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 Elizabeth Board, MD, DABA, IFMCP, ABIHMfounder of Atlanta Functional Medicine.
Why did you decide to make functional medicine your focus?
EB: I was practicing pain management and found that the techniques and medications I had learned to use were not always successful. In fact, they often lead to unanticipated consequences and were at times harmful. In addition, many debilitating conditions did not have diagnostic names and yet they clearly existed. How was I to categorize and document them and which treatment plan do you choose for a very real destructive process that has no known name? I was further frustrated with the “catch -22” of being mandated to treat pain despite visualizing the oncoming opiate crisis with its deadly consequences. This particularly affected me to the extent that I nearly gave up being a physician. Instead, I was led to acupuncture and functional medicine. After listening to my very first Functional Medicine lecture, I knew this field was a perfect fit for me.
Who have been your greatest mentors in your functional medicine journey?
EB: David Jones, MD is one of the founders of the Institute for Functional Medicine and he spoke about treating patients who were more than a diagnosis; they were individuals with powerful feelings, unique desires, complex histories and questions that needed answers. My attendings including but not limited to: Dr. Sean Mackey, Dr. Raymond Gaeta, and Dr. Mike Leong at the Stanford University Pain Management Center always encouraged me to ask why and always supported my theories and ideas about how to care for patients better. While training, I have felt like the one doctor in the room who shouted “No! Actually the emperor has no clothes!” That West coast “can do” open-minded attitude unfettered my conservative East coast medical foundation. And the late Dr. Christine Gustafson, my best friend directed me, encouraged me and taught me the power of intuition and intention as necessary in the healing relationship.
What excites you most about your day to day work?
EB: I love to inspire patients to go ahead and launch their full healing potential. I do this through education and sharing true success stories. At follow ups, I love to reveal the objective improvements in their labs and prove to them just how powerful their choices are when it comes to transforming their health.
What’s the most challenging part of your day to day work?
EB: Staying on time with a busy schedule without short changing patient care and needs.
What do patients most commonly get wrong about functional medicine?
EB: Patients are used to the acute care model of care which promises a quick fix, even if it comes with side effects or long term consequences. The functional medicine evaluation takes time, and there may be extra tests to help us discover the answers. Often, there can be a bit of trial and error, and there will be patient responsibilities. And yet the very process itself transforms the patient, even before the full effect reveals the resulting transformation. For example, the patient who could never get pregnant, has a new attitude about nutrition, exercise, stress management, sleep and relationships months before they finally get pregnant. And often these changes are now so well rooted (because functional medicine takes time) that they are forever changed.
What’s holding the field of functional medicine back?
EB: We are too busy selling supplements as replacements for pharmaceuticals. I fear the precision piece is being left out and patient care and patient cost are being ignored. The mere impression of unethical practice can cripple the field.
What has your experience been with genetic testing?
EB: It is improving and becoming more and more precise. Genetic testing provides valuable considerations in the development of a patient’s treatment plan but must be accompanied by the patient’s lifestyle, nutrition, environmental exposures and informative labs in order to reap its combined full potential. Because the research that supports the snp is growing, individual snps will become more powerful and relevant with time. Cost has been an issue, but understanding that genetic tests are a one time test with benefits that grow as research expands does help patients understand the value.
How do you see the practice of functional medicine evolving in the years ahead?
EB: Currently there are a lot of lifestyle coaches and para professionals serving the public’s desire to find answers for chronic health problems without a reliance on medications. Physicians and other licensed health care workers will need to provide the connection between their practical application and researched outcome data in order to secure Functional Medicine as a legitimate and potentially preferred mode of healing chronic disease. Functional Medicine is primed to achieve this because conventional medicine has largely failed in reversing chronic disease through its erroneous reliance on the acute care model. Functional Medicine training and experience will offer experts who can navigate the connections of genetics, lifestyle, past history, advanced clinical testing and patient preferences to provide best treatment practices.
About Dr Elizabeth Board.
Dr. Elizabeth Board is the second Medical Doctor in Georgia to become board certified by the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFMCP). She is also the founder of Atlanta Functional Medicine located in Alpharetta, Georgia. Dr. Board is a highly trained physician, not only in Functional Medicine, but also in Pain Management, Medical Acupuncture, Anesthesiology, and Neuro-Endo-Immune Certified.
As a former faculty member at both Emory and Stanford medical schools, Dr. Board is passionate about teaching her patients and other physicians. Her informative talks include topics regarding polycystic ovarian syndrome, healthy aging, osteoporosis treatment, and opiate free pain management. Dr. Board has been teaching practitioners in the Armed Forces through a program with IFM. She has served as a mentor and is a frequent facilitator for IFM.