Are You a Certified Functional Medicine Doctor?
Sixteen years ago when I started practicing, no one ever asked me this question. So, why do I keep hearing it, today?
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
by: Carrie Louise Daenell, ND, AANP Board Member


The Institute of Functional Medicine has come on strong!  They have been effective at defining those they certify and further at promoting their existence.

Where did they come from? Members of our profession taught key stakeholders in the nutritional supplement industry some of the evidence-based methods of looking at natural substances as the science began to emerge.  The nutritional supplement industry was able to make the information palatable to conventionally trained doctors interested in what they called “complementary and alternative” medicine, at the time.  In doing so, a new and developing customer base was born.

The term “functional medicine” was more progressive than “complementary and alternative” and more aligned with the conventionally-based mindset, than the term “natural” – from which this demographic arose.

How did we get from a few outliers to an entire movement? Healthcare has changed dramatically over the last two decades and it is becoming more and more challenging for the conventional physician to get paid.  Obviously this translates, very sadly, into the fact that it is more and more difficult for the patient to navigate the care they want, as well. People want out. The patients want out and the docs want out too.  Who wouldn’t?

The movement started with a few outlier medical doctors that braved ostracization by their industry in order to pursue better medicine for their patients.  They sacrificed so much in the name of good intent. What they began, however, has evolved into a spring-board, complete with a name and a certificate, making it much easier for those looking to parlay their prestigious MD/DO credentials into something outside of the insurance-based practice of medicine and into more cash-based businesses. Further, what began as a career risk now takes a “tad pole in an ocean” and quickly transforms them into a big fish in a small sea – sometimes simply by supporting something as simple as eating more vegetables, meditating and exercising.  Along the way, it has also evolved into a growing professional demographic for the nutritional supplement industry.

What is so wrong with this? There is actually a lot of “right” in all of this. More people reaching toward healthier treatment options, is a right thing. Treatment in the form of disease management is certainly better when you can accomplish it with health promoting far-less-risky natural substances. However, it is still disease management. Naturopathic Doctors use healthy natural substances to treat at the causal level. They have been rigorously trained to identify dis-ease at the level where you can strategically employ natural substances to right the wrongs that have occurred in the body’s biochemistry and drive whole health that seemingly miraculously returns the body back to the normal. Normal, is true health. The downside is that if we do not step up and clearly define ourselves as the uniquely valuable leaders in natural healthcare delivery – someone else will and the world, the sickest people and our biggest fans trying to learn the entry-level versions of our medicine – may lose us forever.

So – “no,” I am not a Certified Functional Medicine Doctor – I am a Naturopathic Doctor. Functional medicine is only one of the many natural modalities where we have clinical expertise. When you combine that with our training in conventional care, and how they work safely and effectively together – we really are the best of both worlds. But today, we are the world’s best kept secret. The world needs more of all of us, Functional Medicine Doctors, Naturopathic Doctors and every other natural, complementary and alternative healing modality out there  – and all of us need Naturopathic Doctors to thrive, leading the charge for true sustainability of smart healthy medicine.

Define and Share Naturopathic Medicine Now!
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