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.
Katie Hachuela, Nurse Practitioner, Gastroenterology Associates Colorado Springs.
Why did you decide to make functional medicine your focus?
KH: I am a Nurse Practitioner working in a traditional GI practice implementing functional medicine into my current practice, because I truly believe the body has the ability to heal when given the right environment. It has been more rewarding to help patients improve their health with dietary, lifestyle changes, and supplements that affect their microbiome than prescribing any medication. This has become my focus because patients are desperate for this type of care rather than another pill.
Who have been your greatest mentors in your functional medicine journey?
KH: Currently, my biggest mentor is Dr. Sue Mitchell, a board-certified Gastroenterologist, who has over 20 years of experience in medicine. We have been studying functional medicine together over the last 2 years and implementing this care to our practice.
What excites you most about your day to day work?
KH: The microbiome has been most exciting to learn about and work to modulate through diet and lifestyle changes. It is extremely satisfying to have patients improve with these simple changes, who otherwise have been suffering with debilitating GI symptoms for many years.
What’s the most challenging part of your day to day work?
KH: The most challenging part of day-to-day work is the staying on time in clinic as the amount of information, I try to provide a lot of information to the patient in a short time. Most people have not heard of their microbiome and have no idea the critical role it plays in their health.
What do patients most commonly get wrong about functional medicine?
KH: I find most patients have not heard about functional medicine and therefore do not know its practices. Others that have heard of it, typically, have been suffering with ongoing symptoms despite multiple consultation with many disciplines in the traditional setting.
What’s holding the field of functional medicine back?
KH: I believe the field of functional medicine is being held back by traditionally trained practitioners not believing in or not being aware of its principles, such as enhanced intestinal permeability, in the setting of gastroenterology. Also, it may be difficult for practitioners to completely change their approach to treating patients after spending many years developing their practice.
What has your experience been with genetic testing?
KH: I typically only order Celiac genetic testing in my current practice and if otherwise indicated I will refer to a geneticist.
How do you see the practice of functional medicine evolving in the years ahead?
KH: I believe functional medicine is the new frontier of medicine. I don’t believe our current health system will be able to support the number of chronically ill patients in the years ahead and a functional medicine approach will improve symptoms and change patient’s lives while restoring their bodies back to health.
Katie Hachuela RN, BSN, MS, FNP-C is a Family Nurse Practitioner who graduated with her BSN in 2008 from Wright State University in Dayton Ohio. After working in a medical-surgical intensive care unit for 2 years she worked in ambulatory surgery caring of patient’s pre and postoperatively and in 2013, returned to school to earn her Master of Science, Family Nurse Practitioner degree in 2015, after which she joined Gastroenterology Associates Colorado Springs.