Categories Expert Series

The State of Functional Medicine 2020: Insights From Dr. Rosa N Schnyer

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 Dr. Rosa N Schnyer, Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, IFMCP, L.Ac.

Why did you decide to make functional medicine your focus?

RS: I’m trained as a doctor of Chinese medicine and Functional Medicine provides a systems biology framework that helps explain and complement much of what we know and do in Chinese medicine. I’m a researcher and an educator as well as a clinician and being able to have a model for understanding the complex biology of human functioning, seemed critical.

Who have been your greatest mentors in your functional medicine journey? 

RS: Kara Fitzgerald and Datis Kharrazian as well as the great faculty at IFM, but more than anybody, my patients.

What excites you most about your day to day work? 

RS: Empowering and supporting patients to become active agents in their own health. Changing the healthcare model necessitates dynamic patient involvement and a commitment to patient education. Health arises from the complex interplay of individual factors, lifestyle, culture, environment and community, and changing habits, it is not just a personal decision. Understanding the barriers to achieving wellness presented by our individual patients, is an essential element in creating change. But how to motivate and support the busy, overworked, and often underpaid person to engage in their health? I see that as my challenge. I love the spark that lights up when a patient leaves my office with an embodied, lived experience of transformation, possibility and hope. 

What’s the most challenging part of your day to day work? 

RS: Logistics, paperwork that sort of thing. I run a  solo practice, to keep my fees affordable to many, I don’t have support staff and only have limited help with accounting and finances. Keeping SOAP notes, writing individually tailored treatment plans, working efficiently while providing personalized care, is hard.

What do patients most commonly get wrong about functional medicine? 

RS: That’s just green pharmacy or the latest fad going around on the internet. The concept of complex systems interaction and relationship between lifestyle and health can be difficult for people to grasp. They may want a “natural” remedy to fix a problem, rather than create the conditions for optimal health. We’ve been conditioned to pop a pill for every ill, and that’s not at all the promise of functional medicine. Rather, functional medicine is based on the key foundations of whole systems of care (Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, Naturopathic medicine), while providing a biomedical complex biology framework. It supports an understanding of health as the process of awakening the patient’s own innate ability to heal.

What’s holding the field of functional medicine back? 

RS: It’s expensive, elitist and too many providers are offering boutique services for only the financially able. More evaluation of the model to look at how it improves outcomes. Giving the impression that FxMed IS the solution to everything wrong with healthcare; maintaining the hierarchy of medicine, rather than focusing on empowering the patient. 

What has your experience been with genetic testing? 

RS: I have some limited experience. Interesting, provides some guidance, but the science for individualized medicine based on genetics is not quite there (if you talk to the seriously genetically involved researchers and scientists). Genetics is a complex system. We know very little on how genes interact with each other and with the environment, and too many Fx Med providers offer quick solutions based on genetics. We are not quite there yet.

How do you see the practice of functional medicine evolving in the years ahead? 

RS: My dream? Participatory, empowering patient centered care; interdisciplinary teams that respect each other, overcoming the physician center model of care. 

About Dr. Rosa Schnyer

Dr. Schnyer brings the wisdom of over 30 years of clinical experience to her vision of empowering, and supporting your own inner ability to heal by partnering in a collaborative relationship that focuses on awakening the will to get well and stay well. An experienced doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, wellness coach, and nutritional counselor, she is also a certified Functional Medicine practitioner, passionate about the transformative potential of natural therapies.

Dr. Schnyer serves on the board of The Society for Acupuncture Research. She is Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Texas, adjunct faculty at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine and Bastyr University. A former research consultant to the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford University and the Osher Center at Harvard Medical School, she is also a certified Meditation and Dharma Yoga Instructor.