Amy O'Brien is a Doctor of Chinese Medicine
Amy O'Brien is a doctor of Chinese Medicine and self described fabulous health guru. Amy hails from Melbourne, where she studied and practiced before taking two courageous life 'leaps' at once; moving to across the country to Perth, and establishing her own private practice. When Bhalo first referred Amy to me, it's was the courage behind these two decisions that drew to find out more about Fabulous Health, and the lovely lady behind it. In the process of compiling this interview over the last few months I have enjoyed very much 'getting to know' Amy across various social medias, with her enthusiasm for her practice positively beaming out at me from across the country. Amy has a genuine love for solving your health conundrums and exudes joy across the inter-webs with her thoughtful and honest advice. Read on to find out more about Amy's experiences - how she got started in Chinese Medicine, her lifelong dedication to learning, and her number one guilty pleasure (hint: it's still pretty good for you in the scheme of things).
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Owner: Amy O'Brien
Business: Fabulous Health
Who are you and what do you do?
I was first introduced to and fell in love with Chinese Medicine when I was thirteen. My sister was incredibly unwell and I got to see how drinking Chinese herbs offered her the most brilliant health solutions where more obvious solutions - pills, implants and surgeries had failed.
It was a game changer for me and it opened up my mind to broader possibilities. How on earth had cooking up sticks and twigs and bark that looked like they could have been collected in our backyard create such positive shifts where surgery could not?
So I learnt more, at RMIT in Melbourne I studied a Bachelor of Applied Science (Chinese Medicine) and a Bachelor of Applied Science (Human Biology). I worked in hospital settings in both Melbourne and China eventually set up practice in Melbourne as part of a bigger health clinic – Fertile Ground Health Group.
Then three years ago I moved to Perth, where I started my own little practice, called Fabulous Health. And I am all sorts of in love with it. It has been such a lovely, albeit full-on experience. Running a small business so very often is.
I created Fabulous Health because I realised how often we are putting up with feeling ‘okay’ or ‘not bad’. How people will readily put up with terrible insomnia, horrible periods or digestive issues just because they’ve been told that “it’s normal” or “there’s nothing they can do”. Which is just not true.
I love filling those gaps and offering real and long term solutions. I love it because I believe in my heart that when we feel our best we can get on with the business of living the life we are here to live. Feeling good has the most beautiful ripple effect throughout our own bodies, our lives and our community.
At the core of the core of what I do is the belief that life is just too short to feel anything less than fabulous.
Chinese Medicine is an ancient practice with well established traditions - how have you adapted your practice for modern lifestyles and health complaints?
It’s pretty interesting when you get into it, because actually, the best solutions that Chinese Medicine can offer so called ‘modern diseases’ – things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), infertility, hypertension, ADHD, allergies etc are actually wrapped up in the texts that were first carved into bamboo two thousand years ago.
I have recently graduated from a three years postgraduate in Classical Chinese Medicine. In the last three years I have only prescribed herbal formulas that were written two thousand years ago. And they work a treat.
Even for conditions that couldn’t have occurred back then – like, for example, coming off the the Pill to find you don’t have a period. That wasn’t happening two thousand years ago, but it can still be treated successfully with herbs. It really is quite fascinating.
You have been in practice now for 7 years; What are the greatest challenges in being your own boss?
Switching off. Absolutely the hardest thing. I am my own receptionist, website person, social media person, towel washer, accountant, stock orderer, practice manager as well as being the practitioner and the ever-learning student of a medicine that is much older than I am with a lot to learn.
There are always things to do. But sometimes you just have to step back and spend some time away from the To Do List.
It helps now that I have realised that the To Do List actually never ends, so you might as well break it up and step outside and go for a walk in the park or a giggle with a friend every now and then!
What are your greatest successes or moments of pride?
It’s all of the little things. A thank you card when someone has a baby that may have helped with, a text message that someone is feeling a million times better since their last appointment, or that they’ve gotten their period after a year of it being MIA.
