The Hero’s Journey of Functional Medicine

The Braver Path of Health Care

Health care practitioners who pursue the path of Root Cause patient care are some of the bravest people we know. Despite battling enormous odds, billions of dollars of industry propaganda, and relentless misconceptions, they have chosen this far more difficult path in order to bring real healing and disease recovery to their patients.

Their path is far longer and requires more patience. Financially, there is little-to-no support by the insurance industry or the more profitable, quick-fix pharmaceutical solutions. They are often ridiculed by “conventional medicine” practitioners who spread falsehoods saying that Functional Medicine solutions are “alternatives” to “real” healthcare protocols and not backed by science. Many are even accused of “quackery”.

Still, Functional Medicine practitioners know the truth. Their Hero’s Journey takes them on a path of diligent detective work to determine the root cause of complex diseases and chronic illnesses. Then they define healing paths for their patients that change lives, even save lives that conventional medicine views as lost causes.

Overview of Functional Medicine

Functional Medicine can seem like an ambiguous term. Although this area of health care is becoming more mainstream, it’s still a pretty new concept to the general public, as well as to many doctors.

The term and practice of Functional Medicine refer to something entirely different from the standard model of care that is often called “conventional medicine”.

Let’s explore the hero’s journey in Functional Medicine.

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Great physicians treat the whole patient and root causes of disease, rather than managing disease by treating the symptoms of isolated problems. That’s the core principle of Functional Medicine; it takes a whole body, biology-based approach and focuses on determining and solving the root cause of illness.

Functional Medicine practitioners take a holistic approach to understanding their patients and designing a unique medical plan for their needs. By combining a clinical approach, environmental influences, and imbalances in the body, they can design care plans that restore health and vitality to their patients.

For example, instead of prescribing a drug to treat the symptoms of a disease, a Functional Medicine doctor would dig deeper into why their patient has those symptoms in the first place and work toward addressing the cause.

There are five core principles of functional medicine:

  • Every person is biochemically and genetically unique, requiring a personalized health plan.
  • Functional Medicine is deeply rooted in science, keeping up with the latest research.
  • Bodies can self-regulate, expressed through a dynamic balance of body systems.
  • Our bodies have ways to prevent and heal diseases related to aging.
  • Health is a state of immense vitality, not the absence of disease.

Functional Medicine Practitioners Face Challenges

A career in Functional Medicine brings some unique challenges. For example, Dr. Cheryl Winter (a Functional Medicine practitioner) talks about her biggest challenges getting into the field during this interview.

When asked about her most significant challenge in building her Functional Medicine practice, Dr. Winter replied that the financial aspect was the hardest to overcome.

Getting certified in Functional Medicine isn’t cheap or easy, leading many healthcare professionals to pursue career paths in other disciplines.

She does have some advice for those wanting to start a functional medicine practice: Don’t do it all alone. You can’t accomplish everything required for a Functional Medicine clinic alone without more hours in the day — you’ll get burnt out.

Instead, work with someone experienced in the Functional Medicine field, like our experts at Mindbody Talent.

Overwhelmed with the challenges of practicing Functional Medicine? We can help you set your practice up for success.

Some Practitioners Want To Focus on Solving Patient Problems

Functional Medicine is more complex than conventional medicine, taking additional time and engagement with each patient.

And while conventional medicine can be great for treating emergency and acute medical situations, Functional Medicine is much better suited for discovering root causes to treat chronic illnesses and complex diseases.


Because Functional Medicine practitioners focus on quality over quantity, spending more time with their patients. The appointments are longer and go more in-depth to focus on each patient’s specific health needs.

Functional Medicine focuses on solving a patient’s problems — not just their symptoms. It’s not about getting a “quick fix;” it’s often a process that takes time, detective work, and active cooperation from patients to be successful.

Patients who have seen traditional doctors without getting effective treatment often seek out Functional Medicine providers to dig deeper into the root of their health issues. Healing at the core of what’s ailing patients is where Functional Medicine doctors excel.

Facing Other Challenges

Unfortunately, there are many lines of resistance to Functional Medicine.

  • The global pharmaceuticals market is worth over $1.4 trillion, and it has been steadily increasing for the past 20 years with no signs of stopping. Almost half of that revenue comes from the US market. That’s almost $700 billion that the industry has to lose if prescription drugs don’t get promoted and prescribed as often.
  • 154 schools in the US offer an MD program, and 38 medical schools offer DO programs. And most curriculums of allopathic schools are heavily influenced by the pharma industry. The “symptom and prescription” model is dominant in conventional medicine and medical programs.
  • Patients have been taught to trust their providers for generations; “If you have this problem, take this pill”. This belief system still holds firm with many, even with growing evidence showing that this old system of managing diseases isn’t working.
  • Patients want the easy solution. If they feel pain, they want a pill to take it away instantly. It’s more difficult to find the cause and pursue lifestyle changes that work to reduce inflammationthus reducing pain  — we have to move away from the instant gratification culture in order for Functional Medicine to have its greatest impact.

Functional Medicine Practitioners Have Better Outcomes

Even with these challenges, a career in Functional Medicine is a fulfilling one that offers practitioners a better work-life balance than conventional medicine and better collaboration with like-minded healthcare professionals.

And collaboration is a big part of Functional Medicine, giving patients better care and, ultimately, better outcomes. Not to mention that clinicians can typically generate more revenue and work fewer hours. This model helps to prevent burnout.

Functional Medicine is a promising field that offers long-lasting benefits to providers and patients alike.

Patients Receive Better Care

Let’s look at some findings from the Cleveland Clinic’s recent study to see how Functional Medicine helps provide patients with better care.

Some of the most significant results include:

  • Patients seen by Functional Medicine providers showed significantly better improvements over six months compared to those seen by primary care doctors.
  • 31% of Functional Medicine patients improved their health in a way that was clinically meaningful and positively affected their daily lives — 22% of primary care patients had similar improvement.

These results likely occur because Functional Medicine practitioners look at their patients as a whole, understanding how the mind, emotions, spiritual state, and environment all play important roles in overall health. Patients are treated as an individual, not another number in the healthcare system.

Looking for the best place to make a difference in your patients’ lives? Find the perfect practice and role for your skillset with our expert candidate placement services.

Functional Medicine Is a Rewarding Discipline

Part of Functional Medicine’s allure — and why academic medical centers like the Cleveland Clinic continue to embrace it — is the shift from patient volume to patient outcomes.

And the success of Functional Medicine doctors comes from their approach to care, which consists of addressing the root cause of disease or illness and partnering with their patients to help heal their bodies.

Another reason why Functional Medicine is such a rewarding discipline is that practitioners can surround themselves with other healthcare professionals asking the same question: “Why?”. Functional Medicine allows them to find answers not only for themselves but for their patients as well.

Related: How MBT Fuels the Wellness Revolution

Functional, Integrative, and Personalized Medicine practitioners know that there are few quick fixes to real health care and they’re willing to pay the price to help their patients get there. 

Join us on the Hero’s Journey of Functional Medicine. 

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