How I Became the Physician I Wanted to See

In my late 20s, I started suffering from vague complaints such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping, trouble losing weight, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and the list goes on. I then went to medical school, completed residency and all my symptoms progressively got worse. To the point where after residency, I was the sickest I’d ever been. I was tired, anxious; and overall unhappy.

I knew if I went to my primary care physician they probably would tell me that I needed to take an anti depressant. I knew this because, as a primary care physician myself, I knew that was probably going to be the end result. As a doctor, I would certainly suggest lifestyle modifications, but at the end of the day, if they wanted quick relief, I would recommend an antidepressant.

This was not the road I wanted to take. I wanted someone to take the time to listen to my story, perform some advanced testing to tease out my vague complaints, connect the dots to figure out why I was feeling this way, and recommend a very thorough plan to regain my health. Then I had this ah-ha moment: I needed to become the type of doctor that I wanted to see. I needed to become someone who took time to get to the root of the dysfunction, not just treat the symptoms. Unfortunately, I knew this type of care did not fit into the current, traditional health care system.

It was then that I started searching for evidence-based ways to treat individuals who aren’t overtly ill (i.e. they don’t need hospitalization or surgery), but they aren’t well. Their conventional labs may be normal, but the doctor and the patient both know that the patient is not functioning at an optimal level.

I realized I needed to address some gaps in my conventional medicine training to reach this population—the “unwell but not overtly sick” group. My research led me to functional medicine. I fell in love with the approach of really addressing the deficiencies in the body, and balancing out the foundation in somebody’s life in a fashion where each system builds upon another. You can’t just fix one symptom, replace one hormone (e.g., thyroid) or replenish one nutrient (e.g., B12) and expect the body to heal. It’s really looking at the body as a complete whole and digging deep into somebody’s history from birth. The foundation of my treatment plans reside in lifestyle medicine—balancing stress, sleep, nutrition, exercise and relationships—while using advanced diagnostic testing to get to the root cause of dysfunction. I tell my patients it’s like peeling an onion—we keep digging until we find what is at the root cause.

I’m so excited to be a functional medicine provider. I’m rejuvenated about the medicine I practice and am thrilled to help my patients. Making these changes in my own life has made a huge difference. And I know that the relationships that I form with my patients under this model will help them live a vibrant life.