Our bodies are truly awe-inspiring. Whether you’re a disciplined triathlete, someone who visits the gym semi regularly, a flexible yogi, or the type of person whose primary physical activity is lifting your cup of coffee to and from your mouth, your body will naturally suffer from all sorts of wear and tear over time. Muscles tighten, joints stiffen and metabolisms slow down. Regardless of where you fall on the athletic continuum, Dr. Martha Pyron wants to care for your overall physical well-being.
For Pyron, who has a strong background in sports medicine and is quite the athlete herself, the decision to open her own clinic was based on wanting to fill a niche in the health care field in Austin. The most rewarding aspect is the conversations that happen behind closed doors, when she realizes the impact her work is having and the bridges she’s building for her patients.
“It’s as simple as helping somebody. They’re injured and I help them get better or I help them work through some process,” Pyron said. “It’s rewarding to create an environment where someone can share a conversation about something they feel vulnerable about–and in health care there’s a lot of that–and you’re able to provide that for them.”
Having grown up in San Antonio, Pyron received her medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center there. Then, she completed a residency program in family medicine at southern Colorado Family Medicine, pursued a fellowship in sports medicine at Michigan State University and worked as a team physician at Penn State University–where she was the doctor for 16 different teams.
Although she was very physically active, running and biking in medical school, playing volleyball and basketball when she was younger, and soccer and softball later in life, Pyron wasn’t always sure where her studies would ultimately take her. “I didn’t really know that doctors did this type of thing and I wasn’t sure I would go to medical school,” she said, noting that math and science were always easy. “I didn’t want to be in a lab. I wanted to be with people, helping people.”
Taking a risk
The genesis for medicine in motion came about from Pyron’s prior experiences at Penn State and UT she envisioned a wellness center within the parameters of sports medicine that would offer a wider range of services, and she brainstormed with a group of friends on how she could do it. Medicine in Motion opened its doors in august of 2009; in terms of learning the logistics of running her own business, Pyron had a baptism by fire.
“It was very challenging because I have no business background at all,” Pryon said, noting that thus far, the business is ahead of her (admittedly naïve) projections. “How to market it, how to put our name out, make sure we’re providing the right customer service, benefits, keeping employees happy and all that.”
The overall launch of the business took a full two years, factoring in insurance planning, loans, equipment, hiring, salaries, and so on. Other than Pyron, there are currently six employees and three contract workers, including two athletic trainers, a nutritionist, a medical assistant and a radiology technologist.
Pyron’s motivation to give back has been a consistent theme in her professional life. At UT, she launched a program to take care of teams, mostly club sport teams such as rugby, soccer and lacrosse, that didn’t have medical coverage within the system. That’s how she met Matt Prewett, head coach of the UT men’s soccer club since 2004. Prewett said he never wavered in trusting Pyron with his team and praised her consistent professionalism.
“One of our boys suffered a split above his eye after being headbutted in a match in Houston,” said Prewett. “Dr. Pyron had him meet her at the clinic after 10 p.m. on a Sunday evening to sew him up and also check him for a concussion once we got back to Austin–that’s Dr. Pyron in a nutshell, super-supportive and caring.”
Prewett’s confidence in Pyron was so great that he transferred his own medical files to her when she opened her own practice; he always refers his friends to her. Her community outreach has also generated many referrals. Pyron maintains a relationship with the Capital City Front Runners, Austin’s LGBT running group, as well. “I’ve given talks with them on how to eat right, stretch right and prevent injuries,” said Pyron, noting that she also volunteered at the Austin Pride Run, the Cap Tex Tri and the Hill Country Ride for AIDS.
Meeting Her Match
Pyron met her partner, Lucy Lemeilleur, almost five years ago while working at UT; a mutual friend introduced them. The busy couple has a common interest in health and fitness. Lemeilleur, an administrative associate at the university, has lived in Austin for 15 years and spent a lot of time skateboarding and riding her BMX bike growing up.
“It’s funny, because all the kids on the street love her,” said Pyron, noting her partner’s popularity with the 10-to15-year-old boys in the neighborhood. “They’ll say, ‘can lucy come out and play?’ ”
With Pyron’s schedule–she works fives days per week and often on weekends–they always make time for each other, usually catching up over a home-cooked meal. Pyron praises her girlfriend’s culinary prowess. “I love when we cook together at the house,” Pyron said.
“I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily gifted in the kitchen, but I enjoy the creative process of cooking,” said Lemeilleur, an avid runner for the past 20 years who enjoys riding her bike around town–whether commuting to work or running errands.
“We make it a point to positively relate to each other, emotionally, every day,” Lemeilleur said. “Even when we are short on time, we make sure to share our love, respect, patience and understanding.”
Reaping the rewards
Pyron’s comfort zone regarding her sexual orientation, which is broad in terms of her personal life and her relationship, has been tested in her professional life. Although she hasn’t directly felt the sting of discrimination, that’s not always the case for people working in athletics or the medical industry, both of which can be more conservative.
“Athletic departments are the last homophobic places on campus. That’s changing, but it’s slower than other places,” Pyron said, noting that her residency in Colorado was at a catholic hospital where, technically speaking, her sexual orientation could have been a liability. “I have friends who lost their jobs because their private life was found out.”
Like many who grow up to be gay or lesbian, Pyron remembers feeling awkward, as a 5-year-old, when she would get changed in the women’s locker room after swimming. In high school, Pyron dated guys but still felt an attraction to other women. Hers was a slow transition, and she eventually came out to her family in college. “My dad was just waiting for me to feel comfortable enough to tell him,” Pyron said. “You could tell he was so happy that I was comfortable having that conversation with him. I felt blessed that I didn’t have that struggle with my parents.”
Although Pyron knows that many college athletic departments are more conservative, she’s comfortable now. “I am no longer willing to hide who I am and the beliefs I have about equality,” she said, “for myself and for athletes.”
Pyron’s short-term goals, expanding her business’s profitability and continuing to reach out in the community, seem reasonable. Next year, she’d like to look at opening another location to complement her current space in north Austin. “We have a group of people who will bring you back to your sport and doing what you like.”
She’s always had a more all-encompassing approach to medicine. “I have a hard time with the whole concept of separation from the position of the patient,” she said. “I want to hear about the complete person, not just the complaint that they came in with.”
Just over one year into her new adventure, Pyron is proud of the feedback she’s received from her patients. “People who get to know me, out and about, have a certain comfort level with me as they get to know me as a physician,” said Pyron. “[Their condition] may be some- thing that I have very little experience with, but I can help them get it taken care of. It’s rewarding to know that I can provide an environment where someone feels comfortable showing what they need.”
“She’s very devoted to her patients and completely invested in her mission,” Lemeilleur said. “She really believes in what she does.”
Story by Christopher Carbone
Photos by Michael Thad Carter
L Style G Style – Storyteller of the Austin LBGT Community.