Mother Teresa wrote, “It is not how much we do but how much love we put in the doing. It’s not how much we give but how much love we put in the giving.” June Barrow sees one of her best friends, Amanda Thornton, in that famous quote.
“Amanda excels here, for she loves deeply in every aspect of her life,” June says. “She has accomplished and attained so much, but to me, it is the love she puts in the doing and the giving, oftentimes unnoticed, that makes this woman a marvelous woman and a marvelous friend.”
When I invited Amanda Thornton to be our Marvelous! Woman in this issue, she was gracious but skeptical. She thought she wasn’t marvelous enough and gave me several opportunities to change my mind. Her reaction was an indication of what June sees in her—a humble woman with a quiet but massive ability to love. In the end, her reluctant willingness to share her story was driven by her mission to encourage women to take charge of their healthcare, something she has been passionate about since high school.
The Work of Teaching Women to Care for Themselves
Amanda worked summers in the nursery at Baxter Regional Medical Center during high school and her undergraduate years, and for five years in BRMC’s Women’s Center after graduating from the University of Arkansas with her nursing degree. When she went back to school to earn her master’s degree as an advanced nurse practitioner, one of the first in the Twin Lakes Area, a coworker encouraged her to ask Dr. Mary Wren, one of the community’s most beloved doctors, to be her preceptor, an experienced medical professional who mentors graduate students. Amanda was too shy to do it, so her friend asked for her. At the time, Dr. Wren wasn’t taking students, but she said yes. It was 2002. The partnership would change Amanda’s life.
About the same time, Mary was realizing her dream of opening a women’s health education center at BRMC. The Schliemann Center for Women’s Health Education, which now bears Josee Schliemann’s name, is devoted to supporting women in all phases of life and health, helping them to choose wellness and balance, and inspiring them to make positive life changes. Most of the resources are free to the community. Mary asked Amanda to serve on the original board of directors, a testament to how highly she thought of a young new professional in the field.
“I am so proud to be on the board at SCHWE, started in 2002 by my dear friend, Mary Wren,” Amanda says. “I am one of the few original board members left. Mary asked me to be a part of this, and I had no idea where the journey would go or what we would do. The awesome thing about this board is that every woman on it gives her time and her talents to support women. I have seen the programs we offer inspire and motivate women to make positive changes for themselves, and that is a passion of mine. I truly believe in the mission there. I’m shy in so many ways, but I’m passionate about reaching women whenever I can by talking about their health.”
She recently completed two years as chairperson on the board. Corinne Hiser, ANP at Regional Family Medicine, is also an original SCHWE board member. “It has been such a pleasure, and an honor, serving alongside Amanda,” Corinne says. “Her commitment to women’s health is absolutely overwhelming. What a gem she is in our community!”
Jaren Beavers, coordinator at SCHWE, has also worked closely with Amanda. “I can vouch that women’s health is a top priority for Amanda,” Jaren says. “During her service as advisory board chair, we awarded the most scholarships to date at our annual Teen Girls Go to College event, set a record goal at our annual fundraiser, which helps raise funds for childbirth classes, Lunch & Learns, and support groups for women that meet monthly at the Schliemann Center. Not only is she a visionary, always thinking of how to better meet the health needs of women in our community, she is also not afraid to do the grunt work, whether it be decorating all day for our Wurst Party Ever fundraising event, staying late after work to help support and serve dinner at one of our Girls’ Night Out programs, or helping to connect one of her patients with our lactation support services. She is an outstanding professional.”
The community thinks so, too. Amanda received the Medical Professional of the Year award from the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce in 2015.
For the past 12 years, she has worked beside Dr. Harley Barrow at The Center for Women, the clinic where Mary Wren practiced. June is married to Harley. It’s easy to see the close ties between these coworkers and friends. The Barrows often vacation with Amanda and her husband, high-school sweetheart Kenny, who is chief executive officer and president of First National Bank of Izard County in Calico Rock. They’ve been known to make annual trips together to Journey concerts.
“I love my job and the people I work with,” Amanda says. “We are like a family. I love taking care of women. I love that I get to be a part of their lives. In the room, they share their life stories with me. I have seen people go to college, graduate, get married, have babies, lose babies, get cancer, survive cancer, lose a battle with cancer, lose a loved one, and pass on. My patients inspire me to be better.”
