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Functional Medicine Practitioner Spotlight: Batool Dawood

3X4’s new Functional Medicine Practitioner Spotlight series features interviews with practitioners, consultants and functional medicine thought leaders to explore everything functional medicine practitioners need to know about successfully building, managing, and growing their private practice. 

The following is an interview we recently had with Dr. Batool Dawood, Pharm D, IFMCP, CHP, Integrative Pharmacist, Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner, Certified Hijama Practitioner, Founder of Enaya Health and Wellness

What can you tell us about your practice?

BD: I am a functional medicine pharmacist practicing in Blaine, Minnesota. In addition to functional medicine consultations, I also offer other services at my clinic, such as medication therapy management, nutrition consultation and hijama therapy. I consult with my patients both online and in-person from my office in Blaine.

I created Enaya Health and Wellness 6 years ago. At Enaya, we use a patient-centered treatment approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. We utilize advancements in diagnostic testing to uncover underlying dysfunctions and uncover often overlooked factors that have a dramatic impact on health.

As a pharmacist, I perform medication therapy management and help patients reduce their medication burden and help them wean off their chronic medications by addressing their “root cause”. I also evaluate my patients for drug induced nutrient deficiencies, as many of the side effects that are caused by the medications are partially due to nutrient deficiencies that are caused by these medications. By recognizing these gaps in care, I am able to make appropriate interventions that can help my patients avoid, improve, or prevent some of the drug’s side effects. By recognizing drug-drug, drug-food, and drug-supplement interactions, I am able to make safe recommendations, especially for those patients who are on multiple medications.

I am also a certified cupping (hijama) therapist and offer hijama therapy at my clinic. Hijama is a traditional Chinese and Middle Eastern medicine modality that finds its roots in the most ancient civilizations, yet evidence of its benefits branch into the present. Hijama therapy improves blood circulation, boosts the immune system, lowers inflammation, relaxes muscles and enhances detoxification. I use hijama as an adjunct, along with nutrition and other lifestyle modifications to help my patients heal.

What surprised you the most when you started your practice?

BD: Our conventional model of medicine relies very heavily on pharmaceutical medications to manage symptoms and have little to no emphasis on nutrition and other lifestyle modifications. The majority of chronic diseases have roots in poor nutrition, toxic burden, inflammation, and poor stress management. These chronic conditions can be prevented, improved, or reversed with good nutrition and other lifestyle changes, yet most of the doctors and healthcare providers are not even trained in nutrition or other lifestyle modalities that can really help their patients heal.

Our conventional model blames poor genes for a number of diseases and often warns patients that they will eventually suffer from the same health conditions their ancestors had – but fails to acknowledge that family genetics doesn’t mean we are destined to the same fate. When I started my practice, it was very disheartening to see physicians ignoring and completely disregarding my dietary and lifestyle recommendations to my patients because they thought it has nothing to do with their genetic predispositions and disease. The most surprising fact was that many physicians have no education or training on anything else other than medications and many were very reluctant to even consider other options. It happened on several occasions where patients’ physician’s reported me to my board for malpractice and for giving so-called “wrong advice to their patients”.

Fortunately medicine is changing and I feel that more and more physicians are now open to consider options other than medications and procedures. I find it very empowering and rewarding to partner up not only with my patients, but also with their physicians and provide them with evidence based research so they feel comfortable with having their patients try other therapeutic options. I believe functional medicine can really empower patients by educating them and help them take charge of their own health, ultimately leading to long-term wellness.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome as you built your practice? How did you overcome it?

BD: I am incredibly driven and passionate about helping my patients and finding solutions for them, which are beyond the conventional model. Oftentimes, I found myself being consumed by my work.

The biggest challenge for me was to allocate the right amount of time per appointment without burning myself out. Functional medicine thoroughly looks at each aspect of the patient’s health including detailed history, along with their previous labs and work-up; I really struggled with time management. Since I charge per appointment and not per hour, many times my appointments went on forever – not to mention the work I did before and after the appointments for my patients. Many times I worked round-the-clock and felt overwhelmed and stressed out.

I overcame these challenges by first clearing my own mind and then prioritized. Few minutes before the scheduled appointment, I took some time, not to review patients’ files, but to take a few deep breaths, meditate, and gather myself. This gave me a clear mind and a sense of focus. Then I prioritized my approach based on patients’ priorities. Instead of cramming all of the patient’s concerns in one appointment, I divided it between a few shorter appointments. This helped both my patient and I to stay on a specific topic instead of jumping from one topic to the next. I also utilized some of the tools that were provided by the Institute for Functional Medicine, which helped me stay focused.

What advice would you give to other practitioners considering launching their own practice?

BD: One of the greatest strains on Functional Medicine practitioners is to provide comprehensive care for patients, despite the heavy time commitment. This issue can be resolved by collaborating with other practitioners.

I would highly recommend prospective practitioners to get to know other providers in their network and collaborate. This will free up the time for the practitioner to focus on what they are best at. It also helps develop trust between the practitioners, grow your network, and a chance to work in close proximity with other experts such as nutritionists and health coaches, to provide a comprehensive level of care for patients.

What excites you most about the field of functional medicine?

BD: It is really exciting and rewarding when I see great improvement in my patients’ health and disease states. Patients usually come to functional medicine practitioners when they have literally exhausted all their resources and have seen many specialists with no resolution. These patients are very desperate for help as they suffer and struggle with symptoms that are crippling their quality of life. Because Functional Medicine consultations, labs, supplements, and other services are usually not covered by most insurance, many patients are paying out of pocket. These patients are coming to us with great hope, but they are often hesitant at first because they have already used top of the line pharmaceuticals and have consulted with many specialists from very credible institutes with no improvements. These patients can be very skeptical and unwilling to change at first. My job as a practitioner is to inspire, encourage, and support them as they are taking baby steps towards positive change. It is a moment of celebration both for the patient and me when the patient makes a positive change in their life, which leads to a positive change in their health and improvement of their symptoms.

Where do you see your practice 5 years from now?

BD: I am very interested in teaching and mentoring pharmacy students on how to incorporate Functional Medicine into their pharmacy practices. I am often invited to pharmacy schools to lecture to pharmacy students about my journey from conventional pharmacy practice to Functional Medicine and the role of Functional Medicine in a pharmacy practice. There is a lot of interest from students and many are very interested in learning more about Functional Medicine and its implications in a pharmacy practice. In the future, I plan to take on more of a teaching role.

I am also very interested in community outreach projects and educating our communities about the power of foods and the use of food as medicine. As much as I am interested in teaching, I am also very interested in learning. I would like to learn other modalities that can help my patients improve their quality of life. I am particularly interested in mind-body medicine such as tapping, mindfulness, Ti-chi, meditation, etc. I am very excited to learn, grow, and evolve as a person and as a practitioner, so I can serve my patients better and make a meaningful difference in their lives.

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