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Amanda Roe, Functional Again


Every day we face a series of seemingly small decisions that can have a huge impact on our overall health. Do you have that second cup of coffee or skip it? Do you choose a hard workout or a walk on the beach?


Amanda Roe is passionate about educating us on the importance of these moments, and guiding us to make the choices that help us feel best. Amanda, aka Functional Them on social media, is a naturopath eager to help us feel our best, particularly during challenging life transitions.


Amanda grew up in the Southeast region of the United States, and her interest in science started at a very young age. By high school she was spending summers studying ecology in the Florida Keys at marine science camp, convinced she was going to be a marine biologist. And she’s always been a keen researcher. One early experiment studied the antimicrobial effects of aloe from her household plant. “I did a whole experiment swabbing everyone in the family’s skin, and then tried to grow microbes on coffee filters - none grew around the aloe gel!” That project won her the science fair, and established the curiosity and patience to spend many, many hours in research laboratories in the years to come.


Near the end of her university study at James Madison University in Virginia, she faced a choice between two different tracks for graduate study, one for ecology and research, and one for medicine. At the time she was deep in a study of water scorpion penises, of all things. She loved the research process, but thought, “do I want to do this forever?”


Medicine had always been a possibility, especially after Amanda became “completely obsessed” with Anatomy courses in college. She took all the required pre-med coursework, but was often turned off by the cutthroat nature of the medical track, until a personal experience introduced her to naturopathic medicine.


In her senior year of college, she contracted glandular fever. She went to the clinic where she was told “go home, it’ll take 6 weeks to feel better and there’s nothing you can do.” Determined to not lose so much time from a crucial academic year, Amanda plunged into researching how she could speed her recovery, which led her to naturopathic medicine. With a regimen that included vitamins C and A, echinacea, fever and rest, she recovered in two weeks instead of six.


Energised by her discovery, she did a tour of naturopathic medical programmes as soon as she felt well enough and following her college graduation, enrolled at the renowned National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. She chose a track specific to midwifery, to which she felt a strong, inexplicable pull. “I didn’t have any particular experience with midwifery, I hadn’t been through childbirth myself yet. It was just something that wouldn't let me go and I couldn’t not do it. It was more a spiritual thing that became very real.”


Just as Amanda was finishing her medical training, she met her husband Mike, a born and bred Gizzy guy, soon after he had moved to Portland for a nursing job. After a short stint away in Hawaii, Amanda started a Family Medicine and Midwifery practice with a colleague from school, there in Portland.


Amanda’s practice wasn’t just limited to women’s health however. “The joke is, it’s a practice builder, because you start with one patient and then get two. But I would very often get the whole family.” Patients have always appreciated her comprehensive approach. Amanda explains, “Just like in my research background, you might have a specific goal, but you have to think in a holistic 360-degree way. I always think that way, to see the big picture and not just the problem in front of me.”


That’s an important distinction between traditional medicine and the functional approach Amanda takes. Rather than just treating a particular symptom, her approach is more encompassing and integrative. “My expertise is in understanding how systems talk to each other all day long, not just discrete cardiology, endocrinology, etc.”


In 2020, Amanda and Mike decided to make the move to Gisborne, along with their kids Iris and Harry. Many factors spurred the move, including a desire for a different quality of life and wanting to be closer to Mike’s mum. Professionally, Amanda felt increasingly limited in how she could practice medicine in the States, faced with high malpractice insurance and tax costs and lower reimbursements. “Mike never pressured me to move back, but for both of us it just went from “when we retire” to “let’s go.”


She describes her initial impression of life here as magical, “I can’t even believe how beautiful it is here.” They’ve felt very welcomed, with many people eager to help make connections. One of those connections led her to Dr. Leigh Willoughby, another local doctor passionate about functional medicine. Leigh had a room available in her clinic, Functional Again on Ormond Road, and Amanda now sees patients out of that space, working as her own entity.


One challenge she is looking to overcome is that “people don’t get that I’m a doctor. I’m medically trained in North America, but there’s no equivalent medical degree in New Zealand yet.” Working with Amanda means taking a look not only at problems, but also at goals. The first visit is 90 minutes long, to give full attention to all concerns. Before that first visit, Amanda has already reviewed all the patient history and labs and has a good handle on what to suggest for homework.

Seeing Amanda and a GP are not mutually exclusive, and in fact they complement each other quite well, “I like to partner with GP’s so it’s a team effort”. For Amanda, a big upside of working with her is that she is “never at a loss of what to try next.” She appreciates the ability to really spend time with patients, but most opt for brief regular check-ins, either monthly for 30 minutes or fortnightly for 15 minutes.


At this point in her career, Amanda describes her niche as women’s health and hormone regulation and balance. This includes supporting women trying to get pregnant, guiding women through pregnancy, and helping to address the hormonal changes experienced in puberty and perimenopause. An avid trail runner herself, Amanda particularly enjoys working with athletes, advising how hormones impact performance throughout a women’s cycle. She was really able to hone that aspect of her practice in Portland, which is home to both the Nike and Adidas headquarters, and a huge athlete base.


To reach more of our community, Amanda holds lecture series on evenings and weekends. So far, perimenopause is the hottest topic. It’s the transition time all women go through on the way to menopause, and brings with it all kinds of changes and struggles such as weight gain, fatigue, sleep difficulties, and mood swings. “People want to know what in the world is going on. It becomes easier when you’re not in the dark, and know you’re not alone.” Her favourite new venue for these talks is at private parties. “Friends get together and I do a teaching session over wine and cocktails. It’s a fun, uninhibited environment for women to ask questions and share what they’re going through.”



Outside of work, you may recognise Amanda from the beach, where she’ll be working out, swimming (in togs, year-round!) or collecting rubbish. Initially her science brain was drawn to sort and classify the rubbish she picked up as data collection but since then, she has been inspired to create with it and has become drawn to it as a relaxing thing to do. She talks about the strong link between creative process and wellness “Our nervous system is not wired for so much input all the time. We need spaces where we don’t have to be productive, and there’s less input from the outside world.”


Amanda plans to sell prints with proceeds going to non-profits that support women’s empowerment education and beach cleanups.


Health struggles can be overwhelming, and Amanda’s central aim is to take away the feeling of helplessness. “When people understand what’s happening, they make better choices, every day. When you make supportive decisions, you feel better, and that better quality of life makes it easy to choose well.” In an age of information overload, having a relationship with a local expert that you trust is an opportunity to treasure.

www.roe.co.nz or find Amanda on Instagram @functional_them or Facebook Functional TTo learn more head to www.roe.co.nz or find Amanda on Instagram @functional_them or Facebook 2Functional Themwww.roe.co.nz or find Amanda on Instagram @functional_them or Facebook @Functional Them

By Victoria Williams

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