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Dr. Amy Bader: The Power of Resilience

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Life is composed of tiny, beautiful moments. Some may be incredibly sad; others may become the pinnacle of our happiness, and a few can surpass every other moment in a lifetime as something more. Unbeknownst to us, these moments are leading us down a path that we didn’t know existed. But in life, we don’t get to choose these moments. They happen, we deal with them, but how we deal with them is what defines us.

For Dr. Amy Bader, a defining moment was during her freshman year in high school. With her first semester complete, Amy found herself standing in the administration office, report card in hand. Even though she had signed up for a pass/no pass option for a typing class, there was an error on her report card. Seven classes, six As and one C. Nervous and a bit shy, she explained to the woman sitting behind a desk about the error and asked if it could be corrected. She told the woman, who seemed very uninterested in fixing the error, “What if I go through all of high school with all As and have this one C…in typing?” said Amy. The woman replied sarcastically, “Oh, like that’s going to happen.”

Her high school counselor happened to be just outside the door and overheard the conversation. The counselor swiftly took over, scratched out the grade and changed her GPA back to a 4.0. “In that moment, I realized that no one should be allowed to tell you that you can’t accomplish something,” Amy said. With quiet determination, she went on to graduate from Lodi High School as valedictorian, but she jokes it was also a little bit out of spite.

The Road Less Traveled
As Amy grew up in Northern California, her dad, a beloved dentist in Lodi, taught her about the value of hard work, perseverance and the importance of always getting back up when you get knocked down. Her mom struggled with health issues and was eventually diagnosed with leukemia. “It became evident to us that conventional medicine wasn’t going to be enough. There weren’t any good answers at the time of her diagnosis. Chemo was hit and miss and her oncologist admitted, conventionally speaking, there were no good options.” With that, her mom and dad, along with Amy and her brother, Chris, set out on a quest to keep her mom as healthy as possible.

Traveling the country, they visited with natural and holistic doctors, hoping to find solutions. However, their quest abruptly came to a halt when Amy’s father suddenly passed away. “You are never the same when you lose a parent at a young age,” shared Amy, who was barely 25 at the time. “My dad taught me the value of working for fulfillment, not just making a living. It became crystal clear to me when my dad passed away what type of people I wanted in my life, and what type of person I wanted to be, and how I wanted to live.” Moments that inevitably shape our lives remind us how important and sacred life is. Thankfully, 35 years after the diagnosis, her mom’s leukemia remains in remission.

The Road Less Traveled Part Two
With her straight As, Amy was accepted to the University of California at Berkeley, where she pursued a degree in business. After college, while working as an accountant in San Francisco, she continued to focus on her mom’s health. Deeply concerned about her mom, she spent a lot of time outside of work researching natural medicine. “Studying nutrition and herbs became my hobby. And, my coworkers started coming to me with questions about natural remedies for just about everything,” she reminisced. However, when her boss teased her that she had a talent and she would make an excellent doctor, something inside her clicked. Three weeks later, Amy resigned from her job. She moved home to Lodi and completed her pre-med classes at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. But before she could finish her conventional medical school applications, a shopping trip to Costco changed her path once again. “I was carrying a giant package of toilet paper, of all things, into my house with a book I had bought on natural medicine sitting on top. I ran into a doorway, the book fell on the ground and opened to the page on naturopathic medicine.” It was in that moment that her past, present and future collided.

The Doctor Who Wants to Hear Your Story
With a feeling of having had the stars align, Amy went on to study naturopathic medicine at the National University of Natural Medicine, or NUNM, in Portland, Oregon. After the rigorous four-year program, she completed her residency in family medicine. Even with years of medical school training and 17 years of practice, she describes herself as not that “doctory” at all. Amy, whose friends call her “the people’s doctor,” ultimately found that listening to a patient’s story was the core of delivering great healthcare. “Every patient comes to me with a unique story: passions, stressors, symptoms, challenges. I want to understand as much as I can, so I can help my patients feel heard, transform and be well,” Amy affirmed. She is passionate about helping people who are challenged with chronic disease, using all the tools naturopathic medicine has to offer.

