GP careers: Why I decided to train in functional medicine

Dr Sarah Davies explains what functional medicine is and how training in this field has enhanced her career.

Dr Sarah Davies
Dr Sarah Davies

Functional medicine (FM), is the fastest-growing super-speciality you have probably never heard of. FM is a method of systems-based analysis which targets the ‘root causes’ of disease.

Variable functionality due to genetics, metabolic individuality, hormones, nutritional status, gastrointestinal flora, stress levels, sleep quality and exercise all affect the way the body operates. Instead of matching symptoms to pharmacological treatments we question: ‘Why have these symptoms arisen in this particular patient? How can the factors resulting in the dysfunction be addressed?’

Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice

Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP) synthesises the latest medical research with a model of care that integrates each patient’s individual history, genetics, and lifestyle factors. AFMCP equips clinicians to design effective, personalised treatments for each patient. Click here for more details.

This article has been provided by the Institite for Functional Medicine in collaboration with Clinical Education for GP Connect

More difficult, is suspending the entrenched belief that simple non-drug interventions won’t work. Despite my understanding, it still amazes me that precise correction of metabolic flaws, improvement in diet and lifestyle changes can produce such spectacular results. In practice I see remission of autoimmune diseases, normalisation of blood sugars in diabetes and massive improvements in fatiguing illnesses.

The FM approach uses rational, evidence-based and safe interventions requiring only very occasional prescribing. The treatment protocols require a high level of trust between patient and practitioner, good motivation and detailed support. However, there is no shortage of well-educated patients wishing to try this approach, their desire to participate in their recovery fuelling progress.

Training in functional medicine

General practice is an excellent foundation for anyone wanting to broaden their horizons and career prospects in this direction (although I have found myself studying alongside medics from multiple specialities). Various courses are available but I chose to study with The Institute for Functional Medicine in the US.

The five-day introductory module has to be taken in person at one of the international venues and is now an annual fixture in the UK. This is an amazing opportunity to network and meet like-minded practitioners from the international community. The remaining six modules, can be live-streamed from home and examinations can be taken at International testing centres including London.

The courses are well-run, the subject matter is wide ranging and well-referenced. Pre-course literature is provided (and strongly advised unless you already have a degree in biochemistry and nutrition), and post-course forums with Q&A’s allow participants to raise issues not covered previously.

The presenters I have seen are all experienced FM clinicians who are passionate about their subject matter and deliver challenging content with skill –adding interest, practical relevance and humour.

I continue to work in general practice but also run my own FM clinic. The transition has required a lot of dedication and study but I love my work and could not wish for better job satisfaction.

  • Dr Sarah Davies, MBChB MRCGP DFSRH AFMCP is a GP in Thameside

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