3X4’s new Functional Medicine Practitioner Spotlight series features interviews with practitioners, consultants and functional medicine thought leaders to explore everything functional medicine practitioners need to know about successfully building, managing, and growing their private practice.
The following is an interview we recently had with Heather Moday MD, Owner of Moday Center for Functional and Integrative Medicine.
What can you tell us about your practice?
HM: I launched my practice in the spring of 2015. At the time I had been working as an allergist and immunologist in a large private practice. Due to frustration with the constraints of conventional medicine and a desire to help people achieve optimal health, I spent several years prior both completing an Integrative medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona as well as training and becoming certified in Functional Medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine.
My initial practice was in Philadelphia where I worked alongside a functional dietician treating adults with chronic diseases, especially autoimmune disease, GI issues, and cognitive/mood problems, as well as those wanting to optimize their health and prevent disease in the future. During the COVID-19 pandemic I decided to close the door of my brick and mortar practice and relocated to Virginia with my partner. I now provide healthcare to patients via telemedicine in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia. I now also contract with several functional medicine coaches as part of our services which has been crucial in the success of my patient’s reaching their goals. We act as a consultative practice for adults over the age of 18 and do not provide primary care services . We also bundle our care into 6 and 12 month packages that include health coaching and nutrition services, which I have found to really help patients stay focused on their goals as well as allowing us to really provide excellent care for them. I employ many different forms of testing including nutritional, food sensitivity, genetics, microbiome and hormone evaluations as part of a comprehensive evaluation. This past year, I took the time to write a book – The Immunotype Breakthrough being published in December 2021- and realized that I love writing. I also love doing public presentations and podcasts and plan to do more of all of this in the future.
What surprised you the most when you started your practice?
HM: The amount of things that I still needed to know!
First of all, I had 10 years of speciality medicine behind me, and about 4 years of ongoing education in integrative and functional medicine. The reality is, the less you know the more you think you know until you really start to deal with complex patients that challenge you. It’s truly humbling. However, over time as you continue to learn, read, study, go to conferences and watch webinars, and above all – work with patients interpreting labs and putting therapies to the test -you gain confidence. I found it’s important to check your ego and lean on colleagues that can teach you from their experiences. Nobody knows everything and collaboration is key.
Another thing I realized is how little I knew about running a practice. Learning sales and marketing, the financial aspects of business, and of course the legal, tax and insurance issues was a huge aspect of opening my practice. This had all been taken care of for me when I was employed. It was a huge learning curve and I learned a tremendous amount. I also learned about my strengths and weaknesses, what I like to do and what I don’t ,and how it’s important to find people to help you in your business that you truly trust. Also understanding that you will make mistakes and that it’s part of the process. It’s natural and you just have to brush those failures off and continue forward.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome as you built your practice? How did you overcome it?
HM: For me my biggest challenge was lack of confidence and imposter syndrome. This is a big issue in women in general unfortunately, and because I really wanted my patients to be successful, everytime they didn’t do well , I took it very personally. It’s taken me a long time to get over this but what I realized is that it’s because I care about their outcomes but I can’t connect my self worth to those outcomes. In addition, I used to have clear boundaries around my work and personal life but because when I opened my own practice and wanted to be successful overnight, those lines got really blurred. I worked weekends and worked late. I suffered from overwhelm, and my self care tanked. To get through this I prioritized my goals such as how I defined success and what that looked like, created a daily schedule and really stuck to it. I kept my patient load small and worked only 4 days a week seeing patients so I had a full day to get caught up and then also still be able to have a weekend to recharge.
I also realized that my idea of a practice is not someone else’s and I had to stick to my intuition and dreams and not try to copy someone else’s. I realized I disliked managing lots of employees, and having a large office space with multiple services and employees was not what I wanted to do. I am an empath, so I am sensitive to chaos and I am a data and research geek. I love learning but I prefer when I am very good at a few things, and work in a small group, so I stopped trying to be an expert in everything.
What advice would you give to other practitioners considering launching their own practice?
HM: Really dig down to what your true vision is for what you want, and also be ok if this changes because it will. Take into consideration how you like to work, such as one on one with patients or groups. Do you like to work with a team or alone? How do you see your work life balance? What are your strengths and weaknesses and what do you love and hate to do? If you dislike tech- find someone to do it for you! Hire a good assistant even if they are virtual and part time. I would also start very small, with a very low overhead while you are building a clientele. Do not get into taking out big loans that will just be huge stressors for you down the road. I’d also recommend starting with a business coach that can help you along the way (as long as they are not charging you large retainers and promising you unrealistic gains). Find people to help you by word of mouth and make sure you feel comfortable hiring them to help you. Absolutely outsource what you are not good at so you can concentrate on what you are great at. Also, you don’t have to know your ‘niche” immediately, this will evolve as you learn and practice. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
What excites you most about the field of functional medicine?
HM: I love that it’s constantly changing and that we as practitioners are so far ahead of the game. I am awed by the amount of learning opportunities available to us and also to the free thinking and creativity that exists in this space. In addition, I never felt part of a community in health care before. I was just another cog in the insurance/pharmaceutical wheel. Now I have a tribe of kindred spirits that I have met over the years that I can call or email when I have a question. I look forward to growing this community and also giving it forward.
Where do you see your practice 5 years from now?
HM: COVID-19 as stressful as it was, pushed me to change my model of care but also created new opportunities. It allowed me to move with my partner to a new state and work from home. Although I may share space with another practitioner locally in the near future, this has allowed me to take care of patients from several locations that wouldn’t normally be able to see me because of geographic constraints. I see myself continuing this hybrid model in the future. I also see myself creating some group programs to make functional medicine accessible to many others, whether this be through online coaching or in – person groups. I look forward to exploring this more. In addition, I will be a published author in a few months and I know that I have some more books in me down the line, so I plan to make time for that as well.