Sharon McDonough-Means, MD - Dr Sharon or Dr M&M - the names the children have given me!
I began my dream of becoming a physician when I was eight years old – a small child’s doctor kit, many questions and fascination with “how the body works”. My love of horses began then too with my family’s camping trips in Indian and “out West” to visit my father’s family in Montana. I collected them – all sizes - but no real ones - much to my disappointment!
Gratefully with the help of a scholarship, I completed my undergraduate degree at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois – an idyllic time in life of immersing myself in study of literature, philosophy, religion and of course wonderful science – though organic chemistry threatened to undo me. I then began my career in medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana, where I completed my early training and practice - Indiana University School of Medicine, an internship and pediatric residency at Riley Children’s Hospital. I chose pediatrics because I believed that through the health of children, parents and families would be the most motivated toward wellness and health. Our first son, Aaron was born – an integral part of my residency experience and his introduction into the world of health and healing.
A pattern of my life began to unfold then – being inspired by and drawn to “frontier” thinking and serving the underserved. I helped to develop and began practice in the first HMO in Indiana and a public health clinic. Our family then moved to Illinois for 4 years. There I worked with a University of Illinois affiliated hospital in Park Ridge, helped to create a new pediatric Ambulatory Care Center for residency training and initiated a resident rotation in developmental-behavioral pediatrics.
Developmental behavioral pediatrics was then a relatively new concept - inspired in me by my pediatric residency program director, Dr. Morris Green – a true visionary in bio-psychosocial pediatric health. Iowa was my “home” from 1980 until my move to Arizona in 1999. The birth of our second son, Tim, was our bridge from Illinois to Iowa. Tim remains an Iowa native today, studying management information systems at Iowa State University, continuing his hobby in theater and gift with computers and the personal development that college life brings. I was drawn to deepen my commitment to developmental pediatric care and completed a 2 year fellowship at the University of Iowa. I developed a new developmental pediatric practice with a large, multi-specialty group in Dubuque and then a small private developmental practice in Des Moines. Both taught me many of the business challenges – as well as the need – for that kind of care and support for children with special challenges and their families.
There were many major life changes and challenges during those years in Iowa, which led me in searching for deeper meaning in my personal health and spiritual life and ultimately led to shaping my professional goals and practice. I moved into the out-of-doors, learned new skills - canoeing, swimming and biking - and began my journey into environmental health. I received much support from health care practices that I had not known existed – a journey also inspired by my son, Aaron’s, quest into the Yoga sciences and naturopathic medicine. [For current information see InsightHomeopathy.com]. I began studying non-conventional medical resources and, along with an array of community professionals, developed and led a week long Wellness Celebration at my sons’ high school – an awakening for students, faculty and some parents at the school, for me and for my closer personal relationships. In search of learning more about “non-conventional” or Eastern healing traditions, I chose to live in Korea for a year as a developmental pediatrician with the US military – living in Seoul but providing services to the military posts throughout the peninsula. That was a very precious year and provided me the experience of travel in Asia – including a visit with Aaron in India. I was blessed by the opportunity to experience the people and culture, to learn a bit more about other traditions of healing and to grow in my own spiritual life. I learned also that in many ways those in the Eastern cultures have become just as enamored with our Western “non-conventional” ways as we are of theirs! So I needed to continue my search for knowledge (perhaps wisdom, even) by returning “home” – with an awareness that I did not want to surrender the precious heritage I had been given in my Western conventional medical training but wanted to expand and perhaps shift my perspective.
For those reasons, I was drawn to the University of Arizona’s Program in Integrative Medicine – the only fellowship that incorporated solid education in Eastern systems of health care with the familiar conventional medical knowledge and also offered a new way of thinking – a paradigm shift, if you will. My move to Arizona and completion of the fellowship, thus began my “return to my paternal family roots” and my love affair with this special place. I am actively practicing as an integrative developmental pediatrician and am also engaged in pediatric integrative medicine research [see research link]. My enjoyment of the stimulation of the academic environment and the challenge of research was another life surprise – one of the gifts to me of the fellowship.
I am truly grateful for this present place in my life’s journey to which God has led me and the tremendous growth and joy along the way. I continue to be provided with the true pleasure of working with wonderfully rich human beings, challenging work professionally, a fun Yorkie named Muffin, hiking and the mountains, lap swimming, a love of music and ballroom dance – the sustenance of my spiritual community and deepening my family relationships.