Interview with Dr. Lara Salyer – 344

In today's episode, Dr. Lara Salyer explains how she integrates the best of traditional and functional medicine in her practice. In the process, she takes listeners on a journey of career reinvention and personal empowerment. 

Dr. Salyer shares valuable insights and practical advice for practitioners seeking fulfillment and career balance. From the transformative power of creativity to the importance of storytelling and self-expression, listeners are inspired to try something new.

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Reimagining Healthcare and Integrating the Best Parts

In this engaging podcast episode, Dr. Lara Salyer reflects on her transition from burnout in family practice to discovering functional medicine. During our interview, she emphasized the importance of aligning one's career with personal passions and values. Dr. Salyer highlights the transformative power of creativity and innovation in revitalizing professional and personal fulfillment.

Empowering Practitioners and Cultivating Her Speaking Engagements

Lara describes her new role as a mentor, guiding practitioners through strategies for reclaiming joy and autonomy in their careers. She shares practical tips for crafting impactful speeches and navigating the speaking circuit, emphasizing the value of storytelling and authenticity. Additionally, she explores the significance of boundaries, self-expression, and embracing “messy” progress.

Dr. Lara Salyer's Advice on Career Fulfillment

Find your path to fulfillment with WARM: If I'm feeling stuck, overwhelmed, unhappy, I start with “W.” Whose voice is in my head right now making me feel bad?… then Aim low with tiny steps, Remember your ‘why', and “M” is “Messy moves the needle,” you don't have to be perfect.


Through engaging anecdotes and actionable tips, Dr. Salyer offers a roadmap for reclaiming passion and purpose. Whether you're navigating burnout or seeking to reignite your professional spark, Lara provides hope and guidance, reminding us that it's never too late to design a career that aligns with our deepest values and aspirations. To get in touch with Dr. Salyer you can find more information and contact her directly on her website

And if you wish to access any of her programs, you can use the Coupon Code “CATALYST” for a $50.00 discount off the usual price.

NOTE: Look below for a transcript of today's episode. 

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Transcription PNC Podcast Episode 344

Integrating the Best of Traditional and Functional Medicine

- Interview with Dr. Lara Salyer

John: Sometimes when rebooting your practice, it's helpful to speak with someone who has a lot of imagination, and that describes today's guest to a T. She first appeared in the podcast in December of 2019, and she was about two years into reimagining herself, at least her approach to patient care. And she's continued to innovate since then, and she's now mentoring clinicians, more than she was at that time. I think that she's a great one to talk to today about remastering, recreating your life and your career. Dr. Lara Salyer, hello and welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Lara Salyer: It's a pleasure, John. I was so excited to receive your email invitation again, and mind blown that it's been four years. I feel like it was just yesterday. We were talking about innovation and transforming healthcare, and look, it continues. I'm happy to talk to your listeners about reimagining healthcare.

John: Yeah, I couldn't believe it either, because I just made a point a few months ago to say, well, I got to go back to my old guests and see what they're up to. And in my mind, your name just stands out. It isn't like something I had to dredge up. It's like, yeah, Laura, she's in the Midwest, she's been doing all these things in Wisconsin. Four years. That is crazy.

Dr. Lara Salyer: It's crazy. We're practically neighbors. But see, this is the beauty of what we've all been through in this global pandemic in the last four years, the world is made larger and smaller. I feel like it's really exploded our ability to connect across the seas and virtually. With the advent of telemedicine laws changing, there's so much cool things and innovations and AI that it's really inspired me. And yeah, I'd love to dive in and just talk about all the changes. Where should we start?

John: Well, let's see. We don't have to redo everything we did last time. I will have a link to the previous episode that has a lot of the information and how you found functional medicine and got involved in that, which I think has escalated exponentially. But anyway, start from there maybe and where we were then. And just touch on some of the things that are new about you and your practice and what you're doing with patients and other physicians.

