Episode 52: Dr. Julie Gunther (She/Her) of sparkMD - Boise, ID

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

Direct Primary Care Doctor

Dr. Gunther is the owner of sparkMD in Boise, ID
Dr. Julie Gunther

Dr. Julie Gunther earned her medical degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle and completed her residency at Ball Memorial Hospital Family Medicine Residency. She is a dual board-certified family physician and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) fellow who founded sparkMD, a direct primary care (DPC) clinic in downtown Boise, Idaho, in 2014. In her seven years in DPC, she has been featured in Forbes, National Public Radio, Bloomberg, Reason TV, Medical Economics, and several other news outlets. She is a DPC leader, current president of the DPC Alliance, and has spoken at the DPC Summit, Doctors 4 Patient Care Foundation, FMX, and many local and regional meetings since 2016.

She is a founding member of the DPC Alliance, a former Board member of the Direct Primary Care Coalition, and one of the minds behind the DPC Alliance Mastermind series.

Dr. Gunther loves challenges, entrepreneurship, working with people, and values all that DPC has done for her professional development, love of medicine, community, and health care as a whole.

DR. GUNTHER'S FIRST BOOK! Sparks Start Fires - A Guide for Dreamers Who Are Also Doctors (<-------BUY HERE! it's AMAZING!):

Dr. Julie Gunther at the 2019 DPC Summit

Dr. Gunther joins fellow DPC docs on the Reason TV Spot:

Other Resources Mentioned by Dr. Gunther:

Family Medicine Education Consortium (FMEC)

- ANNUAL MEETING 10/8-10/2021will be in person

Jason Health - where patients can order their own labs and pay cash for them

Hint - Membership management & billing for healthcare innovators

- HINT SUMMIT 10/28 & 19th, 2021 will be virtual


website: https://sparkmd.com

email: drg@sparkmd.com

Aesthetics Training By Dr. Gunther: https://www.sparkmdtraining.com/booking


Good morning, Julie.

Oh my gosh. You're due soon. Yes.

Yeah. We we are 37 and one today.

It's unreal because I mean like yourself, you have to, and yeah. I have no idea. What I'll remember. The first one and my son is almost three.

He's actually going to be three on Monday. So we'll see. And then now it's different because with COVID masking in the hospital during labor, I'm like, Hm. that's what that'll be different.

Like they just don't need more drama during labor.

But in my very strong opinion I fully respect people who choose not to have children. I fully respect people who only want one kid, but I also, we only have two, I would have liked to have had four, but that probably wouldn't have been a great life situation as things have panned out. But I firmly believe having a second kiddo made us way better parents for the first kiddo.

It just, yeah. It just and to a certain extent, and then my brother, so I have a 15 year old and a 12 year old now, and my brother and his wife just had babies there actually one this weekend, they had twins. It's funny to see, because while it's been 12 years since we had a newborn um, I mean, we do newborn care at the practice too, but I'm just so much more comfortable with them than I was with my own babies.

And my brother is I think sometimes a little bit Florida. He's like, how do you know all this? How do you know to do all this? But you just learn it. It's awesome. Yeah. So it's actually, it's weird to say, but our experience it's actually easier with. cause like it's easier but harder if that makes sense.

But like the second, the first one just has to learn to get their stuff together. It's a perfect age in the sense that there's probably things your three-year-old should be pushed to start doing for himself that you're not doing because you're first time parents with him and yeah. And so there's some natural rhythm to it, I think.

I love to hear that. Especially from a mom of two who are three years apart too. It's, it's so different when you're taking care of kids in the clinic and then when it's your own, you're like, what do I do sometimes? Rob bras, bro.

He was saying the other day, he's it's okay. The second one will be feral and that's,

I can picture that. But at the same time, I think that my son is very much a helper, he's definitely in the, I do it stage, so I think it'll be nice. To have him. Help out so that he feels included. And I think that's one of the things I'm the most apprehensive about is how, how he, how he doesn't feel that he's any less important.

Yeah. But yeah, but he will be, and that's it sounds crazy, but that's the fun thing of parenting is it's a gift in my opinion, for a person to be raised, to understand that at times their needs have to be prioritized with other people's needs and and having a second child forces you to help him with that lesson, if you weren't going to do it anyway.

And then in hindsight, that's a really valuable lesson for him. And the other thing we talk about all the time and our house is just I believe in the infinite capacity for love or giving. So it's like when you and your partner married there, wasn't a discussion that maybe some people do, gosh, if we have a child, is that going to dilute our ability to care for each other and on now, I don't know what it would be like to have 21 kids.

I think there isn't bandwidth of ability to attend to anything. But I think I think love can be administered in very small increments and it can be very clear that it's true love in the sense of I'm a big proponent as a working parent that I'm a better, more loving, more capable.

When I'm able to be with my kids a small amount of time, then I when I'm with them a lot, like in illustrator when we have with COVID, there's a point where you're were like, I actually just want you to go away. My husband and I just celebrated our 20th anniversary. We still, it was together in Jackson hole and in the car. And I actually bet, I mean, I love this man. I miss spending a lot of high quality time with him, but there's also a point where I'm like I'm not my best me if I'm with anyone all the time, like I just can't, I need like some space.

by the last I want everyone to go away and want to do a craft. I'm so grateful that you are letting me talk to you about it, participate in this. And I meant what I said on online, which is this is something that is necessary. That is valuable. I wish some sensationalistic TV station would catch on and do a long documentary about all of us, because all of these individual stories are so important. There's a lot of discussion and non-movement about about when you to turn the focus on the patient and the discussion should be on the patient.

