Dr. Kimberly Byers-Lund is known by many names. At home, she's "Mom." In her family medicine practice, she's "Doctor." And as a physician reservist in the U.S. Army, she's "Major." Each role brings her immense joy. But it's her military charge that has taught her the true meaning of sacrifice.
"It's amazing what our armed forces do for us," she says. "While we go about our day, they are putting their lives at risk to keep us safe."
The decision to join the Army came easy to Dr. Byers-Lund, but it also came late. She was 50, her four children were grown-up, and her career was in full swing. While she always wanted to serve, she worried about how it would affect her family, so she waited until the time was right.
As it turns out, the late start gave her an edge. Affiliated with Sharp Coronado Hospital, Dr. Byers-Lund has been engrained in the island's military community for years. And as a TRICARE provider affiliated with SharpCare Medical Group, she treats many military families and veterans. "I had already seen one side of the coin," she says. "The time seemed right to see the other."
So off to boot camp she went, learning everything from firing a weapon to defending a convoy. On the medical side, she learned how to prepare soldiers for combat, how to set them up in a helicopter and how to provide mental health services. "It's an incredible hardship," she says, "seeing the things they see and then being away from their support systems."
It's hardship for Dr. Byers-Lund too. Today, she spends five weeks a year in Germany, Belgium or Italy — caring for soldiers serving in Africa, the Middle East or Europe. Some are injured from missions, some are just passing through, and some live and work for the United States in Europe. Like them, she relies on FaceTime to keep her connected to her family.
Then, every 18 months, she is assigned a mission. "My next one was supposed to be Afghanistan," she says, "but with increased hostility there, they rerouted me. Instead of family medicine doctors, they're sending ER and trauma docs."
For most people, the prospect of going to a hostile country is scary — and Dr. Byers-Lund is no exception. But caring for our brave men and women brings her courage she never knew she had. In fact, she considers it an honor.
"I listen to their stories," she says. "I learn their ambitions. I hear their fears. They miss home, and they worry about the unknown." And once she's done, she flies right back to San Diego — to care for the families who wait for them.