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 Lara Zakaria RPh MS CNS CDN IFMC, Functional Pharmacist and Clinical Nutritionist, Dr Kara Fitzgerald Education Programs coordinator.
Why did you decide to make functional medicine your focus?
LZ: My “aha moment” came when I realized that my community pharmacy practice was full of patients with chronic disease with a growing list of medication but continued declining health. From there, I developed an interest in nutrition, and that would eventually lead me down the path of herbalism, environmental medicine, and nutritional biochemistry… that’s when I found my place in FxMed.
Who have been your greatest mentors in your functional medicine journey?
LZ: Directly, I’ve been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to mentor under Dr Jeffery Morrison in NYC and work with Dr Kara Fitzgerald as part of her clinic team. Indirectly, my mentor list includes everyone I’ve ever had a chance to learn from through various courses and seminars – including Shilpa Saxena, Helen Messier, Robert Roundtree, Jeffery Bland, Carrie Jones, Deanna Minich, Sara Gottfried, Sahar Swidan, Tom Guilliams, Terry Wahls, to name a few!
What excites you most about your day to day work?
LZ: I love my team and the collaboration at my clinic! I am part of an amazing clinic team of doctors and nutritionists – being able to learn from each other and discuss cases, emerging research, and participate in our professional education programs is an absolute dream for a nerd like me!
What’s the most challenging part of your day to day work?
LZ: Sometimes walking the talk is hard! It’s all the stuff I talk about all day long – Remembering to get up from behind the computer and move periodically, carving out time to exercise, breath with intention, and to hydrate! It’s all an essential part of the self-care we need to practice to stay grounded and present for the patients we’re here to serve.
What do patients most commonly get wrong about functional medicine?
LZ: Functional Medicine is often confused with Integrative Medicine or complementary medicine/CAM. It’s true that within FxMed we may lean on various integrative modalities, nutrition, nutraceutical, herbal, and others. But not all integrative practitioners are practicing systems-based medicine. Functional Medicine is a framework that can be applied by any health care practitioner, including western-trained clinicians, to draw a connection between the biochemical pathways that need attention and how they impact the system as a whole.
What’s holding the field of functional medicine back?
LZ: Access might be the biggest challenge faced by FxMed. If we can find a way to solve that and make it scalable and accessible at a reasonable cost to all, we can make a real dent in the chronic disease epidemic.
What has your experience been with genetic testing?
LZ: I love the prospects of genetic testing for personalized medicine – but I find most people get their results and assume their destiny is set in stone! The reality is, as Dr Bland reminds us, “our genes are not our destiny!” – It’s a powerful opportunity to use genetic information to inform lifestyle and nutrition interventions to help people thrive!
How do you see the practice of functional medicine evolving in the years ahead?
LZ: I suspect that there will be a continued surge in interest around FxMed. The next frontier will be the intersection between systems medicine, personalized nutrition, and public health allowing it to scale to meet the need.
About Lara Zakaria
Lara Zakaria is a pharmacist and nutritionist dedicated to using Functional Medicine to improve health outcomes at the root beyond symptom management. She is also the Education Programs Coordinator at Dr. Kara Fitzgerald Functional Medicine.