteron. And if that's elevated, that can lead to DNA damage, and then cancer. And so that literature what I found in our reading over 200 papers at that time was that taking antioxidants like resveratrol and acetyl cysteine. We now know glutathione can help minimize that damage essentially from that marker. And so you don't want to have an elevated four hydroxy estrogen on your test. We also want to make sure we are improving the two to 16 ratio, which is those are just two other markers on this test. If those are lower, unfavorable, this is where cruciferous vegetables come in. So you know eating more bok choy, kohlrabi, broccoli, kale, you know, cauliflower brussel sprouts, every week, I tell my patients get ahead of broccoli or cabbage or whatnot, right? Eat it and then get the next just constantly be going through those vegetables that can improve that ratio, but that's also where the supplement dim comes in them is like eating six pounds of those vegetables without the gas so dim can improve that two to 16 ratio, then we can also see methylation This is not DNA methylation, this is estrogen methylation, but we've kind of assumed DNA methylation probably is going to be reflective of that estrogen methylation and that's where B vitamins really helped. methylated B vitamins are just one nutritional intervention that can improve methylation. So I think even to this day, because I did this weird project at that time, a lot of my classmates, you know, they know that I was the one that was kind of interested in functional medicine and now 10 years later, more than 10 years later, functional medicine is becoming more pop Baylor and so now they're reaching back out to me and asking me questions on certain supplements. And those who I thought maybe weren't even open to this mindset now are becoming open. And so I'm proud looking back that I kind of, you know, I thought outside the box and had a different project because that I don't know, I guess that kind of just started this this path that I have, I've gone down. So I learned a lot and I still use, I still use that information literally every single day in practice, I mean, hormone replacement therapy, and I'll say, safe hormone replacement therapy has been the blunt at my practice. That's how I've built this practice.
Dr. Calla Kleene 15:36
I think you have always been probably even from your friends and family that I've gotten to know over the years, you've always been in any aspect like ahead of the game, ahead of the curve. And so congratulations for one thinking outside of the box. But then to it being so pivotal for like you said, one in eight women will develop breast cancer and it's the leading cause of death, like how relevant but then to, you know, just even respective reflectively of just healthcare in general, that so much of public health. When we talk about disease prevention, it's a lot of the times in the form of vaccinations, colonoscopies and mammograms which they serve their purpose, first, some things, but when we really truly think about prevention, just getting back to like what God gave us like, the food and the air we breathe and stuff like that. And it's so those are,
Dr. Stephanie Gray 16:27
those are all early detection. Those are not prevention. A mammogram does not prevent breast cancer, a mammogram can find breast cancer. And I'm not saying don't get a mammogram. I'm not saying that at all. But I'm saying why can't we put more emphasis on preventing, right? Like you're saying these cancers? So what if on patients like me and myself, or who had endometriosis? What if in my teens or my 20s, my mother had tested I think about this all the time reflecting back like, where could my health be now? Had I known 20 years ago, but no now, but we can't do that we can only move forward. We can't go back in time. But what if we would have done that, and I would have been able to improve my estrogen metabolism and my hormone profile. Right? Might I have not had the endometriosis and infertility struggle that I had? I mean, I have the struggle for a reason. And I think God's you know, taught me empathy. For patients who have had health issues, once we have our own health challenges, then we're like, oh, we empathize with others. And yeah, thankful for where our health is. So there was there's a reason to the journey that I've been on. But back to prevention, I think if we would utilize some of these fancier functional medicine testing options, we could prevent a lot more than just answer. So for
Dr. Calla Kleene 17:28
your listeners, when is it most appropriate? And like for me, it's I have a daughter, who's now 11, when should we get tested for our estrogen metabolites? And that two to 16? Ratio?
Dr. Stephanie Gray 17:40
Yeah, I haven't heard a lot of, I don't know, faculty kind of lecture on this. Exactly. So this is just my personal opinion. But I think we need to wait until they cycle, right. And ideally, we talked to they've had I have some parents who bring their daughters in here. And they're like, they got their first cycle, you know, test my daughters. And I'm like, let's like give it like three cycles, four cycles and see if any problems, if they're having no challenges, I don't, you know, it's not absolutely necessary that we test their hormones that first year of bleeding. But after a couple years after they really have some sort of regularity, I think it'd be great to test in their teens. And then again, if they're symptom free, maybe wait five years do it again. But where I see more problems is in the 20s and the 30s. And so I think that's where testing should pick up. But there's no reason you shouldn't or couldn't get a baseline and the teens, I guess, I'm just saying many teens are not super symptomatic. I'm not testing a lot of 12 and 13 year olds, we're waiting a few years. I mean, before we're I before I do a lot of testing.
