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 Martina Harms, PA-C, Functional Medicine Health Consultant.
Why did you decide to make functional medicine your focus?
MH: As a Physician Assistant practicing Emergency Medicine for over 13 years, I came to a point in my life and career where I felt frustrated with my own personal health, as well as the health of the patients I was seeing daily. I was burnt out, my labs were “normal” but I knew this wasn’t the whole picture. I happened to listen to a podcast featuring Dr. Mark Hyman and my life and career were forever changed.
Who have been your greatest mentors in your functional medicine journey?
MH: I’ve had many mentors, but the most impactful has been my own personal practitioner, Dr. Gloria Hamada. I’ve had several mentors through my training programs at IFM and SAFM who have also helped shape my functional medicine journey.
What excites you most about your day to day work?
MH: Every day I get messages from my clients about how great they are feeling, which is the most exciting part of my work. I know that I’m making a big impact in their lives, just by listening to their stories and helping them change the trajectory of their health and well-being.
What’s the most challenging part of your day to day work?
MH: The most challenging part of my day to day work is hearing that my clients are meeting resistance from their primary care practitioners when they advocate for themselves, either by asking for additional labs or further investigation of their complaints. It’s so frustrating to hear their struggles, but reminds me that this is why I changed my career path to help these people get the answers and help they deserve.
What do patients most commonly get wrong about functional medicine?
MH: I think there are still many patients, and even practitioners, that think that functional medicine is the same as alternative medicine. While there are some treatments that would be considered “alternative” or “holistic” the basis for functional medicine is still science and evidence-based. Many patients also find functional medicine to be “too expensive” because they expect their insurance to take care of preventative care. They pay so much into their insurance, it makes sense that they have this expectation, but what they don’t realize is that it’s more “sick care” than “well care.”
What’s holding the field of functional medicine back?
MH: Currently I think that censorship is holding back the field of functional medicine. There are double board certified physicians who are speaking out with deep knowledge and research to back their statements about immunity and staying well during a pandemic who are being penalized and their social media accounts are being censored. Education is power and this type of censorship is unacceptable.
What has your experience been with genetic testing?
MH: I’ve found genetic testing to be very useful in helping clients understand the underlying causes and particular variations that might be affecting their health. Unfortunately many have had testing without any practitioner guidance, and feel overwhelmed and don’t understand the complexity of epigenetics. I think genetic testing has incredible power and utility when properly interpreted and utilized. Your genes are not your destiny! You still have control over much of the outcome.
How do you see the practice of functional medicine evolving in the years ahead?
MH: I think functional medicine will become more and more mainstream, as people are realizing they need to take more responsibility for their health. There are so many people developing chronic disease and looking for alternatives to a lifetime of medications that will never reverse this state. Functional medicine provides a path to remission for many disease processes, which is truly the goal.
About Martina Harms
Martina Harms is a certified Physician Assistant (PA-C) with over 13 years of clinical experience. She has a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. She has a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, also from GWU. She will be a Certified Practitioner with the Institute for Functional Medicine as of November 2020.