Feature Article: May 2019 – Age Management Medicine Profile – Rebecca Murray, ARNP

Age Management Medicine Profile - Rebecca Murray, ARNP, FNP-BC, CDE

Jeff Morris

“Call me Becky,” says Rebecca Murray, ARNP. “Everybody calls me Becky, even my patients. I tell them, when they come to see me, I am not like any stuffy doctor’s office they’ve been in; we are a partnership, we’re gonna have a good time together, so call me by my first name. I put them to ease right away.”

That was the first thing she said, and it was clear this would not be a typical conversation with an Age Management Medicine practitioner. So we’re going to follow her lead, and call her Becky.

Becky is a Board Certified Nurse Practitioner who left a private practice in Functional Medicine in Connecticut to join Edwin Lee, M.D. at The Institute for Hormonal Balance, in Orlando, FL, in 2016. In Connecticut, she specialized in Metabolic Syndrome, diabetes prevention and management, weight loss, hypothyroidism, and hormonal evaluation and balancing.

Like Dr. Lee, her background is in critical care medicine. “I spent 12 years in cardiovascular medicine,” she says. “Actually, I was the Director of Critical Care—I ran the critical care units at my hospital. It was the evening shift, and I ran around the hospital all night long, picking up the pieces of people’s lives when they were in crisis. That’s what I did for a living; I did that every single night. I saw patients coming in, massive heart attacks in their early 50s, and knowing they were going to be cardiac crippled for the rest of their life because they had just blown out the left side of their heart—never going to recover.”

“Invariably, they would say to me: ‘If I knew this was going to happen, I would have lived my life differently.’ And there’s only so many times you can hear that before it starts sticking.” Her career would soon move in a different direction.

It was not a direction Becky expected when she started by attending Columbia University and then continued her education at the University of Rhode Island obtaining a Master’s Degree in Primary Health Care and Family Nurse Practitioner.  She was an Assistant Clinical Professor of Nursing at Yale University (Adjunct Faculty) for 21 years, lecturing and being a preceptor to students in the clinical setting.

As so often is the case, she knew what she needed to do, but it was completely by happenstance that she found the means to do it. “I went to a traditional medicine confrerence in Camelback, Arizona in 1995,” she says. “As they were packing up I saw another conference being set up.” They were putting out a book on ramifications of micronutrient deficiencies. And when she leafed through it, she realized, “this is stuff I never learned about in medical school!” Told the books were being put out for display and couldn’t be sold, Becky pleaded that she had to have one because she had six hours with nothing to do on the way home and wanted to read the book on the plane. “He finally took pity on me and said, ‘This is my gift to you.'”

The book was by Dr. Jeffrey Bland, who Becky had never heard of. “I looked and saw he was doing a conference in Boston,” Becky says. “I was living in Connecticut, so I got up at 3 o’clock in the morning and drove to Boston for an 8 am conference, and when I got there I said to him, ‘You have to talk to me. I didn’t get up at 3 o’clock to drive here and not be able to meet you!’ And that was the beginning of a great friendship.”

It was also the beginning of a whole new way of looking at health and the underlying causes of disease. “I call Dr. Bland my mentor from afar,” she says. “All I wanted to do was learn about everything he was talking about.” She redirected her focus to take advantage of every learning experience available, including taking coursework in functional medicine, becoming a member of various organizations, and attending educational conferences including Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), American College for the Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM), and, of course, AMMG.

“I totally evolved from a person who was doing critical care medicine for a living to having my own private practice , Connecticut Holistic and Integrative Medicine.” She also evolved from someone who was attending conferences to someone speaking at them. “I did my first lecture at AMMG many, many years ago,” she says. “My good friend, Dr. Anna Cabeca was on the planning committee, and she suggested I start presenting. I guess it got good reviews because I kept getting invited back.” That, of course, is a self-effacing comment; Becky’s presentations have always gotten very high marks from attendees.

Becky says she likes her presentations to be a conversation. “I love hearing from people at the conference. I’m an MOA person: I believe in teaching the mechanism of action. People remember better if they understand the underlying mechanism. One of the things I always try to explain is what is going on, why I’m doing what I’m doing—and everything I’m talking about always has direct application to your practice.”

One of those who was impressed with Becky’s presentations was Dr. Edwin Lee, who was so taken with her expertise and “Sherlock Holmes” approach to finding the underlying causes of health problems, he offered her a position at his Institute for Hormonal Balance in Florida. She has thrived there ever since. “It was the best decision I ever made,” she says. “We will find out what is wrong. We go beyond the traditional thinking, and look at what is the underlying method of action that is contributing to the problem the person has.” She and Dr. Lee found out they had many things in common, having both started their careers in critical care medicine, many times taking care of people with life threatening problems associated with chronic medical conditions that could have been prevented if identified and treated early.

As is the case with many Age Management Medicine practitioners, a personal health crisis was part of Becky’s story. “I started having problems,” she says. “Of course, when you work 120 hours a week you do feel tired. I had severe iron deficiency anemia. I was eating steak every week and the doctor couldn’t understand how I could be iron deficient. I had to diagnose myself. It turned out I had early onset osteopenia—my body wasn’t absorbing anything. It was genetic predisposition, I had the genetics that predisposes you to celiac disease. I had been eating gluten containing products my entire life. but did not become sensitive until I had Lyme disease, was on antibiotics, and then developed leaky gut.”

“I had Lyme disease around 1990. I didn’t diagnose this in myself until about 15 years ago. You can be swallowing calcium and vitamin D but my body was not capable of absorbing it. I also had a lot of migraine headaches. My mother did too. Since I’ve gone gluten free, I’ve had no migraine headaches, and have been increasing bone density.”

“I have totally turned around my health—because I was able to identify the underlying factor that was contributing to a whole host of symptoms I had. Symptoms are not the disease process; symptoms are your body telling you something is going on—find out why. My iron deficiency anemia was not something for which I needed to get IV iron infusions; I needed to change around what was going on in my body so it was capable of absorbing iron.”

Becky will be speaking again at AMMG in the fall. “I am very big on looking at supplements people need. For instance, patients often come looking for second opinions because they’re hypertensive, and feel like garbage; the majority of people I see over 60 are on statins, and that can reduce coenzyme Q10. So I will have a lecture in the pre-conference on utilizing supplements in your practice.”

“One of my other passions is prevention of breast cancer,” she says. “I am looking at how we can put women on a pathway of decreasing their risk. Often, other family members had breast cancer, but they have other underlying conditions.”

“Genetics does not tell you what is going to happen to you; it gives you insight into what the problems may be, gives you the power to make changes to avert the hiccups along the way – you have this, this and this, this is what we can do to bypass it. We’re looking at a risk reduction plan.”

“I’m also going to be doing a presentation on estrogen metabolomics,” she says. “One thing that bugs me is that they say prevention is having a mammogram. Mammograms are great, but they’re a diagnostic—not prevention.”

Becky has some advice for others. “Don’t be afraid to start learning,” she says. “Take advantage of all of the activities, podcasts, articles—just listen and read, spur on your curiosity; let the learning begin. I think of how many people have been mentors to me and never even knew it.”

“And don’t be overwhelmed—the more you learn, the more you realize you did not know, but don’t be discouraged by that. Pick something that is important to you, something in your family; do your own genetics, make yourself an n of 1—your health should be the most important.”

“I try to find out what is not functioning correctly in your body, and I correct it. I never learned any of it in school. Becoming licensed and certified just gave me a license to start learning.”