Provider Spotlight: Diane Dunniway, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC
by Wynter Kaiser
Diane Dunniway graduated Summa Cum Laude from Illinois Wesleyan University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing in 1995. She received the Outstanding Student Award when she graduated with her Master’s in Nursing Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 2002, and was credentialed for her Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner degree through the National Certifying Corporation. She then worked in a very busy OB/GYN Practice and later also taught for UIC in their master’s program as well as oversaw the midwifery and women’s health nurse practitioner student clinicals outside of Chicago.
Diane graduated in 2010 with the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) from UIC. Her focus during that time was on hormones—from puberty through menopause. For her cycling patients, she found Creighton Model Fertility Care—and took the training to become a Fertility Care Practitioner as well as a Certified Fertility Care Medical Consultant. She uses Naprotechnology (Natural Procreative Technology) which is the new women’s science that has resulted from the research in Creighton Model. It was just a natural next step then for Diane to obtain her Functional Medicine Certification through the Functional Medicine University in 2018. She currently is licensed in both Florida and Illinois and sees patients via Telemedicine with My Catholic Doctor, PLLC.
Diane focuses on a variety of issues such as gut health, hormones, infertility, thyroid, adrenals, menopause, and much more!
Watch our interview with Diane Dunniway, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC:
Diane Dunniway: I am a women’s health nurse practitioner, and I absolutely love DUTCH for how it helps me to see the whole picture and interplay between hormones and adrenals. And then I can look at that and associate it with their thyroid as well because they all affect one another. And DUTCH has really helped me to counsel better my women that are on hormones, because it is not the hormone, per se, that causes problems like breast cancer. It is what the body does with hormones, and no test before DUTCH ever told me that before–the metabolism through the liver, the methylation of their estrogen. So those are the things I love about DUTCH.
DUTCH: What inspired you to become a healthcare practitioner?
Diane Dunniway: I had been a nurse for a number of years in various roles in the hospital and in the community, and I knew that I loved teaching. I loved teaching patients. I also wanted to teach nurses, and I knew I needed to go on in my education. But I was not sure if I wanted community health nursing, acute care nursing. I loved all parts of nursing that I had done.
Then we had the loss of a full-term baby boy. He had a hypoplastic heart and only lived four days. And it was the outpouring of support that we had –not only from our church community and our family– but from the staff at that hospital that made me want to give back. So I took a position in labor and delivery and I worked with the grief support committee. I would volunteer for those couples that came in with a known loss. But labor and delivery, for the most part, is a happy place. I love teaching women about their bodies. I knew that I did not do well without sleep though, so midwifery was out, and that is why I chose a women’s health nurse practitioner degree.
DUTCH: What is your training?
Diane Dunniway: I started with the Diploma of Nursing. It was a three year program. And then I went back for my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing to Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. Then we got a family going, and when I did go back, I went to The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) for the Masters of Science in Nursing with the focus on women’s health nurse practitioner. I graduated from that and got certified by the National Certifying Corporation and started in a very busy ob/gyn practice. Then a few years later, I did my dream of teaching nurse practitioners for UIC. I taught classes plus I was in charge of their clinicals; anyone outside of the Chicago area, downstate Illinois and around, I made sure of where they got into clinicals and oversaw that.
It was during that time that I had the opportunity to be one of the first classes for the doctorate of nursing practice for UIC. And when you go on for the doctorate, you focus even further in your specialty. So I decided to focus on hormones because when I originally graduated with my nurse practitioner degree, it was in 2002. That was the same year that the Women’s Health Initiative research on hormones hit the fan. Everything we thought we knew about hormones was turned upside-down. I saw women going off hormones right and left and just being miserable. Then just a few years later, I personally became menopausal at the age of 45, so I not only had a clinical reason to study hormones, but I also had a personal reason. So that was what I did for my focus: menopause and hormones. But I wanted something better for my cycling patients as well, because birth control is just given out for the answer to everything in women’s health—from irregular cycles to painful periods to even acne. And I saw the multitude of side effects with birth control and I knew there had to be something better.
During my doctorate of nursing practice training, my other focus was something that I found called Creighton Model FertilityCare. And with Creighton model, it made me drastically change my practice. I no longer prescribed birth control, but I feel like I am helping women so much more because we work with the body instead of against it. In fact, the new women’s science that has resulted is called Naprotechnology (natural procreative technology). I work with women to balance their hormones, and our effectiveness studies to avoid pregnancy equals if not better than the birth control pill. I do a lot of infertility patients and balance things. So I do all of the bioidentical hormones with menopause and my cycling women, and looking at root cause was just a natural next step to functional medicine, which I absolutely love.
I went on to the Functional Medicine University and got certified in functional medicine. I am often asked, if you did 11 years total of education prior to the even the functional medicine degree, why didn’t you just become a doctor? And I mean, it’s a fair question, that’s a lot of years. But I love the nursing model. It has always been wellness-focused; it is looking at the whole person, and it empowers the patient. And that is what functional medicine does as well.