Dr. Calla Kleene 18:37
Well, and to just to kind of reiterate what you're saying that the ratios are important for breast health and anti cancer. But it's also important for like you said, these symptoms to be anti endometriosis and stuff like that as well that you can see those imbalances, correct those imbalances and really help with like the Polycystic ovarian cyst, and then everything as you'd mentioned. Yep. Okay, cool. I had originally posed the question of when did you know that you weren't going to follow traditional medicine? But I think it's always apparent that you were raised from the very beginning. What do you feel is going really well, in the traditional medical model?
Dr. Stephanie Gray 19:11
Oh, we need I mean, we need traditional medicine. I think there's a time and place for drugs and surgery. And I guess I'll come back to this analogy, which I haven't stated in a while because I haven't been interviewed in a long time. That's that fireman carpenter approach. Right? If you have an acute injury, my son ate a poisonous berry. Right? But he hasn't been barely been sick at all and for years, but I hate to poison the spirit. One, there's not a lot, not a lot of the functional medicine was going to offer me at that time, right. I had to take him to the emergency room to make sure everything was okay with his heart, whatnot. If you get in a car accident, if you have a heart attack, we need the fire department to put out the big bad ugly fires, but there are tools or drugs and surgery, and we need those tools. But once those tools have been utilized, upon discharge from the hospital, patients always are not always taught how to prevent future fires. And so that's where functional medicine comes in, being that carpenter the contractor to try to repair and rebuild the body so Conventional medicine has a right for urgent care for acute issues, right? acute sinusitis, whatever, you get pneumonia, you get in the car accident, what not, we do need drugs and surgery, right? You have a tumor that needs removed, right? We have an amazing surgeons, by all means go use traditional conventional health care that fire department. But from a chronic disease management standpoint, I think they've gone wrong, because all we do is management's, we're not trying to back to what we were talking about earlier, a patient's on a proton pump inhibitor, usually they're on it for decades, like decades, and no one has ever examined their diet. I have patients all the time, tell me I went to my GI and I asked, you know, how could I be eating differently to prevent, you know, heartburn or reflux? And aside from the general minimize acidic foods, they're told, diet has nothing to do you know, with your reflux or your GI symptoms, which is absolutely bogus.
Dr. Calla Kleene 20:47
Well, it's like they forgot what they learned in med school. But they've completely discounted it because they had learned it, but then it's like you almost, and the day to day nuances, or maybe it's just because they work for insurance companies and that their patients, but they don't get the time to be able to work with the patient. On the actual prevention and reversal of disease. It's just, here's the band aid,
Dr. Stephanie Gray 21:07
which is so true, because if you see a patient every seven minutes and you're getting, you know, you can build a certain amount for that, the more of those you can see, the more money you're going to make. As I found out when I tried to bill insurance with my practice, which was a huge lesson to learn, right, insurance wasn't gonna pay me to talk to a patient for 30 minutes about changing their diet, putting them on an anti inflammatory diet and taking probiotics, they didn't want to cover that they don't want to cover my time, you know, you could have a big heart as a provider and give patients that time, but you're not going to get compensated for it. And so I think that's why a lot of doctors just don't do it. And I'm not discrediting many of them. Maybe they are doing it. I just don't see a lot of that. And so I think that's where conventional medicines, unfortunately got it wrong.
Dr. Calla Kleene 21:46
But you've had your practice now for 11 years, which is crazy, like you said, just like how did the time fly like this. But what I've witnessed is just this consistent, beautiful metamorphosis of growth, change, transition from different locations, providers, and just various services for patients. So what's been like the hardest part and doing all of the things that you do under one roof?
