FOCUS ON: New Directions for IFM and Functional Medicine
The 850 attendees at IFM’s 2012 Annual International Conference (AIC) comprised not only the largest group IFM has ever attracted, but also the greatest number of entirely new-to-AIC registrations—about 50%. This dramatic upsurge in interest—despite the poor economy—reflects the many changes in medicine, medical education, and views of health and disease. IFM is proud to see its longstanding commitment to being a change agent for 21st century medicine producing such exciting results.
Kicking off the AIC, an energizing opening video
alerted the crowd to many of the activities that have brought both national and global recognition to functional medicine:
- In January 2012, four functional medicine physicians were interviewed on the Dr. Oz Show. Oz introduced them as the doctors he and his family consult and refer to and named them his “Fantastic Four of Medicine.” The term functional medicine was mentioned repeatedly, and the approach was described as the “key to wellness.”
- Academic medicine continues to open its doors to functional medicine. More than 45 medical schools (including leading institutions such as Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth) have sent students and faculty to IFM programs. Seventeen residency programs offer some level of training in functional medicine. Fellowships in functional medicine are also now available. Examples include:
- The Family Medicine Residency Program at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare is collaborating with IFM to integrate functional medicine/nutrition into both its curriculum and clinical activities. In addition, a pilot project has been approved to offer a Medical Symptom Reduction Clinic utilizing the functional medicine model and chronic care team approach for patient care.
- Loma Linda University is offering (among other functional medicine initiatives) a two-week intensive clinical functional medicine elective for fourth-year medical students, and a Life Style Integrative Functional Medicine Fellowship. Many more details are available at the link provided under Resources.
- IFM has significantly expanded its international offerings:
- The AFMCP intensive has been presented twice in London and will be available in South Africa in Fall 2012.
- IFM has consulted on a Master of Science in Nutritional Therapy program and a Master of Science in Person-Centered Nutrition program, both in London and both solidly based in functional medicine principles and practices.
- The GI Advanced Practice Module will be offered outside the US for the first time next Spring (London, April 25-28, 2013). For more information, see the link provided below.
- In his introductory remarks at the 2012 AIC, Dr. David Jones, IFM’s President, mentioned that approximately 100,000 people in 73 countries have been touched by functional medicine in some way over the last 25 years. He also announced that IFM expects several hundred candidates to sit for its first certification program examination in September 2013.
Remarkable growth, indeed! As Dr. Kristi Hughes (IFM Associate Director of Medical Education) observed during her AIC intro, “Together, we can change the world.”
The world of medicine and healthcare really does need changing. In his opening lecture
, Dr. Mark Hyman provided a whirlwind tour of the global chronic disease epidemic. If anyone were still in doubt about the magnitude of the problem, the evidence collected and presented so eloquently by Hyman should lay those doubts to rest. Shown on the map below is the shocking growth in obesity in the US in just over 20 years. Obesity is a primary driver of many chronic diseases, including both heart disease and diabetes.
Dr. Hyman’s talk
- As a result of this trend, nearly ¼ of teenagers in the U.S. today have diabetes or prediabetes.
- By 2020, >50% of the US adult population will have diabetes or prediabetes, with annual costs approaching $500 billion.
- By 2030, total annual economic costs of cardiovascular disease in the US are predicted to exceed $1 trillion.
describes how epigenetics may be pushing the epidemic of chronic disease, how toxins in our environment contribute to the problem, and why drugs are not the answer to what is primarily a food-borne problem. You will also learn why social networks may be one of the most important influences in reversing chronic disease, and why a shift in medical thinking from geography (the location of disease—organ-system medicine) to systems medicine is so vital. The emergence of disturbed metabolism in a complex adaptive system (the human being who is ill) must be addressed at the causal level, and that is precisely what functional medicine does. It provides a container for all the interrelated data on genetics, environment, and lifestyle that influence each patient, enabling clinicians who are appropriately trained to analyze and apply that information to restore health.
Where is IFM headed now in its continuing commitment to global health? Here are some elements of its strategic plan for expanding both reach and impact:
- Train the healthcare workforce in effective treatment and prevention of chronic disease
- Set proficiency standards for the practice of functional medicine
- Diversify educational models and technology to reach and teach students and practicing clinicians
- Collaborate with leaders in academic medicine to ensure the integration of functional medicine into medical schools and residency programs
- Work with employers, insurers, and government agencies to implement pilot programs to demonstrate how the functional medicine model will improve outcomes and reduce costs in the marketplace
- Educate and collaborate with policymakers to support initiatives aimed at transforming medical education, research, and practice
As can be seen by reading about the many initiatives listed above, work on these strategic activities has been underway for several years. Results can be measured not only by the public impact of exposures such as the Dr. Oz show, or by the growth in programs that have incorporated functional medicine into their curriculums, but also by who shows up at conferences on functional medicine. The 2012 AIC was a watershed moment for IFM. As Dr. Jones emphasized, functional medicine can now be confidently called mainstream medicine. Much work remains to be done, but we encourage all who have worked toward this goal to take a moment and rejoice in these successes!