DUTCH: Tell us about your patients and your practice
Diane Dunniway: My practice right now, because I just started this in October, is mainly the patients that I saw in my last ob/gyn practice who have followed me and can see me virtually through telemedicine. But we changed our domicile state to Florida, so now I also have a license in Florida. And I am just starting to get patients from Florida in my practice as well. I do still focus on all of the hormones and thyroid and adrenals, and of course gut health, which is very important for all of my patients. So it has been a fun ride to be able to still see patients no matter where they are at. I may add other states, but I wanted to make sure I had room for my current patients first.
DUTCH: Do you use any other functional testing in your practice?
Diane Dunniway: I do. I do not use as much saliva testing since I now do DUTCH testing. And I do the DUTCH Complete™ mainly. But if it was only adrenals that were off, I will just repeat the adrenal test. But I also do some food sensitivity testing, I do stool testing to look at the whole gut biome. Since doing DUTCH and noticing that a lot of women have problems with methylating their estrogen, I also started doing a methylation blood test and cheek swab. So I see the methylation genetic SNPs as well as how they fit into the methylation cycle. That has been very eye-opening as well.
DUTCH: What are the changes you’ve seen in your patients and or practice since incorporating DUTCH?
Diane Dunniway: The changes I have seen in my practice include being able to counsel women better about their risks and benefits for staying on hormones or going on hormones. What I learned in functional medicine is it is not the hormone itself that can cause problems like breast cancer, but it is what the body does with hormones. So now I can see that metabolism; I can see that methylation, and it helps us to know if it’s safe to keep them on. But it has been rare that I have had to take them off because the supplements and things that we work on with gut health and liver health usually do help significantly. But it makes me feel better keeping them on if I know that their body knows how to handle the hormones.
The other huge change compared to the saliva testing that I did was with the adrenals because the DUTCH Test not only gives me the pattern in 24 hours, and it gives me the 24-hour cortisol, but it also gives me the metabolized cortisol. So for example, they might look flat-lined, where I would be thinking, Oh, I have to throw my whole adrenal insufficiency protocol at them with several supplements. But then I look at their metabolized cortisol, and it is actually high, which means they’re making plenty but they’re over metabolizing it. So that’s a simpler answer at times as well. Or maybe they look like their cortisol is high, but they are not making the metabolized cortisol, it is actually midline or more below. So those patients do not need their cortisol brought down; they need their adrenals supported because they are not clearing their cortisol. And they actually would not tolerate bovine adrenal hormone. So overall, it has helped me treat patients more effectively, and I feel like our outcomes are much better.
DUTCH: Do you use DUTCH as a baseline and do you do any follow-up testing?
Diane Dunniway: Both baseline and follow up actually. I will use it to help my patients pre-conceptually or those who are trying to achieve and having problems so that we can hit as many different possible causes. I will also use it in perimenopause to help in the drastic changes that they are going through, and also to give me an idea of if they will tolerate hormones–if it comes to that–as they get closer to menopause.
I use DUTCH a lot in menopause because I want to know, like I said, that their body is handling the hormones well– and especially if I have worked with their hormones and made drastic changes or worked with their adrenals–then we want to retest (and the patient usually wants to, too) to make sure things have improved.
DUTCH: Are you practicing more virtually than you were previously?
Diane Dunniway: I actually am semi-retired. I work two days a week. But so far, I have had plenty of openings for patients. And due to COVID shelter-in-place last year, I had not seen my grandkids for several months because they live in Florida. That’s why my husband and I moved up our plans to full-time RV in a motorhome. So we sold our house, moved into a motorhome, and made up time with our grandkids last winter. But now I am with a telemedicine company called My Catholic Doctor, PLLC. They have made it so easy because they are credentialing me with insurances, they bill for me, and they are very supportive.
We have all kinds of practitioners on My Catholic Doctor– from family practice to integrative medicine, functional medicine, naturopaths, physical therapists, psychologists, pediatricians. We have everything on there. You just look up what state you live in, and you will see who is certified in your state. So that has made it easy. And then I Zoom with my patients, which is very patient-friendly– even for my very senior patients, it has worked out very nicely. It’s kind of nice, because if I ask them their med list and they can’t remember something, they just go in the next room and get it and can show me and read exactly what they are on. That has been a good advantage. Companies like DUTCH will drop-ship the test kits directly to my patient, and that has been very nice to have with the type of practice I have. I cannot collect kits and keep them and mail them constantly to patients since they don’t come into an office, per se.
DUTCH: Where do you see functional and integrative medicine heading 20 years from now?
Diane Dunniway: I hope to see integrative and functional medicine more mainstream medicine. I would like to see it taught more in the medical schools and nursing schools. More nutrition is needed there, and hopefully the research will continue to grow. It just seems to be growing in leaps and bounds and will be more accepted in mainstream society. I think patients are demanding it and that will happen. We just have to bide our time.
DUTCH: And since you are partially retired, what do you like to do outside of work?
Diane Dunniway: After we made up time with our grandkids in Florida this winter, we are on the move in the motorhome again. Right now we are back in Illinois visiting. We came for Mother’s Day to visit my mom and his mom and our families. But then we are going to go out west and go to Wyoming and Idaho, and I have a son out in Oregon, so we are going to go to that coast. So we love finding hiking places and biking places and kayaking and just exploring this beautiful country. I feel very blessed that I can do that and still do what I am passionate about in treating my women’s health patients.