Dr. Stephanie Gray 22:06
I don't know. We're, it's hard. We were talking about this before the interview. I think some patients look at us like, like, we're living some glamorous life. You know, she right. She has a podcast, and she has a practice. And this is not glamorous, this is hard. Let me be very clear. I love what I do. And so do you or we wouldn't be doing it. But it's been really hard. And we've had very humble beginnings. I mean, I am so proud of this beautiful building we have now I feel like we have arrived, you know, this is our fourth location. And on my first location, we can hear gunshots, we are downtown Cedar Rapids, like it was not the safest place, which is why my husband didn't like me working till 7pm. Like walking to my car at night, it was legitimately scary that we had very humble beginnings. And we have had a metamorphosis and I'm proud of where we've landed. But it's been difficult. And I'll also take this time to go back to a unique story just for when I was wanting to start my practice. I thought how the heck am I going to do this? I'm single, you know, I thought I can take out a business loan, I don't have a lot to lose, per se, if I can always go get a job as a nurse practitioner. If I fail. I guess that was my fall back on like, I'll be okay. But long story short, this was just a big God moment. I've shared with a couple patients over the last several years, but one of my brothers had a pretty severe eye infection on Christmas Eve and that this was I had started the business. It was like mid December and I was still looking for a location and my mom said I want to go to this other church. I heard their Christmas Eve services really great, which we don't usually go to another church. We went to a different church and Dr. Noize, who was a very successful eye doctor owned IOI care here. He greeted us with the door and said, What are you guys doing? Aereo Merry Christmas, whatnot. He was just asking what was going on in our life. And obviously, he noticed Ricky's I just very infected and he should have gone to the doctor previously. And Christmas Eve, you know, he said, After the service, we're taking you in, we're going to ili care. I'm gonna see you tonight. And my mom's like, it's Christmas Eve, you need to be with your family. And he said, No, we need to take care of this. And so we got we went to IKEA. And I was talking to him after church, Christmas Eve. And Dr. Noise was talking to me about just my life. And I was telling him I was looking for a spot and I just hadn't had any takers. Also, I couldn't afford a huge spot at that point. And he said, I have a spot for you. And I said, you know, he told me where it was and I was like, You're kidding. Like, I can't afford that Not gonna happen. And he said, No, you can, you know, we will make this work. And he was one of those blessings along the way where I didn't know where it was gonna go. I didn't know exactly what I was going to do. Yes, I did have to take a business loan. But he let me kind of work the first six months kind of work into the rent what I could afford, as I started seeing patients, he let me use the furniture that was in the waiting room which I eventually bought, you know, he had heart or those who were trying to, you know, grow their practices because he had been there he'd walked in my shoes he had started his practice. Sadly, about a year after I started my practice, he passed away of a heart attack. I just you know, look back at his funeral was incredible. Like who says a funeral is incredible, but all the people and I was I was one of 1000s of people this man had blessed through his life and it's like if I can leave just a portion of that legacy in my life Job well done because he Was he was amazing. And I do look back at those God moments, because it was difficult starting off, but yet I feel like there's been a plan. And this has been my passion from the beginning. So I've just followed where I felt like God has been leading me. And you know what he's blessed us with what we've needed. And the times we've needed it. And that was, that was one of the first like, okay, things are falling into place here. Here we go, we're doing this, because a female nurse practitioner, pretty much straight out of school and independent practice. There weren't any. This wasn't happening, right. Even the medical doctors, even surgeons, I mean, they're very few that make it an independent practice. They just, it's just too hard back to what we were talking about overhead before we started recording this podcast, it's really hard for one provider to cover the overhead of a clinic. And that's been a big, another big stressor of, of mine, you know, running this business. So and I can share some others too. I don't know, maybe I should take a breather here. Let you say something.