Dr. Lara Salyer: Sure. Well, this is sort of the example of creating your own career that is a self-expressive vote of the future you'd like to see. And that's really what I embody and I try to use this as my compass as my mantra every day. Just in a one sentence nutshell, I was a burned out family practice doctor, realized I was burned out, not sure if I wanted to stay in medicine, but then fell in love with functional medicine on my last CME and decided that's what I wanted to do. I opened up my practice and we had our interview in 2019 and I talked about what that entailed being an entrepreneur in this space and learning those ropes.

Well, since 2019, I've really enjoyed embracing this creativity of educating patients with online courses and having online group visits every week that provides an ecosystem of support for my patients and really exploring this sandbox of tools that we have right at our disposal to make medicine fun again. And it's naturally been sort of an attracting beacon to other practitioners looking to innovate and to explore some of these options.

I've really amped up my mentoring, not just in the functional and integrative space. I help those practitioners grow and scale a membership practice in their own community using a lot of AI and tech. But I also mentor colleagues in burnout, those that want to tap back into creativity. I graduated from the flow research collective in their high flow leadership, so I can coach how to get that flow acquisition, which for those that don't know, flow is the only time your brain produces all five neurochemicals of happiness. The more you learn how to make your day flow channeled, the happier you are, the more easeful life feels.

And so, I'm enjoying this renaissance of my own personal career, helping practitioners learn how to become and embody their ideal self. And then that naturally just extends into my international speaking career. I had the honor of being invited to the center stage in London last year, last summer, on the largest European medical conference and was able to stand beside some greats that I was honored to have shoulder to shoulder. It just keeps expanding and it's just fun. And like I tell my teens when it stops being fun, now that's the time you need to think of making a shift. But I'm still having a blast.

John: That's a lot to talk about and to consider, but it sounds very positive. I don't know if we're going to get into the flow thing a lot, but maybe we will. But maybe just for our purposes, is that flow state, whether you're working or at home doing something, I'm assuming that's the same thing that in general we talk about when you're in that zone.

Dr. Lara Salyer: Yeah, in the zone. Yes. Just simple. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term and it's anything from being in a sport or you're doing Tetris or you're balancing your books. It's just being in deep work.

John: Okay. Cool. I wanted to talk about the speaking a little bit because a lot of my listeners ask me about how to get into that. It seems to be kind of a black box. They don't know how to start. And just some tips on becoming a recognized speaker and getting some of the big types of engagements that you've talked about already today.

Dr. Lara Salyer: I've got lots of tips, John. I think I'm a shameless kind of person who is open to feedback all the time. So, be prepared to speak and make mistakes and fumble and keep getting up and trying again. But the key to establishing your own speaking career is finding your story. You have to have a story and everybody has a story. And once you find the story that is underlying this anchoring mission of why you feel compelled to speak, what are you speaking about? For me, it's speaking about healthcare burnout and the intersection of creativity and how we've lost that piece in healthcare.

And I really believe that physicians, if we could be allowed more autonomy to be self-expressive in the way we deliver medicine, we wouldn't have as much burnout. Of course, it's not that simple. If you look at my message, anybody could look at it and go, "Well, that's not the cure to burnout." No, I'm not saying it is. But it gives me the platform to tell my story, to offer things that I've learned that have helped people. I work with residencies and medical schools and I travel and do workshops. I'm able to craft this around my central story, which is I'm a physician who burned out and found a second career. Or third or fourth, however many you want to count. For anybody listening who's thinking, "How can I develop my speaking career?" start looking at your story. What's your story say? What are you passionate about? If anybody stopped you on the street and said, "You have 40 minutes to tell me something that you're passionate about without any slides, without any prep." That is what you need to talk about.

And so, right there, getting the topic and then second, crafting your PowerPoint, working with a mentor. I had my own public speaking coach, and I believe firmly in coaching. And that's part of the underlying result of my mission with working with so many residencies in medical schools and in my mission that I want to make coaching a part of medical school. That every medical student has a coach assigned. Everybody's got somebody there because we are not above needing that kind of executive help.

And so, when you work with a coach, like a public speaking coach, it can help save time and unlock some of the things that you didn't know you were doing and fidgeting. It makes such a difference. I would start there with knowing your story. What does that say about your mission and your vision in the world? And then working with a coach to help you craft that narrative and really make it professional.

