Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

Wendy Schofer, MD of Family in Focus Story


Empowering parents of overweight children to build healthier families

by Candance Moore

Wendy Schofer, MD of Family in Focus

Wendy Schofer, MD of Family in Focus

It is a scene that has become far too common in medical offices nationwide. The physician, well-intentioned and following evidence-based guidelines, identifies pediatric overweight and obesity but feels inadequate in how to best support the family in the next steps. The young patient's parent - frustrated, worried, ashamed - is disheartened by the "BMI chat" and questions if their child will follow in the family's footsteps of repeated diets and body image concerns. In the middle is a child, wondering what they've done wrong and why they can't have dessert anymore.

Wendy Schofer, MD, owner of Family in Focus, is committed to bringing hope to this scene. She's a Certified Life and Weight Coach, Certified Health and Wellness Coach, and board-certified pediatrician with over 17 years of experience in helping children improve their health. As a mother, she sympathizes with the worry and guilt that many parents experience regarding their child's health. Wendy brings her life experiences to coaching sessions with physicians, parents, and families.

"Things that hold value in the medical office don't necessarily have the same meaning in the home," she remarks. "A number that seemed significant during the appointment becomes an arbitrary goal later, and a well-laid plan by the medical staff becomes a blur the next day. My coaching programs intervene to break that cycle. We meet parents where they are and help them figure out a plan to work for their whole family with weekly support."

Family in Focus is an evidence-based coaching program that empowers parents to create healthier habits for the whole family. Wendy takes off her stethoscope, talks parent-to-parent, and helps clients find wisdom that transcends a checklist. It isn't a medical practice but a life-changing program focused on bringing out the best in people, ultimately leading to better health in the long run.

The program begins by identifying the target numbers-body mass index, weight, A1C - as just data points from a medical examination. Wendy explains those numbers are the tip of the iceberg; focusing on them causes anxiety about expectations, speed of progress, and "fixing" the child. The bigger question is how weight issues began in the first place. Since many parents think they have failed repeatedly with their own dieting attempts, they doubt change will happen for their children. To break the cycle of doubt, failure, and frustration, Wendy tells her clients something liberating: Stop focusing on the numbers. You haven't failed. You've just found a bunch of ways that haven't worked... yet.

"I help parents become the role model for health in their home, regardless of their past experience with weight, diets, or body image," Wendy explains. "Because ultimately it's not just about the child's weight or nutrition, but building connection and healthy habits for the whole family." Before the parents know it, the entire family is creating changes together: finding movement they enjoy, planning yummy meals that fuel the body, and loving who they see in the mirror. If this scenario seems too good to be true, there are testimonials from thrilled clients who can't thank Wendy enough for the positive changes her program has brought to their lives.

It was Wendy's positive experience with life coaching that sent her down this path. "I became a Certified Life Coach because of the difference it made in my own home," she says. "After many other parents told me of similar struggles, I knew I needed to create this program."

Dr. Wendy became a pediatrician because she has a passion for helping children. After serving in the Navy, she settled in Hampton Roads, eventually becoming a physician for CHKD. With a knack for finding the fun in the medical office, she gained a reputation as one of the best in connecting with and befriending nervous patients.  

"As a physician,
I believe in clinical evidence.
But I also believe in
the power of creativity,
curiosity, and love."
                                    - Wendy Schofer, MD

Yet something was missing. Between the hurried visits, diagnoses of childhood weight issues without clear discussions about what that meant for the parent, infrequent follow-ups, and families returning to the environment that caused the weight issues, Wendy wasn't satisfied.

"Naturally, as a physician, I believe in clinical evidence," she explains. "But I also believe in the power of creativity, curiosity, and love. I had to find a way to infuse those things into my career. Life coaching opened up a new world for me."

Wendy began professionally coaching fellow physicians who came to her concerned about burnout and finding a work/life balance. She continues this work today, compassionately helping them work on time management, charting efficiency, and rediscovering joy at home and work. Weight loss and lifestyle coaching are frequently requested topics as clients progress from simply surviving to thriving.

To complement the physician coaching program, she created her Family in Focus signature program for families, affirming the belief that health begins at home. "Relationships are the key to health," she insists. "The people we live with, eat our meals with, and impact on the energy in the room are fundamental to a healthy home life. Their influence is more powerful than a prescription pad could ever be."

Using video conferencing to take this philosophy to parents worldwide, Wendy soon had a growing list of clients whose lives had been transformed. Wendy now hosts web-based coaching programs that are open to physicians, parents, and other adults looking for sustainable weight loss. Clients in her programs still see their own doctors. Her coaching-a compliment, not a replacement, for medical guidance-aims at closing the gap between theory and reality.

Sessions are in an interactive group setting where parents can learn from each other. It's a casual, nonjudgmental place where fears are confronted and effective techniques are shared. Wendy leads the sessions with her infectious laugh and easygoing nature, which set a positive tone. The most challenging parenting issues-from body image to picky eating-are tackled with confidence. One-on-one sessions are also available. She also hosts the weekly podcast, Family in Focus with Wendy Schofer, MD, that's informative, relatable, funny, and right on target. It's available on most major podcasting platforms.

"I'm proud to offer families this effective and transformational program," Wendy smiles. "Everything I've learned in my career has brought me here. I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be."

Wendy Schofer, M.D.

Western Branch, VA .