Dr. Calla Kleene 25:52
Yeah, no, I think, you know, again, just Dr. Noise, what a blessing and then to, you know, our hope and prayer than for ourselves is like, man, that how can we continue to pay those blessings forward, right, you know, for future generations and future providers and to, I think you and I've talked about this in the past, like, man, it's been really, really hard. But when you sit and reflect on that hardness, it's like, we're so grateful that it was hard because of what we learned and what we gained kind of as a result of just that, man, it is worth the roller coaster sometimes.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 26:22
Sometimes we questioned that, but no, we,
Dr. Calla Kleene 26:25
yeah, yeah, women too. I've heard the phrase, you know, like the cost of education. You know, like, I tried to open up a second clinic a couple years ago, and just lost a ton of money and hemorrhaged it. And you know, when I reflect on it, it's just like, yeah, that was the cost of education. And I still learned a lot. It was painful financially. But why is it so simple for us to forget, God provides exactly what we need when we need it,
Dr. Stephanie Gray 26:48
not when we want it when we need it. So yeah, no, so true. I think, another hard lesson I've learned here, which is kind of difficult to talk about on the podcast, because obviously, this is public, and my staff is gonna listen to this, but staffing has been really hard to and that's been, that's a big expense when you when you lose staff, and you have to retrain staff, it's been such a learning experience, like you and I are not just clinicians that work, you know, eight to five, or whatever the hours are, right, like, we have to run the operation. And we've had people you know, just just to there's a job shortage right now, you know, in nursing, and we could help so many more people, if we had more staff on board staff are difficult to manage, per se, and that their schedules and you know, all the things that come with each individual's personality and whatnot, but we've had people interview beautifully, and you think this individual is going to be amazing. And then they like, don't show up to the first day of work, and you're like, what's going on, or you have no two interviews for someone, I don't talk to the third one, and you're like that that just happened. Like it just finding the good team has been, we've always had a good team. But because we're small, like finding and retaining the staff that you invest in a new training is hard, because we can we will never be able to compete with large hospital organizations for weakened retirement, but we can't give the retirement they get, we can't give the amount of health insurance they give. And so it's hard to find the right staff who are okay with that, like you and I have made, you know, financial sacrifices with our business, my husband left his job, where we had some health insurance to come work for us to the clinic, really good take this risk, like, okay, here we go, we're not going to have you know, some of those benefits, which again, it has panned out, but I think that's been difficult, as well just trying to manage, maintain, equip, and like build up that team and have that great energy where we can just conquer the world and serve our patients. And I think that's another hard part of having the business. I don't know, they're just so many different biblical pieces. But I earlier I said, you know, just carrying, I've had this stress kind of on my back through from the very beginning of like, okay, most clinics, you go there and you they have multiple providers, multiple front office and back office staff, and it's like I require all that, but I've been, for the most part, the only full time provider here. So it's like carrying all that overhead and being able to take a vacation and knowing okay, we're not bringing in any money this week. Like, that's been really difficult that we finally have, you know, other providers, we've had some part time providers for the years now we have another full time provider and it has made the world of a difference. Even like transitioning to cash based practice was a huge risk that we took, like looking back, I was so scared to do that. And I know you've done that, and it was the absolute best decision we ever made. And we should have done it before just as a small practice billing insurance, we weren't gonna make it and that's why a lot of them you know, they just don't make it and even communicate to our that to our patients when they come see me even if they're paying for a half an hour visit. Like they're not just paying for my time in that room and that moment, they're paying for all the time ahead of time that we're prepping the front office's scheduling that patient and then medical assistants are getting everything in the computer and they're calling in prescriptions. And essentially, we have front office, back office, all of the overhead of the clinic has to be covered within whatever we're charging that patient for that that happened our visit what that it's not just like um, you know, pocketing that that money goes to the overhead of the huge operation and so I heard once that the perfect the magic number for practice small practices is three providers. If you can have three full time providers, then you know, overhead is split much better. And that's we have two full times and a third part time. And that's a goal that I want to get that that third full time provider because I think that'll take some of the stress off, off my back per se. But that is, you know, that's been that's part of the business part of the struggle working somewhere else, you know, I probably get six weeks, you know, for six weeks paid vacation off. And that's, you know, not something being self employed that you get, but that's something that I'm aware of, and I've, you know, chosen here for a reason, but that's just, that's part of the struggle, when I'm practicing, I have to practice what I preach when I tell my patients they need time off, but like I gotta take that time off to and I've learned that the hard way in from you even how important it is to the schedule, and vacations and breaks and, and whatnot.
