As part of our Growing Admiration series, we interviewed Kimie Pruessner — an extraordinary woman who is a unique triple threat and manages to juggle many roles while staying grounded. As an expert in medicine, motherhood, and photography, Kimie offers a unique perspective on health, nurture, and nature.
What do you do in medicine?
I’m actually a PA—a physician’s assistant. I practiced primary care in a retail clinic before and while I had my kids. About a year and a half ago, I stopped practicing. At the time, I thought I would just change positions, but I became really interested in functional medicine. So, for now, I’m getting certified in functional medicine.
What is functional medicine?
It’s a practice of medicine devoted to curing the primary cause of an illness instead of just treating the symptoms with pharmacology. So instead of using prescription pills, functional medicine looks at what the root cause of the illness is. There’s a huge focus on nutrition and lifestyle changes and a much bigger emphasis on micronutrients, vitamins, minerals that one lacks, and any imbalance in a person’s physiology that could be causing issues.
What motivated this shift from conventional to functional medicine?
My husband had joint pain in his fingers for about three years that was so intense he couldn’t tickle or pick up the kids at times. He went to the conventional medicine doctor, and the basic blood panels they ran didn’t really provide any answers. At the same time, I was becoming aware of his extensive family history of auto-immune issues so I began cleaning things — our house, our diet, etc. I just began to be a little more mindful that maybe our environment was affecting our health.
Then suddenly, he realized the pain was gone. Looking back, the only thing that he could figure out that had absolutely correlated was a change in his hair product. He hasn’t had that pain since he stopped about 2 years ago. At one point, he went to the barber and they used the same hair products he used to use, and the next morning, his finger pain was back.
It was a big wake up call for me. I was never taught in conventional medicine to ask those kinds of questions. So I think it was just a growing realization that I wasn’t going to be able to help people the way I wanted to help them within the realms of conventional medicine. Functional medicine can produce some really impressive results for patients that run out of options from conventional medicine.
What’s the certification program you’re enrolled in?
It’s through the Institute of functional medicine that’s associated with the Cleveland Clinic. It’s a series of 7 modules that are about 3 days each. Topics include GI, detox, immunology, etc.
I’ve really enjoyed it so far, although it’s a little overwhelming at times. In medical and PA school, a lot of your prerequisites are complicated courses like microbiology and organic chemistry. But throughout, you kind of get this idea that you only need to learn it once and then you pass the MCAT and go to medical school or PA school and then you’re kind of done with it while you’re working. But in functional medicine, it’s really important to remember all of those biochemical pathways. If your patient’s genetic testing reveals that they have potential issues based on their genetics, then you have to be able to apply it to their current life. It’s a little more complicated than conventional medicine so it can be a little overwhelming, but it’s exciting and worth it.
How/when did your photography business start?
Well, it started when Lucy was a baby (Lucy’s my oldest — she’s 7 now). Like most parents, I wanted to document every important moment. But when I looked at my pictures, it bothered me that they weren’t great. At the same time, a sister-in-law of mine was getting involved in photography. So I joined a photography group in Dallas for moms. We’d get together specifically to photograph our children and focus on technique and composition and lighting. We kind of taught each other. I learned a lot from those women.
In the midst of that, I realized I didn’t only want to be photographing my kids — I didn’t want them to feel like they were constantly being photographed, so I began shooting my friend’s family for free at first. Eventually, I started a photography business online once I had a better vision for what I wanted to shoot.
Do you mostly shoot families and kids?
Yes, but I love shooting newborns. That’s my favorite. Newborn photography is very technical — there are very specific ways to do it and not to do it in order for it to come out looking beautiful. Then I also shoot families around the holidays.
Why do you love shooting newborns?
Newborns are shot in a 90°F room so the baby can physically relax, and it takes several hours to do it well. You have to be really patient, and you have to refuse to settle. For example, if the baby’s fingers are tense when you’re shooting them, the picture doesn’t look right on the other end. I love the intensity of that. I love that you have to be calm (the baby really can tell if you’re tense and anxious).
What’s your family like?
Lucy is our oldest — she’s 7. Elliot is 5 ½, Oliver is 4, and Charlie is 2 ½. And wow — it really is true, life changes so much when you have kids.
I homeschool them right now which is a huge responsibility. I don’t know that I was born to homeschool (if you know what I mean), but I do think that it’s the best thing for our kids at this point. And this could change, but I really enjoy getting to be as involved as I have been in these early years, and I especially enjoy letting my kids be kids for a little longer. Everything I read intimates that it’s not in a kid’s best interest to be seated at a desk for 8 hours a day. When my oldest turned 5, it was a no-brainer that I wanted her to be playing outside still and playing imaginatively throughout that whole year.
I think a lot of people think homeschool is public school at home. But it’s not at all what it is.
What’s your homeschool philosophy?
We follow a Charlotte Mason philosophy. Charlotte Mason was an educator in the 1800s in England who devoted her life to education. Her educational philosophy is through narration. So I do a lot of reading to the children and then they narrate back to me what they heard — and there’s an expectation that each child might take something different away and that’s okay. It’s not up to the teacher or the parent to tell a student what they should be learning, but rather offer rich resources to the children so that they can learn what they need to.
Another very important aspect of Charlotte Mason philosophy is nature study. We go to nature preserves often, and we spend a lot of time making observations about what we see and what it reminds us of. Charlotte Mason emphasizes the importance of being in love with nature around you before learning all the scientific names of what’s around you. I feel like I missed out on falling in love with the educational content before you dissect it and learn every bit about it — and that’s what I’m trying to offer my kids.
Why do you feel nature is important?
I think nature reveals so much about the intelligent being who created it. The beauty of it, the thoughtful way everything works together, the ecological systems that are so carefully balanced…It’s just amazing how things came to be.
I also think nature helps ground us in a lot of ways. From just a physical standpoint, outside strengthening the microbiome that lives in and on us to keep us healthy. But also emotionally and spiritually — there’s something very humbling about being in nature and realizing that we have some commonalities with other created living things, whether that’s animals or plants. It makes me feel in awe and sure there is something greater than ourselves.
Pretty much any mom can attest to this: if you put your kids in front of the screen, it may help for a short term, but my kids’ attitudes are just awful when they’ve been on a screen. It’s the opposite when they’ve been outside. They just seem refreshed in a way that you can’t recreate when they’ve been inside — and especially on a screen.
What is some advice you have for mothers who are juggling many roles?
Honestly, you’re talking to me at a vulnerable time — it’s really really hard being at home with the kids. Being at the office as a PA was about a thousand times easier than being home with kids. So as someone who’s juggling a lot of roles, I would just say, ask for help. Ask for help, accept help, and offer help as often as you can.
Being the recipient of help is a huge blessing. Being able to offer help even when you don’t have all your ducks in a row is a huge blessing too — and to both giver and recipient. There are times in my life that I’ve thought I wasn’t able to give until I’ve taken care of all the things at home, but this stage of life has helped me realize that I do have something to offer other people even when I feel like my own life is a mess.