John: I think that's awesome. Because when I think about things that successfully communicate, whether it's a book or a presentation, it always includes a story. Either the speaker's story, the writer's story, or somebody else's story, but it always ties back. That gives that great example of the point you're trying to make and it pulls people in, and they want to hear how the story ends. So, that's cool.

Dr. Lara Salyer: Yes. At least for me, I hated being in, and this is just my preference. Whenever I would be in a lecture or in some kind of presentation and listening to the speaker, it always felt empty to me when there wasn't some kind of transformative takeaway. And so, I like having all of my talks have something at the end that the listener gets, whether it's something that they can download or something that they can walk away with and remember you by. If you're looking to make a speaking career, develop that signature talk. Have some kind of takeaway. Like something downloadable. And if you don't have any of the fancy things like a CRM or an autoresponder, if those words don't resonate with you, you can simply just ask them to give you their email and you can send them something. You can be very old school about it. You don't have to be super polished and professional.

John: I think there are other people that think, "Okay, I'd love to have a speaking career." I don't think they're necessarily as committed because they're a little nervous to have a little stage fright. So, how do you get ready? That UK presentation, that was a big deal.

Dr. Lara Salyer: That was a huge deal. Oh my gosh.

John: How did you prep yourself for that?

Dr. Lara Salyer: Oh goodness. Well, it's that fine line of delusional almost OCD prepping and then trusting the universe that it'll be okay. I love the books. TED Talks, Chris Anderson, or Talk Like TED. Those are the two favorite books I have. I also like Rule the Room is another book, that's a resource. And I often listen to a podcast by Grant Baldwin called Speakers Lab. And believe it or not, that has taught me more than anything because he goes into the business of speaking of how to invite people or pitch to people and follow up and all those kinds of things.

I've learned a lot about the business, but when you're coming down to the wire and you're practicing, it's a combination of I would look at my slides because I was allowed to have some slides, but it was a TED style talk. I had 20 minutes to give my one message. And so, I would practice with the slides and then I would go on a walk and I would listen to myself because I recorded myself and I would listen and imagine the slides on my walk. And then I would try to see if I could anticipate the next sentence. I'd pause the recording and see if I could anticipate the next sentence, not so that it was rote memorization because a lot of public speaking coaches would say, "That's awful. You do not want to memorize your talk." You want it to feel like a conversation. And you want to allow for inflection and for moments of improv in a way.

What I would do is divide my talk into four segments of main points and I would try to anticipate, "Oh yeah, there's that next point. I'm going to talk about this." And that's all it was, was a summer of walks with my dog and just really memorizing the next point that was going to happen until I became comfortable that I felt like I could do it without any help.

John: No, that's awesome. Because you can tell, I watched a lot of TED talks in some of the smaller venues. You can tell the speaker is glancing at a monitor or screen or something to remind them of what they're doing. It doesn't really flow and it's okay, the message is good, but when you have a really good speaker, it flows and it's engaging and it goes by like in two minutes.

Dr. Lara Salyer: Yes. And don't be afraid to practice. Before that UK talk, I had other opportunities where people said, "Could you just give a 20 minute? - Oh yes, absolutely." And I remember in Toronto, I was asked to speak at a very large event for naturopathic doctors, and it was going to be broadcasted and I had no teleprompter, nothing, no slides. I thought, "This is even harder than UK. I am on it. Let's do this. This is going to be gritty test time." And I did it. And guess what? There were interruptions. Somebody walked in front of the feed when it was being recorded. There was a person that interrupted the door and I got put off. I didn't remember my next line, but guess what I did? It just took a moment. And that's the thing is when you face that kind of awkwardness and you realize you're not going to evaporate into ashes, it's okay. And you chuckle and you learn how to sidestep.

Everybody wants you to succeed. Nobody is sitting in the audience waiting for you to mess up and going, "There it is. I'm glad she's messing up." They want you to have a great time. So if you fake it till you make it in that moment and be like, "Okay, here we go", that's when you get to be that elevated speaker that people want to hear from because you're relatable.