Dr. Barrow sees that love in Amanda every day at work.
“Amanda has an incredible work ethic and attention to detail,” Dr. Barrow says. “I know our patients are being taken care of by someone who truly cares about each of them as an individual. The confidence Amanda exudes, and the care she takes, helps patients have faith that they are going to improve and flourish. Her ability to individualize their treatment is an incredible attribute.”
To help her remember her patients as individuals, Amanda takes detailed, very specific notes. She wants to be familiar with her patients and their families, to understand their histories, knowing that’s how she can best help them.
“I offer them wisdom, and I receive it as well,” she says. “It’s one of the many things I learned from Mary.”
If you are one of her lucky patients at The Center for Women, you have seen Amanda’s passion in action.
“Amanda Thornton is one of the kindest, most amazing medical professionals I have ever seen,” says patient Christy Keirn. “I used to dread walking into the doctor’s office, regardless of whether it was for a routine exam or a suspicious symptom I’d been sweating about for days. There is nothing pretty about annual gynecological exams, but Amanda is the greatest technician in the world. She walks into the exam room with a reassuring smile and I know it will be a breezy, pain-free experience. There have been days that I have cried on her shoulder about menopausal symptoms, and others when I laughed so hard with her that I cried. Amanda is certainly a marvelous woman and an even more marvelous healthcare provider.”
In addition to taking care of her patients and continuing the work she started with Mary, helping women to be advocates of their own care, Amanda also gives back to the community by mentoring scores of nurse practitioner students. She nearly always has a student shadowing her at the clinic.
“She continues to fight for the focus and care of women’s health issues,” Dr. Barrow says. “She gives her time, work, and money to continue the support of the many programs she and Dr. Wren helped start. I see the same passion for women’s health in Amanda’s life that I saw in my great friend, Mary. She is carrying on the torch.”
“My dad called me a women’s liberator,” Amanda says with smile that reveals how much she misses him. She lost her dad last year. “I’ve always had a passion for helping women feel more powerful.”
Raising Her Family in Calico Rock
Amanda’s dad, Del Moad, was an Arkansas State Trooper for more than 30 years whose first assignment was in Calico Rock. He never left. It’s where both Amanda and Kenny were raised, and where they are now raising their own family. When they moved home after college, they fixed up a small, two-bedroom trailer Kenny’s parents owned in Pineville, “a suburb of Calico Rock,” Amanda says with a smile.
“I’m talking hardwood floors and oak cabinets, and a hot tub on the front deck!” She laughs, but they were happy there with their two Weimaraners until, five years later, they decided to move into town. Kenny is a businessman, and in his world, everything is for sale for the right price. He will sell her stuff if she isn’t watchful, Amanda jokes. Kenny bought a home in Calico Rock, and the couple took out the avocado and pink décor, shag carpet, walls and windows, and to Amanda it looked like a million bucks. She even had a dishwasher and a garage with a door opener. But it took only a few months for her to realize that she belonged in the country. She couldn’t get used to the trucks and sirens.
“I longed for a gravel road and silence,” she says.
One day she came home and Kenny had found another house with land outside of town with no neighbors.
Their first child, Madelyn, was on the way. The timing was right. Today they still live in that home and raise cattle on a nearby farm. They own a second home on Lake Norfork where they enjoy the water and the views. It, too, is secluded.
“When you look at Amanda, you might think she is a girly-girl,” her mom, Liz Moad, says, “but not so much. She has always been a daddy’s girl. She took every step he took, and would much rather be fishing, boating, swimming, running, or watching football (Razorbacks, of course) than anything else.”
“I am super competitive,” Amanda says, seriously. “I love to win, but I hate conflict.”
She’s also hypercritical, her own description. When she gets something wrong, which I glean isn’t often, it haunts her until she can make it right. That competitive nature, the high standards she sets naturally for herself and others, the striving for perfection, were knocked off balance, demanding to be examined, when Amanda’s daughter, Madelyn, now 10, was diagnosed with dyslexia. It was very difficult for Amanda in the beginning, but little Madelyn would prove to her mother that she was exactly who and what Amanda has always been fighting for—a woman’s independence and her ability to take responsibility for her life and her health.
