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 David M. Brady, Chief Medical Officer, Designs for Health, Inc. & Diagnostic Solutions Lab, LLC; Associate Professor of Clinical Sciences, University of Bridgeport; Private Clinical Practice, Whole Body Medicine.
Why did you decide to make functional medicine your focus?
DB: Two reasons: 1) Desperation to help patients with complex chronic disease and medical school doesn’t teach you how, and 2) Seeing a lecture by Jeffrey Bland, PhD almost 30 years ago and finding a new path that resonated with my prior background in nutrition, botanical, and lifestyle medicine approaches.
Who have been your greatest mentors in your functional medicine journey?
DB: Jeffrey Bland, PhD, Scott Rigden, MD, Paul Cheney, MD, Andy Bralley, PhD, and Richard Lord, PhD.
What excites you most about your day to day work?
DB: Helping find solutions for people suffering with chronic health conditions who have gotten non-satisfactory answers going the standard or orthodox medicine route, and health care providers who are treating them.
What’s the most challenging part of your day to day work?
DB: Finding enough time in the day to get everything done on my project list in the diagnostic laboratory and nutritional supplement manufacturing spaces, and to see enough patients that need care.
What do patients most commonly get wrong about functional medicine?
DB: They sometimes think after they have gone to every type of orthodox medical specialist known, and have gotten unsatisfactory results, and then see an online interview or summit with a functional medicine clinician they often then believe that there will be some easy “root cause” solution or magic therapy/diet/supplement to definitively “cure” their condition, which is usually something metabolically complex and chronic and will require a sophisticated and comprehensive plan and intervention that usually takes some time and patient effort and engagement.
What’s holding the field of functional medicine back?
DB: Honestly, I think functional medicine holds itself back by doing more “talk” then “walk”. For instance, I hear a lot of “talk” about personalization and precision, but not a lot of “walk”. I still see a lot of reliance on a stock matrix and very non-personalized protocols, etc. Functional medicine is externally held back by a continued skepticism in the orthodoxy of anything that does not emphasize pharmacological solutions to all problems.
What has your experience been with genetic testing?
DB: My experience is that it has massive potential to help guide “personalized” interventions and lifestyle changes. However, I also see it misapplied and some practitioners becoming myopically obsessed and building entire practice paradigm’s and clinical approaches based on only several SNP’s. Clinicians need to realize that genomics are very valuable, but only when clinically contextualized and put into the proper perspective that genomic SNP analysis only reveals predilections and likelihoods of what may happen metabolically, not what “IS” actually happening. The epigenetics are the wild cards too seldom taken into account.
How do you see the practice of functional medicine evolving in the years ahead?
DB: The “omics” revolution and the ability to now acquire big-data from populations and through sophisticated analysis begin to apply lessons learned at the level of the individual, using AI and machine learning platforms, opens up endless opportunities to develop truly transformational precision and personalized medicine approaches that perfectly align with the functional medicine paradigm. As we work to develop better analytical methods and acquire a deeper understanding of the genome, microbiome, metabolome, proteome, and other “omes”, and how they intersect with the individual’s health status (or lack of it), the way clinicians practice will radically and fundamentally change. For instance, the days of receiving your lab reports on a static print out or PDF are likely coming to a close. We are now delivering patient data to clinicians within sophisticated medical informatics portals that allows for data mash-ups and mining through AI and machine learning, integrated with clinical contextualization by the practitioner at the point of clinical care, to arrive at treatment interventions that will move the dial on health and wellness for the individual in ways we can’t even imagine today.
About David M. Brady
Dr. David M. Brady has almost 30-years of experience as an integrative practitioner and over 25 years in health sciences academia. He is a licensed naturopathic medical physician in Connecticut and Vermont, is board certified in functional medicine and clinical nutrition, and is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. David is Chief Medical Officer at Designs for Health, Inc. & Diagnostic Solutions Lab, LLC; Associate Professor of Clinical Sciences, University of Bridgeport; and Private Clinical Practice, Whole Body Medicine.