With two private practices, one in Lodi, the other in Portland, where she lives with her beautiful daughter, Zoe, Amy is also an attending physician and adjunct faculty member at NUMN, where she teaches medical students the importance of naturopathic medicine and the value of listening to patients. Amy was also a founding co-director of NUMN’s Integrative Skin Care Clinic, where she trained naturopathic medical students and residents to treat patients with dermatological challenges. In addition, she shared her wisdom and medical advice through a column she wrote for NaturalPath, an online health and medical resource. As a contributor to magazines, podcasts, newspapers and more, she offers her extensive experience and advice to others about the benefits of natural medicine. She is known for going above and beyond for her patients, making house calls, offering telemedicine, and helping patients who come to her from all over the country.

The Passion Project
Newly divorced, Amy found herself at another crossroads. On a walk with a good friend, she talked about being newly single, the importance of staying healthy and aging gracefully. “We were laughing about how our grandmothers used to chew on chicken bones and looked great. From there, we immediately started brainstorming on how we could get more collagen into our daily diets,” shared Amy. Her friend, Elizabeth Zieg, had graduated from culinary school, and with Amy’s background in natural and herbal medicine, their strengths and expertise collided. “We found ourselves in a manic moment! Before we finished our walk, we had already come up with some recipes for delicious treats that incorporated collagen.” Amy knew she was on to something great when Zoe, who was five at the time, ate the collagen-infused creation she had made as a beauty-enhancing food for herself. “She didn’t know what it was, but she ate the whole thing and then asked for more,” Amy reminisced.

Made with Love and Collagen
Amy began educating her patients on the benefits of adding collagen to their diets. “Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies; it’s the foundation of connective tissue such as skin, bones, tendons, ligaments and cartilage, even teeth and blood vessels. Around age 30, collagen starts to break down faster in our bodies than we can produce it,” she added. However, the methods of consumption were a bit challenging.

In a serendipitous moment, one of Amy’s patients who had recently had back surgery mentioned that she was encouraged by her mom and surgeon to take collagen supplements for her joints before and after surgery. Armed with collagen powders and pills, she confided in Amy that she was searching for a more convenient and enjoyable way to get collagen into her daily diet because the current methods were not making it easy. “I shared the collagen and tea recipes with her and encouraged her to make them at home. She explained that with busy schedules, she and countless others would want to be able to grab and go. It’s a real need. The rest is history,” shared Amy.

Seeking the same answers as Amy and Elizabeth, Bassima Mroue became the business guru they needed to turn their ideas into a brand and their passion project into a real-life company, Real Beauty Food. From there they developed a line of drinks and treats called SkinTē®, packed full of collagen, tea, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. “We wanted our product line to be developed with the cleanest, healthiest ingredients that we could be proud of,” Amy confirmed. “But it’s not just about health and wellness. We want to speak to the beauty of character. We believe that what we consume every day, from food to ideas, directly impacts the way we show up in the world.”

Real Beauty Food and SkinTē®
As the trio gets ready to launch in 2018, they are thrilled with the reaction from early consumers and supporters of their SkinTē® line. One of their first investors and advisors is Leslie Blodgett, creator, founder and former CEO of bareMinerals. “Leslie was the first to believe in us. It means the world to us to have the support of such an incredible thought leader.”

The corporate culture the team seeks to nurture is one of innovation, inclusiveness, flexibility and fun. As a busy entrepreneur, doctor and single mom, Amy still makes sure that, Zoe, now 11, is at the center of her universe. “If there were one lesson I would want my daughter to take away from my personal experiences, it would be the power of resilience. I found my voice in my 40s, and I don’t want her to wait that long. I want her to advocate for herself, to speak up when it matters most, and to always get back up when life knocks her down,” shared Amy.

“It is in those moments that life suddenly turns that you realize your path. If you are in touch with your intuition and willing to learn from it, whether it’s good or bad, it will keep you moving in the direction you are meant to move in.” ■