History

The Institute for Functional Medicine grew out of the vision, energy, and dedication of Susan and Dr. Jeffrey Bland, whose company, HealthComm, provided the initial home for an educational effort to support the innovative approaches to clinical nutrition that were the drivers for their product line. These new approaches and new products reflected groundbreaking thinking about the uniqueness of individual biochemistry and heralded the onset of a movement away from one-size-fits-all medicine to personalized, systems-based medicine. Jeff’s instinct about what the evolving evidence base really meant for human health proved prescient, and eventually a name was required for this new way of thinking. Thus was born the term FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE.

In the early years, IFM’s annual symposium focused on bringing cutting-edge research to the attention of an eclectic audience of scientists, medical doctors, chiropractors, nutritionists, and other health professionals. There was a growing excitement about the new findings and an ardent desire to hear from experts whose original research opened up new vistas for thinking about health and disease.

The emerging science delved deep into physiology and biochemistry, moving way past the more simplistic one-disease–one-drug research that had been driving medical thinking since the mid-20th century. The nationwide movement to embrace complementary and alternative medicine added fuel to the fire, as clinicians of every discipline began to understand the underlying common pathways to disease as well as the individual expression of disease created by the unique, ongoing interactions among genetics, environment, and lifestyle that shape our lives.

Serving as President of The Institute for Functional Medicine from 1999 to 2013, David Scott Jones, MD, guided IFM in the clinical development of Functional Medicine. Under Dr. Jones’ guidance, IFM became a freestanding, independent, nonprofit, ACCME- accredited educational institute—a change that allowed the Institute to focus entirely on its educational mission, free of any commercial connections.

As the research base matured in Functional Systems Medicine, Dr. Jones developed IFM’s educational program team, which began to work on a framework for sorting and applying scientific findings in clinically relevant ways. The education team studied and articulated the common principles that categorized this new field of Functional Medicine, developing models for applying the evolving Functional Systems Medicine science.

During this era, the Functional Medicine Matrix Model was born, including the core concepts of antecedents, triggers, and mediators; the integration of lifestyle into evaluation and treatment; and the central concept of an interconnected web binding all elements of body (physiology and biochemistry), mind, and spirit.

IFM attendees and members wanted more take-home practical clinical tools that would enable them to apply their Functional Medicine knowledge to greater benefit for their patients. As President, Dr. Jones facilitated the development of Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP) and the Functional Medicine Matrix Model (FMMM). He was also Editor in Chief of the Textbook of Functional Medicine and facilitated the development of the IFM Functional Medicine Certification Program. During his tenure, the IFM Timeline and GOTOIT model for sequencing care became core tools in the IFM Functional Medicine Certification program.

Dr. Jones’ vision, leadership, perseverance, and attention to developing a clinical model that could be taught and practiced catalyzed a global movement that is transforming medical education and clinical practice for many thousands of clinicians, educators, students, and patients. In addition to a very long list of tangible contributions, Dr. Jones also urged that IFM bring a heart-centered focus not only to therapeutic partnerships between patients and clinicians but among the many interactions with staff, faculty, advisors, thought-leaders, collaborating partners, and even adversaries. We have all been blessed and deeply moved by his presence, wisdom, counsel, and loving kindness.

Today, IFM offers a sophisticated model for teaching and practicing Functional Medicine. In addition to the Matrix, both the Timeline and the GOTOIT model for sequencing care have become core tools in the teaching program. A Toolkit of more than 200 different tools for use in clinical practice is available to IFM members. In addition to the early programs of an annual symposium and AFMCP, the teaching program now encompasses six Advanced Practice Modules (APMs), a certification program, a growing portfolio of eLearning courses, and new courses on functional nutrition. The curriculum is deeply rooted in the scientific evidence base and adapts as needed to new and revised findings. As the evidence has matured and concepts have become clearer and better accepted, the need to train clinicians in new ways of thinking and practicing has soared.