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 Pamela Pesta, RPh, IFMCP, Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Fallon Wellness Pharmacy.
Why did you decide to make functional medicine your focus?
PP: After over 30 years of practicing pharmacy in a traditional model and seeing first-hand how it fails patients, I knew there had to be a better way to treat chronic disease. Functional medicine provides that alternative to move away from the “pill for an ill” mentality, toward finding a root cause to achieve a path toward wellness.
Who have been your greatest mentors in your functional medicine journey?
PP: My greatest mentors have been collectively the faculty and members of The Institute for Functional Medicine who have helped me become a certified functional medicine practitioner as well as my patients who teach me everyday. Perhaps the most inspiring person in my career and personal life is Dr. Zach Bush, who has helped me believe and accept this path my life has found. I am very grateful and humbled by this every day.
What excites you most about your day to day work?
PP: What excites me most about my day to day work is having the opportunity to work with the most amazing and courageous patients who just want to be heard and helped. The challenges they face daily are my inspiration to continue to learn, and I am honored to help them on their healing journeys.
What’s the most challenging part of your day to day work?
PP: My biggest challenge in my work is how to make functional medicine accessible to all people, and I aspire to be part of the change that must happen to improve these social determinants of health. I am planning to move my consultation process away from one-on-one visits toward group sessions, which will allow a more affordable option for those seeking this type of medicine.
What do patients most commonly get wrong about functional medicine?
PP: Patients are often still looking for that magic pill that the pharmaceutical industry has promised, and it is sometimes hard to change the mindset of how impactful lifestyle approaches of sleep, movement, nutrition, stress, and relationships can be to their health status. If the benefits of being in nature could be bottled, it would be the most sought-after supplement available.
What’s holding the field of functional medicine back?
PP: The fact that we are not regulated as a profession really holds the field of functional medicine back in my opinion. Anyone can claim to be a practitioner, and patients don’t really know what credentials to look for when making this choice. In addition, our big-pharma driven health care system utilizes pharmaceuticals to manage “sick-care” rather than finding ways to promote healthcare.
What has your experience been with genetic testing?
PP: As a pharmacist, my practice involves very little testing at all, and few patients come to me with any genetic test results. I believe genetic testing will be a great asset to aid in solving the puzzle for certain patients, and I am certainly interested in learning more about incorporating this into my practice.
How do you see the practice of functional medicine evolving in the years ahead?
PP: I am hopeful that the practice of functional medicine will evolve into being part of the solution for the healing of our species as well as playing an integral role in healing our planet. Our food system is the biggest driver of our global health challenges, and it all begins with the microbiome of the soil that our food is grown in.
Pamela Pesta, RPh, IFMCP, is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Fallon Wellness Pharmacy.