“To heal the world, we must first heal ourselves.” – Seane Corn
Like many, I entered medicine with innocent idealism and a simple but burning desire to help people. Armed with knowledge, training, and experience I believed it would be relatively simple to alleviate suffering and improve health. After 20 years in both military and civilian medicine, I have discovered it’s not. Sure, with enough medication and nagging, we can keep various maladies “controlled.” But I’ve become dissatisfied with overall outcomes. Exhausting on my part, it is heartbreaking to see my patients in distress because they can’t afford their medicine or copays (the lucky ones with insurance), or have them experience myriad unpleasant, dangerous, and sometimes irreversible side effects. Worst of all, both patient and doctor can feel hopeless.
In 2010, both my professional and personal life were crumbling. My marriage was failing, and I realized professionally I was totally burned out. Current estimates are up to 50% of primary care physicians suffer from burn out. Even more are dissatisfied and consider quitting medicine. Most alarming, physician suicide rates are rising. Gratefully, my journey of recovery began before I reached that point. At a critical moment when I had reached my “rock bottom”, someone who cared deeply about me recommended a seminar, which was the first step in my recovery. Gradually I learned that to care for others, I had to love and care for myself – my whole self; physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental. That included such simple, yet profound concepts as good nutrition, adequate rest, meaningful connections, movement, and purpose. I didn’t know it then, but that is the essence of functional medicine.
While attending a dermatology conference in 2013, I noticed a Functional Medicine program in the next room. Glancing at their agenda, my curiosity was immediately piqued. Finally, in the spring of 2016 I was able to attend “Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice,” given by the Institute of Functional Medicine. It felt like coming home. Surrounded by a diverse group of professionals voicing things I had suspected for a long time, they lived what they taught. I delved deep into biochemical pathways I barely remembered from medical school. I learned tools for being a better listener, and how to build truly effective relationships with patients, supporting them in real change. Right away I began the rather rigorous process of becoming a certified functional medicine provider, which I anticipate completing in 2017.
As you can imagine, practicing this way is much more time intensive and costly than simply writing another prescription. Unfortunately, insurance often does not cover these expenses. I’d like to reframe the idea of costly. Costly is spending a lifetime treating but not reversing diabetes, heart disease, or depression. It is a hospital stay for a stroke or heart attack or life-threatening infection. Losing your kidneys, eyesight, or limbs to diabetes or vascular disease is costly. Who can count the cost of losing a loved one to the ravages of cancer, dementia, or suicide? Living a life disconnected from your heart and purpose is costly. You can choose to pay now or pay later. Investing in your health today to avoid those outcomes is not costly, and I believe functional medicine is the way.
I am so grateful my path towards recovery and abundant health began in 2010 and continues. I now know it is an ongoing process, not a destination – not an easy admission with my personality! Today I love what I do, and am supported by the most amazing husband and daughter. I cherish my health and my family, and I hope to inspire you to do the same.