Dr. Calla Kleene 30:41
Well, I think too, for you and I as mothers and female health care providers, one thing that I underestimated growing up, and even like in chiropractic school, it didn't really dawn on me until I was probably six months pregnant, myself, but trying to figure out, you know, how am I going to juggle if my kid is sick on a day, or if I'm running late to work, because my kid had a crisis didn't want to put on their shoe to get out the door on time, so that I could get on my patients, but then even to supporting my team who is also largely female and becoming mothers. And that just that transition, it is a different transition. I mean, I remember when our my daughter was born, and then sure when William was born, that you're just like, What did I do with my time before William, that it just, you know that energy emotionally, cognitively, that it takes that then for us to lead teams of female providers and support staff that's like, Oh, you have a sick kid today, or there's a school delay because of the weather, then how does that affect patient care? And it's just one of those. It's so hard.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 31:39
It's just so hard. Yeah. Because then we're left short staffed, right. Even I, of course, I support breastfeeding. That's, you know, I pumped four times a day while I was working, but even you know, for a staff member to be pumping, right, that takes time away from patient care. So it's like, who then has to pick up the slack on that it's it's so so much a team environment here that we just have to know someone's coming in late or someone's coming or, you know, whatever. We all have to work together. But it is, it's hard, because what we do is not a desk job. Right? We don't all just, you know, sit on our computer. That yeah, I mean, it's we have we're actively with, with patients all day long. It is it's just tough. Yeah. Yeah,
Dr. Calla Kleene 32:16
I think to what tumbled me over the years is even just how my patients and your patients have loved on us. And how much our patients have given us grace. There's been timing. I have my kids after they were born, they came to work with me because maternity leave, if I wasn't in the office, patients that get care and I wanted to support you know, my team and all that. So my team then would be holding my kids and my kids would be passed around the office because patients are like, we just want to hold the baby. know just how humbling that's been for you and I for patients to love on our kids and pray over our kids, but then also support us in that season of life. You know, as well,
Dr. Stephanie Gray 32:56
absolutely. I rarely sick, I had food poisoning twice in the past six weeks, it was terrible and thrown up in like 20 years, probably. And no, of course, a patient who had rescheduled twice due to that ice storm, you know, it was on that day, and then I'm sick and I can't come in and it's just but they yes, they extend that grace. And you know, nothing we do here is so urgent. So it's okay if we have to push an appointment out. But I totally agree our staff will our staff is amazing, but our patients also have been amazing, we wouldn't be here today without them.
Dr. Calla Kleene 33:25
And I've witnessed this at your clinic and then even just in my own just how much ownership everyone on your team takes though that this is a small business. If they don't show up just how hard that is and put stressors like on everyone else. I was sick at your office getting IVs from that kidney infection, and my husband had a word call so he drops me off he has to go do something and then I'm texting Abby, my girl to come get me meanwhile, Brittany had a sick kid had her husband cast so that she could come in and I've witnessed that the look of your support team to have just like how humbling it is that they understand how important they are to the entire operation and self sacrificing for the success of your clinic my clinic but like it is also like from a truly from a space of like they love what we do and what they do as a part of it.
Dr. Stephanie Gray 34:17
They love learning they love our staff meetings. Yeah, and if they know they're going to be late, they're going to get set up for the next day. So they're ready to roll set up the pellet trays or prep the charts or whatever it is. They're always thinking ahead because they like being organized also because we have a smooth running ship and they want to keep it that way.
