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Get to Know Board Member Dr. Meredith Byers

January 5, 2022 - Ask Dr. Meredith Byers what she’s most proud of accomplishing in her lifeMeredith Byers and she doesn’t hesitate with an answer.

“That’s an easy one— my family,” she says. “We’re trying really hard to grow good humans in our house. That’s easier said than done at times. They’re all very different. We’re not so concerned about grades or making the team or getting a part in the school play—we’re proud we’re growing kind, compassionate people.”

A resident of Kirkwood, Byers has represented Subdistrict 5 on SSD’s Board of Education since 2021. Her subdistrict covers Brentwood, Kirkwood, Lindbergh, Maplewood-Richmond Heights, Valley Park, and Webster Groves school districts. She and her husband, Dr. Derek Byers, have three children who all attend public schools and have received services from SSD. 

Byers and her husband were introduced to SSD when their oldest child was a toddler and began showing signs of a learning disability. A parent educator in Kirkwood’s Early Childhood Program recommended getting him evaluated. By kindergarten, he had an IEP that fit his needs. She credits SSD with providing her children with the strategies they needed to be successful in school.

“As a parent and a community member, the beauty of my oldest son going to a school that has SSD services is that his therapists became our friends and part of our community. His classmates are people he’s known since they were all preschoolers. They see him as their longtime friend. Our lives have been integrated with SSD from the beginning.”

Professionally, Byers is a radiologist who specializes in women’s health. She is thrilled to be working her “dream job” at Central Radiation Group, a practice that serves women in St. Louis and St. Charles counties, especially in the zip codes hit hardest by COVID-19. She previously worked at Washington University, where she was an assistant professor for 15 years. 

Describe your job as a radiologist.

My passion is for women to get the healthcare that they need. And not just a mammogram and breast health, but preventative care, as well. My current practice runs clinics in two counties. We also can provide COVID-19 vaccinations to our patients. It’s all part of meeting the many health needs of women in our area.

What does serving on the SSD Board mean to you?

When we first moved to Kirkwood from Texas, my oldest child was six months old. We had no connections and no family here. We soon became involved with Kirkwood’s Parents as Teachers organization. Our parent educator was like a grandmother to my son and a second mom to me. But we struggled to find playgroups to start some socialization. One day, after taking my son to the Magic House, he became inconsolable. We decided to do some testing and later got a diagnosis of a learning disability with some behavior issues. We started doing therapy for 20 hours a week. By kindergarten, he was in a much better place and had an IEP that fit his needs. It really showed me just how much early intervention matters, how much new parents need information, expertise, and community resources to figure it out. It was a real learning experience for me.

Our job as Board members is to listen and advocate for SSD’s families and staff. We encourage them to tell us what’s on their mind so we can understand their concerns—and they don’t have to wait until they’ve exhausted all their options at school to contact any Board member. The most direct way to contact us is to email us. We’re very transparent and share these emails among all the Board members. We’ll meet you for coffee if you like, or we can talk on the phone. It’s part of our job to establish more contact with SSD parents and staff.

Who has been the greatest influence on your life?

I come from a family of educators, so I thank them for instilling in me the value of education. I also count my husband (a pulmonary specialist) as a great influence—I’ve always known he was great, but going through the pandemic has opened my eyes to the amazing human he is. And I must give credit to my kids, God, and my faith, as well.

What keeps you awake at night? 

Mental health— of students, staff, and society, even on the best of days as we move through the pandemic. Where will we be when this is all over? For our family, it’s a daily concern. In my work, we’re dealing with lots of health issues. I worry about where we’re all going to end up.

What are you reading that you’d recommend to others?

One book I just started reading that I wish everyone in the whole world would read is a new one called “What Happened to You?” by Dr. Bruce Perry. It unpacks how childhood experiences and trauma impact the rest of your life. I think it’s important to understand trauma-informed care and restorative justice. This book is doing a nice job of explaining it to me. The other one is “Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It.” It’s about inherent racism in society and how we can break that cycle.

What does the Byers family do for fun?

We are big fans of being outdoors, so we like working in the garden, planting flowers and trees, hiking, and biking. We have woods next to our house, a big family of deer nearby, and a dog that loves being outside. We have a goldendoodle named Newton—he’s a 75-pound lap dog who crawls into bed with my youngest and lays on top of him. 

Describe your favorite meal.

I love salad! I know that’s crazy, but I do. Any kind—fancy or with fun ingredients. I especially love salads from Crushed Red. My kids always laugh because they’ll say, “What will we have for dinner?” But they already know what I want.

If you could meet and chat with anyone in the world (dead or alive), who would it be?

We’re huge fans of the musical “Hamilton” and we’re looking forward to seeing it at the Fox Theatre this spring. We play the soundtrack in the car and sing along. But I have some questions… What did Alexander Hamilton believe his biggest accomplishment was? His biggest regret? And what were his relationships really like with our founding fathers- Washington, Jefferson, and Burr? One day I was wondering aloud who I could ask – perhaps the star, Lin Manuel Miranda? My (sixth grade) daughter said, “No, mom—you need to talk to Alexander Hamilton!”