3X4’s new State of Functional Medicine series features interviews with a diverse range of active practitioners and established thought leaders to learn more about why they chose the field of functional medicine, what excites them most about their work, the most common misconceptions they hear from patients, and most importantly — how they see the field evolving in the years ahead as healthcare shifts to be more personalized, proactive, and preventative.
Functional medicine practitioners play a key role in helping patients understand who they are so they can improve their quality of life which is what we’re all about here at 3X4. Our goal with this new series is to celebrate the work these practitioners are doing and inspire others to explore the exciting field of functional medicine.
The following is an interview we have recently had with Elena Klimenko, MD, Integrative Medicine Specialist
Why did you decide to make functional medicine your focus?
EK: I grew up in Russia, where three significant experiences put me on the path to being the health practitioner I am today—an American board-certified internist, licensed in medical acupuncture and clinical homeopathy who empowers patients to take charge of their health, using the tools of acupuncture, homeopathy and functional medicine, supported by a deep understanding of both science and the mind-body-spirit connection.
My father, at the age of 37 was a heavy smoker, often depressed and starting to experience chest pains. But then he discovered The Miracle of Fasting, a book by Paul Bragg, a nutritionist and pioneer in the wellness movement. He quickly realized that smoking and fasting did not go together. I watched in awe as my father’s life and health dramatically changed for the better, as he took charge of his health, quit smoking, changed his diet, and began exercising—all-important lifestyle changes. At age 42, he ran his first marathon.
The second experience began when I was just six years old, when my sister needed a series of medical procedures. I witnessed the importance of surgery in her life and saw how it transformed her. I decided then that I was going to become a surgeon. The third experience was a medical school in Moscow. Please hear my full story here.
Who have been your greatest mentors in your functional medicine journey?
EK: It is hard to name one person, but rather the educational team of IFM has been my ongoing mentorship. I was fortunate to be exposed to it through my fellowship program in integrative medicine.
What excites you most about your day to day work?
EK: Direct primary care and functional medicine together create the time and space where my patients are engaged in their own care. That is what basically leads to powerful change.
Interactions with patients, understanding the unique story of each and every one of them. Understanding the intricacies of Mother Nature in how she treats each one of us with grace, interconnectedness and love.
What’s the most challenging part of your day to day work?
EK: There are several, but what is difficult for many of us now is the informational overload. Too many emails, messages, interruptions, things to handle, constant priorities and etc.
The second challenge is to manage “medical mysteries” where the “root cause” takes time and patience to unwind. However, many clients want it “yesterday” and have no patience to wait for the results. I should say unrealistic expectations.
What do patients most commonly get wrong about functional medicine?
EK: Usually patients who come to me are familiar with functional medicine, however, sometimes I need to explain that getting to “the root cause” can take a few steps.
What’s holding the field of functional medicine back?
EK: Patient lack of education and trust in alternative methods and practices…The current medicine, healthcare sector doesn’t prioritize patient education.
Old medicine system, principles… for decades doctors and patients have been working in isolation.
Once functional medicine enters the modern medical educational system, everything will change, but it will take time for major academia to admit the new principles.
What has your experience been with genetic testing?
EK: My experience with genetic testing has been mostly a good one. I am witnessing this field evolve from interpreting a single SNP as an answer to all evil (ex. MTHFR) to a more sophisticated system of understanding genetic pathways.
How do you see the practice of functional medicine evolving in the years ahead?
EK: We are living through a time of great transition, the old story control, force, separation, and one size fits approach – a characteristic of the first era of medicine – is definitely on its way out.
We need to continually create the new story of community, peer to peer support, empathy, food as medicine, prioritize patient education, implementing new answers, and sustainable, holistic solutions to humankind’s biggest health problems.
I see we will continue currare relevant educational health information that will empower people to participate in creating health and overall wellbeing.
Health & Wellness Communities will grow.
I think genetic medicine with identifying vulnerable genetic pathways for the patients will be a part of initial evaluation. And as more research about genetic medicine emerges our understanding will get better and more reliable. Today, I already coach my 8 year old because I know his genetic pathways. And, I HOPE, he can implement necessary lifestyle, nutritional habits and behavioral modification to live a healthier life. The rest is up to God.
About Dr. Elena Klimenko.
Dr. Elena Klimenko is an American board-certified medical doctor who specializes in Functional and Integrative Medicine, Medical Acupuncture, and Clinical Homeopathy. Dr. Elena Klimenko’s practice provides a unique, balanced approach to Functional Medicine.