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The State Of Functional Medicine 2020: Insights From Sandra Scheinbaum

3X4’s new State of Functional Medicine series features interviews with a diverse range of 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. 

Functional medicine practitioners play a key role in helping patients understand who they are so they can improve their quality of life which is what we’re all about here at 3X4. Our goal with this new series is to celebrate the work these practitioners are doing and inspire others to explore the exciting field of functional medicine.

The following is an interview we have recently had with Sandra Scheinbaum, Ph.D, Founder and CEO, Functional Medicine Coaching Academy.

Why did you decide to make functional medicine your focus?

SS: In my 35+ year career as a health psychologist, and learning disabilities specialist before that, I was fascinated by the mind-body connection and underlying root causes of cognitive processing disorders and emotional distress. When I learned about Functional Medicine and the training opportunities offered through The Institute for Functional Medicine, I knew I had found a way of thinking and a community that felt like home.  

Who have been your greatest mentors in your functional medicine journey? 

SS: Laurie Hofmann was CEO of IFM when they entered into a collaboration agreement with the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. She believed in our mission from the beginning. So did Dr. Kristi Hughes, Dr. Joel Evans, Monique Class and so many other senior IFM faculty. They’re all my mentors and key leaders/faculty for our students.

What excites you most about your day to day work? 

SS: 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.

What’s the most challenging part of your day to day work? 

SS: I’m a visionary and a quick start by nature. Follow -up on the details is challenging, no matter how hard I work at tasks like creating spreadsheets with facts and figures. Consequently, I learned to look to others on my team. “Who, not how” is my mantra.

What do patients most commonly get wrong about functional medicine? 

SS: Patients may come to functional medicine with the old operating system from conventional medicine: the notion that the doctor and the treatment will “fix them.” They may not fully understand and accept the idea of patient-empowered healthcare. They’re responsible for making the changes necessary to create health.

What’s holding the field of functional medicine back? 

SS: Functional medicine is still too expensive for most people. It has a reputation for being only for the wealthy. Additionally, functional medicine is still not understood by most people and lacks name recognition. Fortunately, with the rise of group visits, access to functional medicine health coaches, and increasing numbers of practitioners and coaches entering the field, these challenges are being addressed.

What has your experience been with genetic testing? 

SS: Genetic testing is now widely available and affordable. It’s the foundation for a personalized approach as opposed to “one size fits all.” I’ve learned a lot about my own genetic profile and that’s led to making better, more informed diet and lifestyle choices.

How do you see the practice of functional medicine evolving in the years ahead? 

SS: What’s particularly exciting is the increasing recognition of the value of health coaches on functional medicine collaborative care teams. Delivery of services remotely is here to stay and the coaches can play a key role in facilitating online group visits. As a result, access to affordable functional medicine care increases.

About Sandra Scheinbaum, Ph.D.

Sandra Scheinbaum is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist for over 35 years; Board-Certified in Functional Medicine through The Institute for Functional Medicine and a Board Certified Senior Fellow in Biofeedback.  Sandra founded the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy in collaboration with The Institute for Functional Medicine & created an innovative coaching model blending Functional Medicine principles with positive psychology coaching.

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