It was her Atticus Finch-like dad who modeled the kindness she tries to live by today. Allyson Reynolds, 38, grew up seeing him – an attorney in an agricultural town – provide legal services to people across the economic spectrum. “He had a ton of clients that couldn’t always pay with money, so he would sometimes get paid in potatoes,” says Reynolds. “He showed me that we’re here to take care of each other, not necessarily to make money off of each other. He didn’t treat anyone differently despite their upbringing or whatever problems they had that brought them to his door.”
Her stint with the Peace Corps in Bolivia solidified this philosophy. There, Reynolds provided nutrition education by teaching locals how to improve their farming. “In Bolivia,” she says, “I learned that all people regardless of their socio-economic class or education level deserve help from people who have more resources. They were living in unbelievable poverty, and I didn’t have much to give, but we can all offer the resources of our knowledge and time.”
This is the generosity of spirit that Reynolds brings to her work. A self-described “science nerd,” she earned bachelors’ degrees in zoology and psychology before she decided to enter nursing school at Idaho State University. There she acquired two more degrees and became a Family Nurse Practitioner. She works in the Pediatric Surgery department of St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital and there, with a colleague, established the St. Luke’s Children’s Intestinal Rehabilitation Clinic. She helps infants and children with short bowel syndrome, a condition where young patients don’t have the intestinal function to eat and grow properly.
The clinic brings pediatric gastroenterologists, surgeons, dietitians, social services and pharmacy services together under one roof so that multiple patient needs can be addressed in a single visit. This brings a level of comprehensive care previously seen only in larger cities. “It’s really changed our kids’ lives,” says Reynolds.
In turn, the kids have changed her life. “They’re such an inspiration,” she says. “They’ve taught me that, yes, life has problems but you don’t have to focus on that all of the time. You can focus on what brings you joy.”
One such patient, Brooklyne Williams, was not expected to live past her teen years. Defying odds, she finished two years of college at Boise State University before she passed away at age 20. In her memory, Reynolds established the Brooklyne Williams Memorial Scholarship Endowment for students with chronic illness at BSU.
Reynolds also cofounded Aesthetics of Idaho, a med spa catering to the needs of those who want to age gracefully and naturally. She volunteers for the Treasure Valley Family YMCA, Special Olympics Idaho, and the Boise Rescue Mission. “I take both of my kids when I volunteer at the rescue mission because I want them to learn to give back to others.”
Most memorable airplane trip: “I went on a medical mission to war-torn Africa where we worked in an incredibly poor hospital. My kids were little and I wanted to get home to them, so I was departing a little earlier than the others, traveling home by myself. I boarded the plane late at night. I was so exhausted that I fell asleep the minute I got to my seat. About two hours later the stewardess woke me up and told me to get off the plane. I looked around, and there was not another single person on the plane. I thought, ‘This doesn’t make any sense! We should be over the Atlantic right now.’ I was still half asleep, but I grabbed my carry-on and found my way to the tarmac. It was completely dark outside and all of the doors to the airport were locked. I finally found an unlocked service door to the terminal and located the other passengers from the plane. It turned out something important on the plane broke when they were loading the luggage, but I was in such a sound sleep, I didn’t hear any of the ordeal and slept right through it!”