And actually I've always disagreed. And it's one of those things that that is, is hard to disagree with because clearly like the calling of medical care is about taking care of others. But it's actually, it's a completely perfect analogy. If there is no mechanism in place for you to take care of yourself.

And in fact your husband and your two children do nothing but just demand of you. And then on top of it, you have to answer to a landlord and the garbage man and the window cleaner, if every domain in our personal life was beyond our control, yet we were expected to answer to it. But then we're expecting your children to thrive.

It's not going to happen. Yeah. So it's not to say there's not a give and take. It's not to say someone has disproportionately bad or difficult days, but I've just, we keep we, while we talk about burnout and exhaustion it's been very hard for us as a culture to really talk about the privileged physician.

And we look at physicians as being of great privilege, but talking about how absolutely essential it is for the physician to thrive. And from that comes a thriving patient population.

It's a very weird way that I got introduced to that concept, but it's so absolutely true. We have a Filipino veteran focused clinic in Sacramento.

I went to UC Davis and we were doing a volunteer clinic for them through UC Davis and at this golf tournament there was a person who was one of the the players, took a golf cart and it slipped over the hill. Yes, baby. You okay. can you tell Dr. Julie what your name is?

Hi Asher. My name is Julie. How are you? Asher,

How are you doing?

Good. Good. Are you helping? Mommy? Does mommy have a baby in her tummy

and the baby brother? Are you excited?

But yeah this golf fell off of a, of the side of a, hill. And I was freaking out because I was like, oh my gosh this person is hurt. What do I do? And this is when I was an undergrad. So I, hadn't had any medical training and this doctor, he talked to me afterwards.

He's like, you have to take care of yourself before you are able to take care of others, because if you are freaking out, you cannot focus on what needs to get done. And so it's a very different way.

It's about

coming Hold onto mama's hand but yeah, the idea that w with this podcast, I love the idea that it can be. Timeless in that someone two years from now who's new to DPC or someone who's been in it for seven years is listening to somebody else's voice and reminding themselves about how like their own journey was or how, DPC can inspire people and how, it is important to take care of oneself because um, you eat when you can, you pee when you can mentality.

So it's not okay. And and your patients can totally feel that, right? You have patients who they know you well, and then they'll comment. Are you okay today? They'd like to check in with you because they can tell that you're stressed if you're running behind and stuff.

So it, I cannot agree with you more on that for sure. Julie I actually had read your, before your book, you had put out that um, yeah. A

tiny bit. Yeah. But yeah.

Yeah, but with the Holstee manifesto and with your comments, the things that I, that you added in your book though, that really just floored me. the first day I was reading it.

You talk about how let me turn to the page. One of the things that you mentioned was, your years in service, and then all of a sudden, they're basically saying as your employer, like you don't matter if you stay, you stay, if you don't, we don't really care.

And literally three days before I created this podcast, my husband and I had been given a, you either signed an RVU contractor, you get terminated letter. That similar situation of de-valuing your services as a doctor, I was just like, oh my gosh this is uncanny, you know? and then your note about you know, your patients and you offered them a same day visit, and then you didn't know that your staff told them the closest visit she has is two weeks from now. And you're like, if you had control over that, you would never have let that happen.

And you don't even know that happens sometimes. , I just, I, I really related to those, but so when similar situations happen to me, just as of September, I literally sat there and I was like, this is extra time on my plate.

Cause I spend four to six hours probably a week doing the podcasting and editing, but yeah, I never thought that I would ever do a podcast or ever find healing in a podcast, but it's totally because I'm hearing other people's stories.

Yeah. One of my biggest epiphany is I think I tried to say this in the document or the book and what I've loved about DPC.

At the beginning, it felt like I was really putting myself out there and exposing these things that I felt vulnerable about. And then you sit in a room and everyone's nodding and all of a sudden you've found that people, that people come up and they're crying because what you, they felt alone too.

And what you said, and those specific examples, all of a sudden, just like you are like Kapow and what's tragic is that this isn't a unique story, but what's so important is, and this is changing, which is good, but physicians really die in isolation and we're really ripe in the employed model to be one-off meaning like, you're the problem.

You're the trouble child. You're the one who can't get your note done on time. And all of a sudden, what I think of a lot is I haven't had a lot of bad relationships in my life, but I've had, I had one or two romantic relationships that I didn't realize how not good they were until I was out of them because I didn't work in them.

And I think many of us have that personal analogy. And so it's so hard to know how bad something is when you're in it, especially with all these other social things we're taught about, don't whine, don't cry, don't pee. What are you complaining about? You're making 150 K a year. So my big epiphany was realizing, like I was so mad at my employer and my big epiphany that I think is actually even more tragic was when I realized oh my God, it's not my employer.

This is the entirety of what's happening in our healthcare system. So for my little like examples of unsustainability touchpoints, like someone who is very close to me with strep throat, who just wanted to pop in and get his throat swab, and he's directed to an urgent care and an RV you paid and I'm like the whole thing's insanity.

And it just shows how the system is broken. When I share those stories and then 2015, a hundred whatever, or even one doctor is oh my God, that just happened today. We get to see that it's a failure of the structure of our healthcare system and the physician's role in it. I wish it was just me.

I wish I was just some profound problem child. And then everyone else's situation was great because then it wouldn't mean our healthcare system as a whole was more highly functional than it is. But without ego, without paternalism we have to get to a place in my opinion, where we respect that the physician is like a quarterback or the point guard or whatever you want to call it.