Dr. Amy Weiler is an osteopathic physician who is board-certified in family medicine. She also is trained in functional medicine. Her practice, Well Integrative Family Medicine, opened in Chicago in 2010.
Help me understand what “integrative family medicine” is.
I was a social worker before I went into medicine, which gives a little perspective on it, I think. But for me integrative family medicine is evidence-based medicine that looks at other ways to treat illness in addition to Western approaches. That can include nutrition or talking to a patient about relaxation techniques or even showing them exercises to do, sending them to a therapist for psychological issues or homeopathy. So in general I’m trying to expand from Western-based medicine to include other forms of treatment.
Is this something that’s presented in mainstream medical schools or is it something you’re pursuing?
It’s considered something of a specialty, and something I have exposure to just from a few people along the way. For me it means looking at the patient as a whole, not only in terms of pharmaceutical or traditional treatments but with other lifestyle changes and treatments that can help.
Did you come this because you had doubts about traditional medicine?
I think as I’ve learned more about it there are elements that made more sense. Traditional medicine offers a great deal, but only goes so far, especially with chronic illness. I try to help patients find whatever will improve their quality of life, especially, as I say, with chronic illness or chronic pain. Usually I think it is a combination of modalities, of treatments, that helps. I suppose I’m just open to a variety of treatments, though I’m certainly well-rooted in Western medicine.
How did you come to medicine originally?
I thought about it when I was younger but decided it would take too long and I really didn’t want to do that. But then I went to graduate school in social work and I worked with physicians in a hospital and I thought, “I can do that. I’d like to do that.”
Being a social worker was another step that taught me a lot and led me in the direction of medicine.
It seems your urge to help others has been there a long time, then?
Yes. I think that’s true. I did want to be a therapist and work with kids. And did that but I felt like there was more I could do. I keep up my license as a social worker as part of my medical practice, but I don’t work as a therapist per se anymore. But I use those skills all the time.
For how long were you a social worker?
For four or five years before I went back to medical school. I worked as a social worker during the day and did my medical pre-requisites at night, including science classes.
Those must have been long days.
Oh, yeah. I look back on them sometimes and think, “I can’t believe I really did that.” But it worked out.
How has your medical practice evolved since you began?
[Well Integrative Family Medicine] opened Nov. 9, 2010. We’re growing. I’m the only physician in the practice. There’s a part-time acupuncturist who works with us and I have a medical assistant. We see children through adults. We don’t have many geriatric patients; we tend to see younger patients.
I’m doing additional training in functional medicine, which looks at the whole picture and draws on pharmaceuticals when that makes sense and lifestyle changes when that’s called for.
Is acupuncture one of the remedies that can be called on?
Sure. I’ve had benefits from acupuncture myself. The acupuncturist I work with is someone I knew from another office. We connected and she and I share a similar philosophy [about treatment].
I’m sure the long days haven’t stopped. How do you balance your commitment to help patients with your home life?
I have a young child and a husband. So when I set up my practice I specifically looked for an office location that would be close to my home. I practice out of one hospital that’s also close to home, and I schedule my office hours so that it works me at work and at home.
There’s always a bit of a scramble, but it seems to work OK.
I’m sure you’ve seen, as a social worker and physician, many women who struggle with that balance.
Yes, certainly. I’m grateful to be in a position where I can have both. Balancing them is my goal. It’s a work in progress, though.
Have you had to confront other traditional women’s issues in your professional life?
Definitely not in social work because it’s traditional a very female-dominated profession. And even in medicine, perhaps because I went into family medicine, I really didn’t feel limited in any way. In medical school, it’s over 50% women now.
I made choices in my career that a man might not have. I loved general surgery, for example, but I decided earlier on that that would require a lifestyle that might not work for me having a family. I know other women physicians who have made it work and it’s fine.
What are the most important things you’ve learned in building a career that you’ll want to pass on to your children?
I think I learned to imagine and think big. To dream big and not be limited by what others tell me I can or can’t do. Surprising things happen when you work hard.