Revolutionary Medical Practitioner
Most people who grow up to become doctors possess an innate will to learn and work hard. But what has made Dr. Olivia Ly Lesslar a pioneer among medical practitioners is her drive to come up with personalised innovative and unique treatment protocols. An advocate of the link between mind and body, as well as the importance of food and environment, Olivia is the owner-CEO of Lifespan Medicine Australia, as well as a Medical Consultant to numerous organisations all over the world. Above all, she’s a respected global voice in the field of functional medicine with regards to complex chronic conditions, bio-hacking, individualised medicine, psychoneuroimmunology, and preventative medicine.
Telling us how she ‘inherited’ values of innovation and culture of celebration of curiosity, Olivia says, “My father is an integrative and pioneering veterinarian. One of the first vets to use acupuncture on racehorses in Australia in the mid 1970s. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer while in her early 40s, it was a matter of course that not only did she do the recommended standard conventional treatments, but also explored options outside of the mainstream. Those desperate times, when I was in my late teens, formed how I approach patients now – understanding that they are absolutely well within their rights to have curious questions about all their options answered fairly by a compassionate doctor. Our patients are our greatest teachers, and personalised medicine acknowledges the diversity and uniqueness of the human body and spirit.”
Olivia’s journey has been one of unexpected twists and turns and her natural curiosity has driven her to explore areas that are considered unique or niche. It seemed that the universe aligned as well – “Almost every time I took on a research question for personal interest or because a patient presented with a problem I did not understand, my fervour in seeking knowledge meant that I would become somewhat proficient in that particular subject matter clinically, and serendipitously there would be a clinic or clinician seeking exactly the knowledge I had just acquired, which then opened doors further. For example, I was listening to podcasts about sauna therapy, which meant I started doing research into heat therapy and thus heat shock proteins. I happened to meet an author writing a book about cancer treatments and she asked me to write the section on oncological hyperthermia therapy. A few months later, I was in the USA and was introduced to a Yale professor doing hyperthermia therapy in neurodegeneration and I was offered a job with his company!”
After completing her MBBS in Australia, Olivia did several courses for interest including Aeromedical Evacuation, Helicopter Underwater Escape Training, Skin Cancer Medicine, Dermatology, and Clinical Nutritional Management.
A determined lifelong learner, she is now pursuing a Master of Brain and Mind Sciences, University of Sydney 2023; Master of Reproductive Medicine, University of New South Wales 2023; and a Diploma in Clinical Hypnosis and Strategic Psychotherapy.
“Essentially, I am trying to be the doctor that I wish my mum had when she was dying of cancer. I have also been very fortunate to have the right medical mentors come into my life at the right times… and from them I have learnt not just how to be a better doctor, but also how to be a better patient advocate. Specifically Dr Jean-Paul Ly, Dr Marc Heyning, Dr Sandra Cabot, Dr Jay Lombard, Dr Tony Jimenez, Dr Chris Renna, Prof Pete Smith, and Prof Charlie Teo,” she says.
Olivia has a love for travel which has taken her around the world. She has volunteered at Scheer Memorial Hospital, Nepal; with the Jetski Medic program at South Stradbroke Island Queensland; and she was the International NGO Liaison & Board Director of the Medical Rescue Foundation (2010 – 2017), where she worked directly with NGOs to facilitate the insertion of volunteer doctors and nurses into disaster zones during crises. She is on a couple of NGO advisory boards, such as Doctors for Refugees (Australia), and The Darbon Institute (Australia) which advocates for bodily autonomy; she is also on several medical advisory boards worldwide including Oxford Healthspan (UK) and Holo Health (Sweden).
Today, Olivia is also a functional medical consultant to various well established clinics like Wellgevity, London UK; Queensland Allergy, Gold Coast; Cingulum Health, Sydney; Healthy Ambition, London; CFS Health; and LifeSpan Medicine, Santa Monica, USA. Following her return to Australia from LA in 2020, Olivia founded LifeSpan Medicine Australia, a concierge medical and consulting company. As CEO, she gives advice on all aspects of functional/ integrative and ‘future’ medicine – Interventions which are not yet considered mainstream but which have got emerging evidence to warrant continued exploration and safe utilisation eg: hyperthermia therapy, electromagnetic therapies like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).
Speaking about her passion for groundbreaking treatments, she says, “I never thought of myself as being a thought leader and disruptor, but I have learned to find joy in learning and discovering new things, having my convictions challenged, and being proven wrong. I perceive my quickly evolving practice as a positive attribute. If we are not willing to be wrong, and if we are not constantly keeping up-to-date, then why would patients who are trying to find answers beyond the broad strokes guidelines come to us for advice? I try to approach complex medical presentations with a beginner’s mind, a concept from Zen Buddhism called Shoshin: ‘having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject’.”
In this regard, Olivia’s modus operandi is to not ever become too comfortable – with knowledge, the status quo, ‘the system’. “I have learnt, and continue to learn, to push boundaries and ask ‘Why?’. I need to constantly put myself in positions where my beliefs and convictions are challenged. I attend a lot of conferences – in 2022, I would have attended 30 conferences! The reason I do so is to network but also to remind myself how much information is out there that we clinicians are not aware of. I have found that is not really what people know that defines them in medicine, everyone can read the same papers… It is how they think that sets their practice apart. Groups of medical professionals who attend the same conferences with the same colleagues tend to think in certain silo-ed ways, and I think this is a speedbump to innovation and creativity. I support smart work (that is not necessarily hard) whilst leveraging luck that is fortuitous or earned,” she explains.
A natural in front of an audience, Olivia is a powerful orator. An amateur stand-up comic from 2005-2008, today she is a sought after global speaker at medical conventions, and has several publications to her name. In November 2022, she gave an inspiring TEDx Melbourne talk on the rise of chronic disease, appealing to the audience to take control of their health in light of so many modern chronic diseases being lifestyle-driven. She has since been offered a TED Salon on the back of her successful TEDx talk!
Her hope for the future of medicine is that doctors and health practitioners can push back against unnecessary or unethical manipulation by politicians, legislators, Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, Big Supplements, and once again place the patients at the heart of what they do.
She sums up: “As doctors, most of us came to the profession to help, heal and hold hope for our patients. It is not enough to just have a nice bedside manner and execute our duties with efficiency. We need to reclaim that special relationship we have with our community where we champion patients’ rights, approach all patients with compassion, never rest in our quest for knowledge, and truly understand the limitations of our current system. It is only when we acknowledge the shortcomings that we can hope and agitate for better.”