John: That's great. That's awesome. I love that. And a lot of resources, I wrote those down and we'll put those in the show notes so people that are really interested can take advantage of those.

Okay. We're going to move into helping other clinicians, but I think before we get into that and how you're doing that, I think our listeners need to understand exactly what does your practice look like now? Functional medicine, not everybody even know what the functional medicine is and kind of tied to that. I think you still call what I would call clients patients but there's a distinction that some people make. And I think it's easier in functional medicine than let's say in doing something like yoga. You're not going to call them. If you can capture all of that in the opening of this next section here on how you help physicians.

Dr. Lara Salyer: Sure. Real quick, I do have a license to practice medicine in Wisconsin and Illinois. I have my attorney that comes in and teaches inside my mentorship for practitioners. I stay very, very close to the law. I don't want to call my patients clients. I'm still a physician, so I have a physician patient relationship. But my practice is very tiny. I call it very cozy. And I keep it that way because I have a lot of other hats I wear. Last year I was invited to be the director of practitioner activation for the School of Applied Functional Medicine. Basically I am the mentor for their school. And so, that is a job that I do part-time, but I also have my own mentorship, the Catalyst studio.

And these are practitioners that come in for 12 months and they're with me and they have a bunch of resources online. And we work one-on-one, and we also have weekly masterminding. We call it studio time. And the reason I've created this artistic metaphor is because I want physicians to create their masterpiece, their work-life masterpiece. I don't believe in work-life balance. I don't think that is something we can achieve. I believe it's a masterpiece. It's an integration of work and life. And so, they're with me for 12 months. And then in addition to that, I have one off session.

People that aren't even in functional medicine, they don't even care about integrative medicine. They might be a medical student, a resident, or just an attending who's like, "Hey, I need some inspiration on how can I pedal through some of these emotions, this burnout." I use solutions focused, positive psychology, a little bit of acceptance commitment techniques that help them tap back into flow. And I give ideas and resources and really get them back into what are they doing here. And helping them with decisions. It can be making a decision on the next step for their career or just how to play again as an adult. We forget that and kids are so good at that. I love being almost that little inspirational fairy that can help my colleagues get back into that childlike wonder.

John: Can you give me an example? And it could be even amalgam of many people, but what is the type of person that shows up at the beginning, either for the one-off mentoring or the 12 month? And then how does it look different at the end of that period? I'm just trying to get that so the listener can say, "Hey, that sounds like it's right up my alley."

Dr. Lara Salyer: Yes. That's great. I like to call this the average practitioner. They are frantic, they're rushed, they're stressed. They're feeling almost hopeless and wondering why they chose this career. But they feel stuck like "I have to be in this track." They don't see many options. They've probably not played or had their hobby dusted off the shelf for years. They probably look at you with blank eyes when you said, "When was the last time you did something fun?" They don't even know. They don't have free time. They really are a victim of their calendar. They're really reactive in their calendar planning instead of proactive. That's the typical practitioner.

And then at the end of my programs, I call them the catalysts. The catalysts, they are expansive, open-minded. They're innovative. They are very much in control of their calendar. They're very autonomous. They see those elements in their calendar and time and space and energy. They're boundaried. They're able to really keep and protect that energy and spend it on things that give them joy. They are more tapped into gratitude and creativity. And these catalysts are such a joy.

And so, I can take people through this journey. In fact, I have a 10 hour CME course that people can take online. Completely self-driven. And it helps them kind of walk through the standards that I've found have worked really well for my clients. I call those clients, my mentees, my catalyst. And it helps walk them through some of the basic foundations of finding your flow and finding your anchoring down into your "why" and how to use that throughout your day to bring joy back into focus.

John: On average, is that group of people employed at a large organization where a corporatization of medicine has kind of driven most of them crazy? Or are they in a practice and they're just overwhelmed? They may own it, but it's out of control because they're trying to handle everything.

Dr. Lara Salyer: That's great. For the functional integrative physicians and practitioners inside my 12 month mentorship, those people usually are solopreneurs. They might be employed, they might have a hybrid practice of insurance and cash pay. And these people are really looking how to strategically move that business. How to make it more streamlined and flow channeled. The one-off catalyst advantage, those are the people that sign up for just one or two or three sessions.

