My Journey to Functional Medicine
As a curious kid who always loved science, I grew up making my own experiments, playing the “Mad Scientist” making volcanoes and smoke bombs in the basement. Biology and chemistry were always my favorite school subjects and I had a supportive family who encouraged these interests. I went on to graduate from Dartmouth Medical School and become Board Certified in Internal Medicine, eventually specializing in Integrative Functional Medicine.
The opportunity to run my own medical practice came along when I saw an ad in a local medical journal, for an office in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. I was interested in the prospect and called to find out more. It turns out, the physician who was retiring and turning over his practice was the same one in the famous Norman Rockwell painting “Before the Shot,” a true testament to his 50 years of practicing medicine in this part of New England. After a visit to his office I decided to give it a try and took over ownership of his practice.
I began as a family practice, seeing ages 13 and up, until 2004 when I transitioned completely into Integrative and Functional Medicine. I wasn’t seeing my patients heal in the way I wanted by using conventional medicine alone. Researching nutrition, botanicals, and other alternative therapies helped me provide my patients with much more evolved and comprehensive care, so I knew this was the path I had to follow to help the most people.
One of my greatest interests is the gut microbiome. As a resident I worked at the VA Hospital; I remember one particular patient with hepatic encephalopathy who was in a coma. We treated him with intravenous fluids, antibiotics, laxatives, and probiotics (which was quite innovative at the time). Within 24 hours he was awake! We realized he had major imbalances in his gut microbiome which were creating an additional toxic burden for his already damaged liver. This amazing experience peaked my interest in the interconnectedness of the body and the role the microbiome plays in health and disease. The microbiome is greatly impacted by the types of foods we eat and this led me to a better understanding of diet and nutrition. This interest also lead me to focus on the gut-brain axis, looking at the way neurological and emotional imbalances can actually stem from imbalances in gut bacteria. I also use the microbiome to address cardiometabolic diseases, optimal aging, autism spectrum disorder, and many other areas of health.
While building my private practice I was lucky enough to join the Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort in Lenox, Massachussetts part-time, which provided me with an even greater opportunity to learn about Integrative Medicine. Dr. Mark Hyman later joined the team as well and this set the stage for our future as colleagues in Functional Medicine. I eventually stepped away from my practice and joined Canyon Ranch full-time, and after 15 years there left to join Dr. Hyman and the wonderful team here at The UltraWellness Center.
Typically, people come to see me with a laundry list of symptoms. They’ve seen multiple doctors and been given a pill for every ill. They are at their lowest point of health and looking for answers to their chronic health problems. This is when I play the medical detective. I employ blood, hair, urine, saliva, and stool testing to get information covering their genomic, nutritional, metabolic, and toxicity status so I can really do a deep dive into understanding their symptoms.
I’m extremely fortunate in that I love working with people and that is a big part of my job. It doesn’t feel like work to me since I enjoy putting the puzzle pieces together in order to help them feel their best. I see patients from all over the world—China, New Zealand, Dubai—and it’s amazing to see the positive shifts in their health once we really dig into their problems using the principles of Functional Medicine. I strongly believe that this way of thinking is the future of medicine and I’m grateful to be a part of this cutting-edge movement.