“My daughter is the opposite of me,” Amanda says. “She has dyslexia and is as laid back as they come. It’s important to me that a woman be independent and for me to model all of the things I want for my daughter—to be a mom, a career woman, a volunteer. She is crazy smart in a way I will never understand. Every mother wants her child to be the very best, to stand out. Madelyn made me realize that my version of perfection wasn’t hers, and I am so glad! She is more than I could have ever hoped for. She keeps me in check and makes me want to be a better person.”
Together, mother and daughter have become advocates for dyslexia, working to ensure that people don’t view it as a disability but rather as a different learning style. In October 2014, they stood in the capital in Little Rock with other dyslexic children from across the state as Governor Mike Beebe declared October Dyslexia Awareness Month. Amanda stays on top of legislation, encourages Madelyn to be vocal about what she needs, to stand up for herself and ask for things that might help her learn a different way, to not be shy or ashamed of being different.
While Madelyn is Amanda’s opposite, she says her son, Eli, 6, is herself made over, a small, male version of herself.
“He stole my heart from the first cry,” she says. “He is loud, crazy, mischievous, energetic, handsome, kind-hearted, smart, curly-haired with two big dimples. Can you tell I’m a little crazy about him? He probably gets away with murder.”
What he gets away with is tickling, putting snakes in her bed, and yelling boo from behind the door.
“I have had to learn how not to panic when he is playing in the mud,” she says, “but instead jump in with him and take pictures. He is the best snuggler in the world and will always be my favorite superhero.”
Her faith is important to her. She feels it was God’s grace that helped her through losing Mary Wren and her father last year. One of the hardest things she has ever experienced was losing her dad, but she says it changed her, helped her to realize how important it is to live life to the fullest and with purpose, to not only give grace to others but to receive it as well.
“Her faith is reflected in everything she does—her work, her family, her friends,” Liz says. “Her light shines every day. This is what makes her marvelous.”
“I don’t have a great story, but I hope I can just be an example to others,” Amanda says. “The struggle is real, and the struggle is different for everyone. I am so lucky that I was blessed with two parents who loved me and disciplined me, and worked hard, sometimes at two jobs, to support us. I was raised to work hard, and it was my goal and aspiration to be able to support myself no matter what. So now, being a woman with a career, I try to balance everything that is important to me. How do you be a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a devoted church member, an employee, and a volunteer? I am thankful that I have a village of supporters that helps me. I am so thankful I have a partner in my husband who supports me in everything I do and helps me to do this life. It is hard at times, but it is possible.”
Madelyn recently wrote a book report on Florence Nightingale, quoting her as saying, “I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuses.”
Amanda loves that about Florence and Madelyn. She wants other women to hear it: Whatever it is, whatever you’re doing, give it your best! Full on! Heart in!” M! April May 2016
EEK! I don’t wash my face before bed, lol! I use Dove soap and Neutrogena lotion for sensitive skin.
Nothing special, but my staple is Lancome Dual Finish Powder along with Maybelline powder foundation and dollar-store lipstick (Cocoa Shimmer!)
I love a good boutique and all the locals—freckles chic, Posh, Shabby 2 Chic, Studio West, Bell, and Lemon Tree.
Place to lunch with girlfriends
Lunch? What’s that?! I love to work out at the gym with my trainer, Angela Lewis, and best friend, June Barrow, when I can.
Restaurant for an evening out
The Grill at Whispering Woods.
Spot for a picnic
Sandy Beach on Lake Norfork or lunch on the pontoon.
Body of water
Lake Norfork and the Gulf of Mexico.
Way to spend an evening
Pajama pants at the lake house with family, the hot tub, glass of wine, and music on the back deck.
Way to relax
Again, pajama pants or a good workout!
Anything! I love being outside playing with the kids, running, watching my kids play sports (I love a good competition!)
I love the beach, of course, but any trip with my family and friends is my ideal vacation.
Advice for younger women
Be strong. Be courageous. Be kind. Love hard. Be true to yourself. Work hard. Take ownership of your life. Do nothing half-hearted.
Three words that describe me
Loyal, determined, compassionate.
10 things every woman should have
• A group of close friends and at least one best friend to share secrets with
• A quiet place
• A passion
• Wine and a wine glass
• A love of their life
• A coffee pot
• Pajama pants
• A personal trainer and chef! (lol, but I better keep it real)
Dream for the future
Health and happiness for my children.
What people might not know about me
I am very shy and insecure. M! April/Mary 2016