I have bundles of packages where they can meet with me one-on-one, and there's nothing to do with business. It's more about personal development. And those come from all walks of life. I have discounts for students and residents because I remember those days, you can't really afford much. And then it can be attendings, it can be nurse practitioners, people that are just curious about personally developing themselves. And they come from all walks of life as well. They could be independent, most of them employed.

My grand goal in my future, my five to 10 goal is I would love to be a chief wellness officer at a large organization because I've enjoyed working in this high level systemic change and seeing the results of what some of these modalities can do for practitioners is really life affirming for me. So, it's just been a wonderful journey.

John: Now as a secret in some of those to really focus on doing what you love and where the flow can occur potentially, and getting rid of the stuff that just drives you crazy. And does that require delegation? Does that require, or can it enable one to say, "Look, I'm a family physician, but I'm not going to do 100% of what a family physician could do. I'm going to focus on something that I like to do and I'm going to get rid of the rest."

Dr. Lara Salyer: Yes. Oh, I love this. It is getting comfortable disappointing other people. I think as physicians, especially family physicians, we are the bottom of the totem pole. We get everything dumped on us and we just get used to serving our patients, saying yes, doing it all. And it's time to push back. And it's okay to have boundaries. This is where I help people with those boundaries in saying, "Listen, if you are literally burning up and you are a miserable shell of a human, you're going to work, you're coming home from work and you are just not happy at all, something's got to change."

Now you can't change overnight the whole system. The system is slowly changing. But we are at a dawn of a new healthcare with AI helping. I love It's a wonderful program that is a charting program where all it does is listen to you and your patient and creates a beautiful SOAP note. I actually interviewed the founders. It's a resident and her husband who's a computer guy, they founded this company. It's phenomenal. And it's things like this that are going to help us fall back in love with medicine and do what we do best, which is being a healer. We are right now data entry clerks and we're not able to delegate because a lot of hospitals are saying, "No, you have to enter in those lab results. No, you have to do it all." And it's crumbling.

I really believe if we hang on, we are almost through the dark ages of medicine and we're about to enter the dawn of where AI can help us and it's suddenly going to be so much fun. It's like driving a Tesla. It's just, "Wow, everything's done for me." And so, hanging on, I think that's my role in this whole structure is helping our colleagues just to hang on and let's find a way through this that can help you stay human while we wait for AI to help. And it might mean take a day off every week and you go to your administrator saying, "I need to be different RVU. I need to back it down." Because we want to want to save you before you go out with the ship.

John: What was that link again to that AI tool?

Dr. Lara Salyer: Yeah, it's And what I love about them is they give you 10 free visits to try them out. You don't even have to put a credit card in. The proof is in there, amazing algorithms and AI. And then when you do, it's really affordable. You can get an industry, your whole institution can get a license, or you can get your own. If you use the code CATALYST, you get $50 off. I'll just give that out there so people can get a discount if they want it.

John: Excellent. I'll tell you and our listeners here why I am so interested in this is because my thing in the past has been "What other options can you do if you're a burned out physician?" But really, 15, 20 years ago, there wasn't a lot of focus on fixing within your own practice or something like your practice. Now I'm trying to get more people like you to say, let's go back to the beginning and take all the good things that you wanted to be when you went through med school and residency. And let's try and get rid of the other crap that doesn't help.

Dr. Lara Salyer: Yes.

John: That's just holding you down. And as we push this, I think we're going to see more of it. So, I appreciate what you're saying.

Dr. Lara Salyer: I'm glad that you've recognized that. I think there is an exodus of people. Their pendulum swung where people were leaving. Sadly, we lose a lot of people to suicide, a whole medical school class worth every year. And there's a lot of physicians that are just retiring early. But I think the pendulum is going to swing back the other way. Like you said, I want to save the career of medicine. I want to make the career of medicine something that still honors the joy and the creativity and the self-expression. Nobody wants to go see a robotic doctor. And so, I really think that we're almost there. We just got to hang on a bit and keep working at it.

