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17 Functional Medicine Doctors & Practitioners Share What Excites Them Most About Their Work

Last December we started publishing our State of Functional Medicine series which featured interviews with over 30 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. 

You probably don’t have time to read every interview so we’ve gone through and pulled together some of our favorite answers to the various interview questions we asked practitioners. Here’s what we learned!

What excites you most about your day to day work?


As the knowledge of genetics and the impact of the microbiome on health rises rapidly, I am more and more eager to see how much we can do with it. Currently, I love to use our biochemistry knowledge, such as by measuring the Kreb cycle and nutrient metabolites, to guide supplement choices and see quick recoveries in my patients. The early 20th century was such a boon for our understanding of nutrients and their impact on health, and yet that plays very little role in conventional medical practices. Getting back to this knowledge and incorporating it with our more modern technology and understanding truly yields better results with our patients in the short-term, as well as promoting longer-term health with fewer side effects from treatment. Advances in our understanding of genetics and the microbiome will undoubtedly add even further to this knowledge base and allow us to guide patients to the lives they are capable of experiencing, when the right foundations are in place.

Dr. Rosa N Schnyer, Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, IFMCP, L.Ac.

Empowering and supporting patients to become active agents in their own health. Changing the healthcare model necessitates dynamic patient involvement and a commitment to patient education. Health arises from the complex interplay of individual factors, lifestyle, culture, environment and community, and changing habits, it is not just a personal decision. Understanding the barriers to achieving wellness presented by our individual patients, is an essential element in creating change. But how to motivate and support the busy, overworked, and often underpaid person to engage in their health? I see that as my challenge. I love the spark that lights up when a patient leaves my office with an embodied, lived experience of transformation, possibility and hope. 

Knowing that I am truly partnering with our patients and making a difference in their lives. Not a week goes by where a patient does not tell us what a big difference we made in their well-being, their family and their lives. I have had C-suite executives tell me we saved their job and other professionals tell us how if it was not for us working with them they could not have continued with their career paths etc. I just love to make differences like this and it gives me such satisfaction.

Todd DiLeo, D.C, B.Sc., B.S., CSCS, CGP, CHHT, US Triathlon Coach, Intrinsic Wellness Clinic

Knowing that I am truly partnering with our patients and making a difference in their lives. Not a week goes by where a patient does not tell us what a big difference we made in their well-being, their family and their lives. I have had C-suite executives tell me we saved their job and other professionals tell us how if it was not for us working with them they could not have continued with their career paths etc. I just love to make differences like this and it gives me such satisfaction.

Kike Oduba MBBS, MPH, Functional Health Practitioner, WellnessWits

The most exciting thing about my day-to-day work is the creativity I tend to express while working with patients. I like the ability to look at a patient and be able to adapt my protocols and treatment plans based on their lifestyle and the many aspects of their existence. It just makes me happy to know that I am going to have a new experience in every patient relationship. With each patient, everything is personalized and everything is different.

Anshul Gupta, Functional Medicine MD, Founder of AnshulGuptaMD 

What excites me about my day at work is that it’s another day where I will be able to help more people. In Functional Medicine we see patients who have lost hope and have no other resource left to them. They are looking for help but nobody understands their symptoms or have tools to help them. And each and every day I can give hope to these patients and get them on their healing journey. 

Heidi Iratcabal ND,IFMCP, founding partner Carpathia Collaborative, director of Science of Thriving

Working with patients. I love digging in and figuring out all the pieces and then giving them the tools to find their wellness. I enjoy seeing the clients progress and grow as we progress on the journey of their health. It’s a bit like helping them set up for success. 

Julie Beth Yelin, M.D., Owner of Choose Health Wellness Center

I am most excited when patients tell me that they feel the best that they have ever felt in their lives. I get great satisfaction in knowing that not only do my patients feel much better, but that I am helping my patients to achieve and maintain their optimal health for their entire life.

Brandy Zachary DC, IFMCP, Body Love Cafe

I’m a teacher at heart and I love helping others. I regularly teach free classes to the public and I also train other doctors worldwide. I enjoy taking complex subjects and making them simple.