It’s probably just the gratitude in someone’s eye when you know you have really and honestly changed the shape of their days in a beautifully positive way.
I also feel incredibly proud watching people grow in their relationship with and understanding of health. When a ‘night-owl’ learns to get an early night and feels the benefit of it, or when a ‘quick eater’ learns to slow it down, when a ‘busy mind’ finds time to meditate. These are all significant wins because these are tools that that person will have for life.
Many years ago one of my patients named her baby Amy after me. That comes to mind as being pretty special.
How does a typical work day pan out for Fabulous Health?
I consult from 10am – 6pm, give or take a little.
I have beautiful and deep conversations with lovely people about their health concerns and their progress, I take their pulse using Classical Chinese Med techniques, palpate their abdomen, give them acupuncture, pop on some nice tunes and leave them to rest whilst I make up the perfect herbs for them. This often involves pouring over notes and textbooks.
I play receptionist and cleaner in between, but it’s not so chaotic. I design my days to be intentionally slow and staggered so that I feel calm and centered, because that’s when I do my best work.
As for how I balance work and ongoing study - well that is defiantly in a constant state of flux. The people I work with are my biggest teacher. When I don’t understand how a symptom fits, or a certain pulse quality is unusual then I hit the books hard.
I have amazing colleagues all around the world to bounce cases, theories and formulas around with, so good feedback, support and study inspiration is never too far away.
Savvy, Sass or Study?
I’m not going to lie – you need all of it to maintain a business. You learn to pull from the strengths you have and work on those that need work. Or outsource them. I am not savy in an tech/online sense, so when I set up a website I literally took a paper drawing of what I wanted my website to look like to my designer, and she did the rest!
Sass, in the form of confidence, has to come from experience and authenticity.
Study, and god knows I have done a lot of that, is essential for credibility long term.
Want - learning or opportunity?
Opportunity. I feel like I have done a lifetime of learning and I am ready to take everything I have learnt and form something pretty special.
I plan to step into writing and develop the Fabulous Health blog into the most amazing and vibrant resource - chock full of amazing information to support people’s health all the world around.'
Need - apprentice or expert?
Apprentice. I am actually integrating another Chinese Medicine practitioner into Fabulous Health at the moment.
I never saw this as something I would do, but came to the realization one day that Fabulous Health was becoming bigger than Amy O’Brien! I can’t do it all. No one can. We are not superwomen, or superpeople, as our ego might like us to believe. And naturally, at the same time the perfect candidate came along, so the rest is history!
I know I will need support in the clinic whilst I develop the online side of Fabulous Health. It’s nice to know that if I am sick or on leave that take everyone will be looked after just fine in my absence.
Teleportation. Absolutely. So that I could go for a bike ride with my best friend, and cuddle my nieces and nephew whenever I like.
Tea or coffee: Rooibos chai with almond milk. Yes I am that person.
Favourite place in the world: Home
Favourite way to unwind: Walking my puppy dog on the beach with my lovely man
Guilty pleasure: The occasional sneaky piece of dark chocolate while preparing breakfast
Friends of Fabulous Health
One Girl Org an amazing not-for-profit based in Melbourne who I am an ambassador for. They are doing an amazing job of working towards a cause quite close to my heart – using education as a means to empower women’s circumstances, one girl at a time.
TOM Organics, tampon and pads/organic pioneers
Jacqueline Evans, world’s best skincare
Liefje, makers of delicious chocolate
Vege threads, amazing basics
Bhalo, my fave clothes ever
The Little Shop of Plenty, makers of fine food and all round lovely folks. These guys are just about to open their own café in Perth and I cannot wait!
*Amy's 'friends of' list contains no less than four of my personal lady-business crushes/all time favourite brands AND to top it all off - to all those out there that I'm Christmas gifting this year, there are so many hints in this 'friends of' list. So many. What can I say? Amy has great taste :)
How can I contact you?