John: The thing is not only are physicians frustrated and upset, the patients aren't happy. They're not happy with a five minute visit for something it takes 20 minutes normally and the doctor spends all their time documenting and sending notes in and blah, blah, blah. The whole thing has to change for patients as much as for physicians.

All right. Why don't you spend a couple minutes telling us about your website and what's on your website and how to get ahold of you and all that kind of stuff?

Dr. Lara Salyer: Oh, sure. Absolutely. We'll start to different things. If you're a patient in Wisconsin or Illinois, you can find me on my website, But I do keep a very, very long waiting list because I devote a lot of my time and passion to our colleagues. So, if you're a physician, a nurse practitioner, and you're curious about what creativity and flow can do to enhance your happiness and joy, again, go to my website, and you'll be prompted through a series of buttons. It'll ask "What are you here for?" And it will direct you to the practitioner page.

And I would encourage you to take the Catalyst Archetype quiz. It's a free quiz. You'll be matched to one of the four archetypes. Are you a fervent flame, a resolute rock, a wise wind, a reflective river? And then it matches you to a two-page plan that will give you suggestions on adult play activities, things that you could do to enhance your hobbies and self-expression.

And also on that page, you'll find opportunities to do a sample session with me, a real one-on-one working session where we can just dive in and start getting you aligned with your best self. And all my stuff is there. If you need a speaker for your next conference, you need a keynote, again, I have a speaking page on my website. I love speaking. I'd love to connect with you. And there's an application form there as well.

John: Excellent. Well, listeners, I think you should take advantage of that, even if you have to skip the next few weeks of podcast listening. Spend that time checking out Lara's website and make a plan to change your life if you're not happy.

All right, Lara, we're going to run out of time here. So, just some more advice, some last minute advice before we go to our listeners who might be unhappy, out of balance, just frustrated and not enjoying their careers in particular. What advice do you have before we go?

Dr. Lara Salyer: I love little acronyms. I'm going to give you an acronym that I use when I'm feeling stuck, when I'm feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed. It's WARM and it goes like this. If I'm feeling stuck, overwhelmed, unhappy, I start with "W" and I ask, "Who's talking? Whose voice is in my head?" Is it the administrators saying, "You need to see more?" Whose voice is in my head right now making me feel bad? Is it my family of origin? Maybe it's an auntie or a grandma or something. Who's talking right now? Am I listening to my own voice or is it someone else?

The next is "A", which is aim low, not aim high. Aim low. Use Tiny Atomic Habits. James Clear is famous for that book. Atomic Habits. Do one tiny thing. Aim Low. What can you do in the next moment, even if it's just your next breath? Aim low. You're looking for tiny evidences of progress that you can find your way out of this mess.

Then "R" which is reason. What is your reason? What is your reason for medicine? Anchor yourself back into your "why." Why are you doing this? And there's many reasons. And it can shift, it could be stability. I wanted a predictable career. I wanted travel, whatever. But look at your reason because it may have shifted and maybe you're aiming towards the wrong North Star. But just look at that reason.

And lastly, "M" which is messy moves the needle. You don't have to be perfect, you don't have to have the answers all right now. You don't have to figure it out, but you can be messy and show up messy in this spot. When you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed, just remember WARM. Who's talking, aim low, find that reason, and then just be messy and give it another day. It's always going to be better.

John: Thanks for that. I'm going to write that down and see if I can apply it to something I'm doing today.

Dr. Lara Salyer: Perfect. It works every time for me.

John: It sounds like it does. I like the last one too. You're saying in there messy moves, avoid perfection. Don't let perfection drive you so much. Just do something in the right direction. I like that.

All right, Lara, this has been fantastic. We're going to have to get together again, probably in less than four years, if I'm still podcasting.

Dr. Lara Salyer: Another leap year.

John: Oh yeah. No, that's not good. All right. I want to really thank you for being here, and I'll put all those links in the show notes and share it. And with that, I'll say goodbye.

Dr. Lara Salyer: Thank you, John. Bye.


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