Dr. Julie Lyons’ father always knew she would end up in the field of medicine.
After graduating from Brown University and working as a teacher for several years, Lyons made the decision to go to medical school. When she shared the news with her father, he said, “Yep, I always knew you would.” She became the fourth generation in her family to pursue medicine and continues to find joy in it every day.
“My day is never boring,” Lyons said.
As a primary care physician, Lyons’ goal is to stay with patients from womb to tomb, and she has served as many as five generations within one family since she began at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center in 2009.
“I love my patients and I love my job,” said Lyons, who still carriers around her grandfather’s doctor bag.
Prior to medicine, Lyons worked as an educator, teaching anatomy and health to middle-schoolers in Oregon. When she ultimately decided to go back to school, the program at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland appealed to her due to its rural medicine and primary care focuses. Always in love with family medicine, it’s what Lyons decided to pursue.
As part of her residency at St. Luke’s in Boise, the program offered residents to work one or two months a year in rural hospitals throughout the state.
“I always had my eye on Sun Valley,” Lyons said.
Lyons grew up in a small town in western Massachusetts of about 2,000 people, which is part of the reason living in a small community appealed to her. On top of that, Lyons spent some time in Jackson Hole, Wyo., as a ski bum after her undergraduate and wanted to be in the mountains once more.
Under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Paris and Dr. Tony Buoncristiani, Lyons began working in Sun Valley and soon became a full-time physician for St. Luke’s.
She had planned to live in the Wood River Valley for only two years, but on her first day of work she met her future husband, a nurse at St. Luke’s Wood River. Together they have two boys, ages 5 and 7, and together the family enjoys biking and camping, and Lyons continues to enjoy skiing—now with her kids. She also has her mother’s creative side and is big into crafting, though working is what “fills my bucket,” Lyons said.
To a family medicine doctor, every day brings new challenges trying to fix and heal patients. Whether it be delivering a new life into the world or stitching up a cut, getting to know her patients and figuring out how to help them is what brings Lyons joy, and as a teacher by nature, she takes it upon herself to stay current on breakthroughs in science and how to apply them to daily life.
Lyons has presented in dozens of Brown Bag Lunch events at the hospital, digging into literature and educating the public on how to stay healthy, be happier and care for one’s mental and physical health.
She also learns herself from students participating through the University of Washington’s School of Medicine’s Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho program, which brings students to Hailey each year to work alongside doctors and get clinic and hospital experience.
In recent months, Lyons has also learned how to live and work through a crisis as big as the coronavirus.
“I never would have expected to be a doctor during a pandemic,” she said.
Throughout St. Luke’s COVID-19 response, Lyons worked at the pop-up testing tent in the parking lot of St. Luke’s Wood River, treating patients while they remained in their vehicles and working with a team of doctors and nurses to triage cases.
On a busy day, Lyons said, the quasi-urgent care clinic saw about 80 patients in their cars, though an average day was closer to 20. Besides just addressing the COVID-19 pandemic on a daily basis, Lyons also saw life being born, with women who were allowed to return to St. Luke’s Wood River following a two-week closure in mid-March to focus resources on the pandemic response.
Lyons also managed to get some of those women enrolled in nationwide studies into COVID and pregnancy and COVID and breast milk, helping to answer vital questions surrounding the novel virus.
As the lens of medicine has changed over the past few months, creating an opportunity for virtual doctor’s appointments and more at-home visits, Lyons has seen new sides of her career. Though face-to-face appointments are always preferred, Lyons recognizes how beneficial virtual appointments have been for residents who may not be able to come to the clinic or the hospital. She has also enjoyed an old aspect of medicine that has been brought back due to the pandemic: at-home visits to patients.
Lyons said the experience allows her to get a better sense of the patient as a whole, while at the same time protecting them from the risks of leaving their home, either because they are elderly or are at high-risk.
“Ideally it would be the way we do all the medicine,” Lyons said, adding that she feels as though she’s paying tribute to her great-grandfather each time she is welcomed into a patient’s home.