Virginia Savely was raised in Annapolis, Maryland, the 3rd of 4 sisters. She has always been called by her nickname, Ginger. She graduated in 1972 from the University of Maryland with Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Music. After graduation she made her living singing and playing keyboards with her band in musical venues up and down the East coast. In 1978 she earned a Master’s degree in educational philosophy from Lesley College in Cambridge, MA. Her intention was to teach music in elementary schools but a short stint at this made her realize that this was not what she wanted to do.
Dr. Savely married and moved to Austin, Texas in 1979 where she gave birth to her daughter Kate in 1980 and her daughter Meghan in 1983. In 1985 she enrolled in the nursing program at the University of Texas at Austin and in 1988 completed her Bachelor’s of nursing degree. Dr. Savely worked as an RN for the next 10 years in pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, urgent care, and family practice. She also became a certified Lamaze instructor and taught childbirth classes. She continued to write music and perform part-time and in 1990 won 2nd place in the Austin Songwriter’s Competition.
In 1993 Dr. Savely gave birth to a son, Riley. She received her Master’s degree in Nursing and certification as a family nurse practitioner in 1998, and for the next 8 years worked in primary care clinics. During this time she became interested in and progressively more knowledgeable about Lyme disease. By 2003, 80% of her practice was devoted to Lyme patients.
At about this same time she became aware of and interested in a strange new disease called Morgellons disease. When word got out through a local news story that she was helping these patients, people with the symptoms of Morgellons disease started coming to her by the dozens. In 2004 she was honored with the title of Texas Nurse Practitioner of the Year for her work with Lyme and Morgellons disease.
Dr. Savely began to publish articles, do presentations at conferences and appear in the media about her work with Lyme and Morgellons disease. She was accepted into the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society and sat on the advisory Boards of the Texas Lyme Disease Association and the Morgellons Research Foundation. Her work started to gain attention and patients began coming to her from all over Texas and the Southwest. Unfortunately, her notoriety also caught the notice of the local infectious disease doctors who, to say the least, were anything but pleased.
Doctors in Austin had a very narrow view of Lyme disease. They were convinced that it did not exist in Texas and thought that even if it were contracted elsewhere, a simple week of antibiotics would totally cure it. Many of them resented the fact that a nurse practitioner had the nerve to use diagnosis and treatment methods that went against the prevailing medical paradigm.
From 2003 to 2006, at the instigation of the Texas Board of Medical Examiners (TBME), Dr. Savely endured a drawn-out investigation by her regulatory board, the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners. She was subjected to what her attorney called “harassment” as the Board relentlessly piled allegation upon allegation, presumably as a vendetta for her cutting-edge methods of diagnosing and treating chronic Lyme disease.
The Board investigation finally ended with no more than trivial findings and what amounted to a “slap on the wrist”. Nevertheless, Dr. Savely was worn down spiritually and mentally and was not sure she wanted to continue to practice in such a hostile climate. In 2005, having seen the “writing on the wall” and realizing that her days of practicing in Texas might soon be over, Dr. Savely had opened an auxiliary office in San Francisco in the office of Dr. Ray Stricker (one of the top Lyme disease experts in the world). For a year she had maintained both her Austin and her San Francisco practices, traveling back and forth.
Soon after her long ordeal and final exoneration by the nursing Board, Dr. Savely’s collaborating physician in Austin, Dr. Kurt Frederick, received a phone call from the executive director of the TBME. He was warned that he was putting himself at risk by working with Dr. Savely because of her unusual methods of diagnosing and treating Lyme disease. Although Dr. Frederick admired Dr. Savely and had all the faith in the world in her, he couldn’t risk losing his license and his livelihood and so he reluctantly requested that she find another collaborating physician.
Nurse practitioners must practice in collaboration with a physician in both Texas and California. (This is not the case in all States.) Although many doctors in Austin believed in what Dr. Savely was doing and even referred patients to her, none would agree to collaborate with her for fear of raising a red flag with the medical Board. Because Dr. Savely could find no other physician in Austin willing to assume the risk of practicing with her she moved her practice full-time to San Francisco in 2006.
In 2009, Dr. Savely earned a doctorate degree in nursing practice from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio where she was honored with the Dean’s Legacy Award. In March, 2011 she moved her practice from San Francisco to Washington, DC so that she could regularly see her family members there including her only granddaughter.
Washington, DC is one of many states where nurse practitioners can practice without physician collaboration. So, Dr. Savely opened her own practice there renting space from a group of naturopathic doctors in an office a few blocks from the White House. After two years of commuting between Austin and Washington, DC, Dr. Savely and her husband moved to DC in 2013 so that she could finally live near her work. She was recently honored with the 2014 DC State Excellence award by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. A list of Dr. Savely’s articles and presentations can be seen by clicking on PUBLICATIONS.