Dr. Calla Kleene 34:31
Yeah, okay, can you tell me a couple of things in practice we can talk about the hard things but what makes it all the more rewarding? Yeah, I
Dr. Stephanie Gray 34:40
wish I wish I could have spent like a whole hour just writing these things down. Obviously it is like seeing the transformation in the patient's like just feeling like I was a vessel right I'm not the answer. I'm just a vessel right a tool to help another and I mean, when I started I I can when I started I was like I felt like I was on an island like kind of doing this weird thing in Iowa and doing you know functional medicine here and I'll never forget some of my first cases one I just had a woman literally change her diet. She had a rash covering her body head to toe and since I've seen tons of these, right, but it's like they're they're on steroids for life. They just no one can figure out why they have the rash. And all I did I think it was gluten it might have been dairy. I don't know, sugar up gluten still comes and sees me every year. You know, her skins Totally. I mean, she her entire body had these weird dots is weird rash just changed her diet, and her rash went away. And she's forever thankful. Right. So there was another case of that entire family had migraines they'd have, we'd have to dim the lights, that one would come in, in a wheelchair. I mean, they just debilitating migraines. And again, Adam changed the whole family changed their diet and their migraines went away. Not every case is this easy. I'm not here to just say you change your diet and your life, your life will change but not fix everything. And I started to like really think, Okay, I'm onto something here like this really, this functional medicine thing really does work. And I guess there are a lot of other cases I've seen so many women who we've been able to spare save from hysterectomy is who they were just scared to death to have the surgery. And we got a we did estrogen metabolism testing, we got them on progesterone, they still have their parts, they're super thankful. Again, just seeing the the great from this from these patients and from their husbands like I'll have husbands come up to me at church and say, Hey, thanks for getting me my wife back. You know, jokingly he'll say something like, I don't say my crazy wife, right? Because the wife literally felt like she was losing, right? Because her hormones are often or libido was tanked and she didn't have energy, she was losing her hair. And that can make a marriage fall apart. And so when we get that wife back that can help that marriage. And so just having patients, I'll even see one at the airport, just you know, say that's my doctor, or you know, like, thank you that that just that warms my heart and I yeah, I just knowing that I've played some role in their transition back to freeing them from their sickness to function so they can accomplish whatever it is in life, be that grandparent at that soccer game without their joint pain, or whatever it is, that just makes it worth continuing. Well, and I've
Dr. Calla Kleene 36:54
been so lucky when I sit in your your ID room, and there's multiple patients in there. At the same time. It's been really fun. And it's one of those things that like, Man, I wish that we could record the conversations. But those are very sacred conversations, right? Because we're talking about are each other's health and health stories and some of the stories that your patients have told me, I appreciate how much that you say that you're just the vessel that you know that God's the true physician that your vessel but what's so cool is the immediate trust that occurs in your office of you did a food sensitivity and you told the patient they need to get off gluten, they did the work, you know, like you showed you showed them but but just how much by and that they are willing to make sometimes radical diet lifestyle changes, but how inspiring that when they start feeling good how they truly sometimes come back longer than they were ever like what they can remember that to back to the conversations in your ID room, just the beacon of hope that there's something else that can be done, some of your patients have spent 10s of 1000s of dollars being yo yoed around from provider to provider not knowing or getting, you know kind of garbage diagnosed us today at our staff meeting, Hannah brought up a patient was diagnosed with pelvic congestion. And you know, we kind of at first we both kind of like laughed at the diagnosis, I was like, well actually, that really kind of says a lot about what it could be and what we could do to fix that. But you know, patients are getting a diagnosis. But then what do I do with this diagnosis is largely empty, you know, I love
Dr. Stephanie Gray 38:22
new patient appointments because we just get to go through all their paperwork ahead of time, I usually kind of have a game plan just because I see a lot of the same thing over and over and over and over. But after it's many times after that first visit, the patient is a they're they're glossed over and they're overwhelmed because we've looked at their fingernails and looked at their tongue and just you know, done some things that other providers haven't but they just are so thankful many times they just thank me after the first appointment and I'm like, Don't thank me yet you can thank me when you're better. Let's wait till you're wait till we move the needle and you know, you're feeling better, but they just feel heard, because they intuitively have known there's a root cause to why I'm feeling I'm feeling and I don't just need a band aid I don't just need a medication. And so I think that is something that both of our offices do is really extend hope these patients who have been in waiting for a long time. That wraps up part one. Thanks for listening in today. And please stay tuned for next week's episode which is part two of this conversation, where you get to hear how I approach my patient cases my faith walk how I maintain my health, the non negotiables in my house, my guilty pleasures when it comes to food, my favorite podcast books, advice to other busy moms and my future goals. See you then be sure to check out my book your longevity blueprint and if you aren't much of a reader, you're in luck. You can now take my course online where I walk you through each chapter in the book plus for a limited time the course is 50% off. Check this offer out at your longevity blueprint.com and click the Course tab. One of the biggest things you can do to support the show and help us reach more listeners is to subscribe to the show. Leave us a rating and review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. I do read all the reviews and would truly love to hear your suggestions for show topics guests and for how you're applying what you learn on the show to create your own longevity blueprint. This podcast is produced by Team podcast. Thank you so much for listening and remember, wellness is waiting
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