We have a variety of practitioners at Body Love Cafe including other functional medicine doctors, registered dietitians, nutritionists and health coaches. I enjoy providing ongoing training to our team and working on patient cases together.

I love that “aha” moment when a patient makes a connection between something that seemed unexplained and now they have a new understanding. I also love teaching complex lab analysis and case management to other physicians.

My biggest inspiration in all of this is the hope to alleviate suffering or that sense of “aloneness” in even one individual. I went through it personally as a patient and I would like to help others from having that experience.

My most exciting work now are some new projects I’m wrapping up. I developed a Lab Analysis software app for physicians that will be released soon and that’s been a big endeavor. I’m also working on a second book about the metabolic condition I recognized in early 2020. My hope is to forever change how the world sees women, their bodies and mental health.

Katie Hachuela, Nurse Practitioner, Gastroenterology Associates Colorado Springs

The microbiome has been most exciting to learn about and work to modulate through diet and lifestyle changes. It is extremely satisfying to have patients improve with these simple changes, who otherwise have been suffering with debilitating GI symptoms for many years.

Rachel Headings, Certified Functional Medicine Provider with IFM, aLIVE Functional Medicine

I am most excited each day to be present with my clients and help guide them on their healing journey. Each client is so unique, it brings me great joy to show up and give them all the attention they need to feel supported, heard, and validated on their healing journey. I also love interpreting functional labs and designing personalized protocols. It takes the guesswork out of the treatment plan.

Lara Zakaria PharmD MS CNS CDN IFMC, Functional Pharmacist and Clinical Nutritionist, Dr KF Education Programs coordinator

I love my team and the collaboration at my clinic! I am part of an amazing clinic team of doctors and nutritionists – being able to learn from each other and discuss cases, emerging research, and participate in our professional education programs is an absolute dream for a nerd like me!

Martina Harms, PA-C, Functional Medicine Health Consultant

Every day I get messages from my clients about how great they are feeling, which is the most exciting part of my work. I know that I’m making a big impact in their lives, just by listening to their stories and helping them change the trajectory of their health and well-being.

Zac Watkins, Functional Medicine Doctor, Founder of The Livewell Clinic and Platform Health LLC

Currently my role sees me in the vision-casting and creation mode. I have a team that I work with whom we are out to increase the growth of our office, but also work with other providers who are seeking support in their own functional medicine journeys.

Working with a team that is excited to learn and grow to impact others on a greater scale is fun and rewarding.

Sandra Scheinbaum, Ph.D, Founder and CEO, Functional Medicine Coaching Academy

I connect everything I do to my mission and purpose, which is to train health coaches who can effectively help people create healthier lives. I imagine the ripple effect as our graduates are not only helping their clients, but the clients’ family, friends, and larger community. Those alumni who work in medical practices are helping the doctors and allied staff experience less stress and avoid burn-out. Keeping these images close to my heart, I feel inspired and excited to continue to ensure that FMCA provides the most transformative experience possible.

Cambria DeMarco, ACNP-BC, IFM Practitioner/ Walsh & Bredesen Protocol Certified Practitioner, Functional Medicine Specialists

I love when I can help those who are struggling to regain their vitality and strength. I am fascinated by the resilience of the body and brain. I enjoy analyzing a client’s biochemistry, correcting it and watching the magic that happens when you give the body (and brain) what it needs to heal and thrive.

Jennifer Franklin, MD, FAAP, IFMCP, CentreSpringMD

The greatest opportunity I enjoy each day is to partner with patients and their parents to offer a listening ear, a new perspective, and an empathetic heart to help identify and treat the underlying root cause(s) of their health challenges. I play the role of medical detective, encourager, and coach in this patient-centered approach to healing; it’s incredibly humbling and gratifying to work alongside patients in this way.

Elena Klimenko, MD, Integrative Medicine Specialist

Direct primary care and functional medicine together create the time and space where my patients are engaged in their own care. That is what basically leads to powerful change.

Interactions with patients, understanding the unique story of each and every one of them. Understanding the intricacies of Mother Nature in how she treats each one of us with grace, interconnectedness and love. 

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