Inspired | Dr. Betsy Grunch
Becoming Dr. Grunch
Like many young girls, Betsy looked up to her mother and wanted to be just like her when she grew up. Her mom was blazing a trail, working as a police officer in the 90s, a male-dominated field (it still is), as well as being a member of their dive team. She was the definition of a badass, and even at such a young age, Betsy could tell that her mother was special.
Two weeks before Betsy was going to start high school, her step-father was woken up in the middle of the night. Her mother’s vehicle had been shot at and run off the road, where it hit a tree.
“I remember going to the hospital and mom going through surgery. Then the neurosurgeon talked to us as a family, he told us she would never walk again.”
Her mom had suffered a cervical spinal fracture. She never regained function in her limbs and was quadriplegic. Her mom was only 34 years old when she went from being an avid workout fanatic to being unable to move her arms or legs.
After the accident, Betsy became a certified nursing assistant so she could take care of her mother. Her mom went through rehabilitation where their family was surrounded by other families in similar situations. This fueled Betsy’s desire to go into neurosurgery so she could help people like her mom. She began shadowing her mother’s neurosurgeon in high school and that solidified her interest in the field of neurosurgery.
The goal of becoming a neurosurgeon motivated her to do well in school, and pushed her to do her best. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at the University of Georgia and then went to the Medical College of Georgia. Next, she matched into neurological surgery at Duke, where she trained until 2013.
Dr. Grunch then came back to her hometown where she joined the same practice that her mother’s neurosurgeon was working at. It was truly a full circle moment, working in the town she grew up in alongside her early mentor.
When Covid hit, her world changed. Everyone’s world changed but especially for those in healthcare. They shut down ORs and weren’t allowed to operate. While they still saw some patients, there was extra time on their hands. Dr. Grunch and her physician assistant had always done social media, with random postings here and there, but they decided to do some more educational content.
Her content went viral and she quickly built her following. A comment that she frequently got was how excited everyone was to see a woman in this specialty, let alone seeing a neurosurgeon on social at all. This encouraged Dr. Grunch to learn more about TikTok and she began approaching it as a professional content creator.
“I was inspired by all the aspiring healthcare professionals and how much they were interested and encouraged by me, my team and neurosurgery in general.”
When patients are in front of their doctors, information can be overwhelming or they don’t get all the information they need. This educational platform can help teach about her field and empower patients with the knowledge they are seeking. Dr. Grunch explains complicated terminology in easy to understand language. It takes a lot of time, but it’s something she enjoys and is motivated to continue.
There is of course also a negative side to social. While it is really cool and motivating to see students who want to be in the field, there are so many people who go to social to complain about their jobs or to tear others down.
“I always want to be the light."
She has grown a lot in the last few years and learned not to be hurt by the keyboard warriors. As a healthcare provider, she wants people to know she absolutely loves her job and a lot of healthcare professionals do as well. Furthermore, they can have fun and lead normal, full lives.
Balancing It All
It’s tough, but definitely possible! Dr. Grunch said having a very supportive spouse and partner helps her balance. She works 50-60 hours a week and is a content creator on the side, but being a mom is her #1 priority. She makes it a point to take her kids to school every day and to be home for dinner when possible. She will leave paperwork until after they go to bed and will stay up late to finish the work.
Her son is seven and her daughter is four. They look up to her and want to be just like Mommy. The kids ask many questions and they often talk about operating on people even if they don’t understand it all.
Dr. Grunch has a few self-care recipes for keeping her cool. She works out almost every morning for 30-60 minutes before anything else happens. Before she answers phone calls, before anyone wakes up, “5:30-6:30 – that's my me time.” She’s also a fan of attending football games and concerts, and traveling when her schedule allows it.
The Doctor is In (a JUNK Headband)
Initially, Dr. Grunch loved JUNK headbands to work out in. A Peloton influencer shared an Instagram story with a JUNK headband on and that sold Dr. Grunch. She had always struggled to find a good workout headband and was excited to try JUNK.
“It fit great. It didn’t give me a headache. It didn’t slip. It was washable,” she enthusiastically lists out the benefits of the headband.
During the pandemic, healthcare workers weren’t allowed to wear their fabric surgical caps, but Dr. Grunch still needed something to keep her hair back under the disposable caps provided by the hospital. JUNK headbands fulfilled that need and she stuck with them even after restrictions were lifted. They were easier and she could wear different designs to spice up her daily uniform. She even influenced coworkers to wear them, too.
“I can still take my hair down at the end of the day or style my hair after; JUNK makes it really easy.”
“Self-love is so important. We all want to please others so we end up putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to be the best. But to be the best versions of ourselves, we first have to understand and love ourselves. I wish I had known that years ago.”