Dr. Susan Sayers, MD
Primary Care Partners
Food for Life Certified Instructor
Dr. Susan Sayers is a runner. The trails she explores near her Grand Junction home seem representative of her life: An elaborate system of continuity where one path leads to another, eventually branching out onto an adjoining track that is consistent, yet new.
Interested in science from a young age, Susan pursued a degree in Biology from the University of Arizona with no idea she would one day become a doctor. From there, she joined the Peace Corps in Thailand where she served as a malaria control volunteer for several years. Afterward, she worked as a research assistant for the Arizona Cancer Center, where she met her husband. This work coupled with the director of the center’s encouragement to pursue medical school further piqued Sayers’ interest in medicine.
Sayers returned to the University of Arizona in her late 20’s, graduated in 1995, and completed her residency at St. Mary’s in Grand Junction. In 1998, she joined Primary Care Partners where she has continued in family practice ever since. Until recently, she worked in obstetrics delivering babies. One of the great joys of her career has been the opportunity to care for as many as four generations of the same family!
Part of her health journey early on included the realization that it was unfair to expect patients to exercise and eat right if she wasn’t doing those things herself. Sayers admitted she needed to practice what she was preaching. So her family got a dog, which they faithfully walked. Eventually, Susan moved from walking to running. She cites her daughter’s involvement with the local organization “Girls on the Run” as part of the inspiration to begin picking up her pace.
The longer Dr. Sayers practiced medicine, the more she recognized that the medications being prescribed were not always effective. “More often than not, it’s about what a person does every day. That’s going to be what contributes the most to their overall health. Someone who is exercising, eating a healthy diet, getting their sleep, keeping their stress levels down—that’s going to do more for their health than any pill I can give them,” Dr. Sayers shares.
Fueled by her own health challenges, Sayers’ interest in nutrition increased. She began researching various diets. In 2016, she attended a conference lecture focused on the benefits of plant-based nutrition. In this course, she learned how eating whole foods and plants can revolutionize overall health, lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer, and offering safe and effective weight management. She discovered that a plant-based diet provides the body with sufficient iron and protein, and can lead to increased energy. Her husband joined her on the adventure of plant-based eating and in a short time, they both lost weight and felt better—a great reinforcement that they were onto something beneficial.
In 2019, Sayers’ practice joined up with Monument Health to conduct a pilot project with eight to ten employees of the Hilltop retirement community. The project was an eight-week wellness program and Sayers was shocked with the results: “They lost weight and their blood sugars and cholesterol levels went down. All of their markers improved! It was better than we see with medication sometimes!”
Convinced more than ever of the need for nutritional awareness and education, Sayers became certified to teach the class “Food for Life” in February of 2020. COVID put her initial teaching plans on the back-burner; however, this spring as restrictions loosened and the vaccine became readily available, things fell into place.
Within 24-hours, her first 30-person class was sold out! The next series, scheduled for June and July, filled up within a few more days. The overwhelming interest was encouraging and reinforcing– this program was in demand and sure to be a success.
“I just finished taking the plant-based cooking class taught by Dr. Susan Sayers. The class was great! I learned how to cook plant-based foods that are appetizing and low fat, and much more than I expected going in. I made new friends in the class and we shared experiences and recipes. Each week we got to sample new recipes, and we had a potluck the last week of class that was amazing. I lost weight, and I am looking forward to seeing what impact I have made on my cholesterol by adopting a plant-based diet. I would highly recommend this class!”
-Terri Chinn,VP of Finance at SCL Health St. Mary’s Medical Center
Focusing on the benefits of a whole foods lifestyle, Food for Life is an introduction to plant-based eating. Each session features Sayers’ demonstration of about three recipes and a chance to enjoy a meal together while discussing various nutritional topics. Sayers hopes to offer another seven-week class this September, furthering health and wellness in the Grand Valley.
Though the scenery of Dr. Sayers’ career path has changed over time, the trajectory remains constant: a desire for quality patient care, a commitment to balance, and a love of family.
To sign-up and learn more about Dr. Sayers’ Food for Life classes, visit: https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/plant-based-diets/ffl/instructors/susan-sayers