GUEST POST: Sera Fiana
Calling Sera Fiana a member of my soul family is still an understatement. Her Christian faith and unwavering desire to help others is remarkable. She is such a caring and thoughtful friend who has pushed me towards the mountains I am often too scared to climb. What follows in this article is HER most recent blog post which you can access as well on HER page
Discussing the practical process of restoring health as part of a partnership with a functional medicine clinician, Sera shares some touching words having navigated this space as both a patient and professional clinician consultant.
I really think you will find her words truthful, precise, and truly inspiring.
Finding a functional medicine doctor can be challenging.
I get to talk with lots of people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. The question I get the most often due to my experience of being sick and tired of being sick and tired is:
"Sera - How did you find a good Functional Medicine doctor?"
Recently, when a Virtual Healing U. participant asked me this very question after seeing my success from working with my Functional Medicine team, I was reminded just how hard it was for me to find the right doc. It took me a few days, okay weeks, to figure out the best way to answer her question because, sadly, there is no easy answer.
First, for those who are not familiar you may be asking: What is functional medicine?
The Institute of Functional Medicine defines functional medicine simply as:
"Medicine which asks how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual.The Functional Medicine model is an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. It relies on a detailed understanding of each patient’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors and leverages that data to direct personalized treatment plans that lead to improved patient outcomes."
It is true that it can be tricky AND it is possible to find a functional medicine doctor for your team. Below, I have summarized some tips to find a functional medicine doctor.:
1. First, decide what you’re willing to invest in the process.
My experience: Before you begin to search for a functional doctor, evaluate your willingness to invest time, effort and finances.
TIME: It takes time to do the “treatment plans” prescribed by functional clinicians. For example, from my treatment plan with my doctor I must do the following daily: prep food, exercise, rest, take supplements and meditate. I also invest a lot of time going to my appointments. For me, I have to travel pretty far for my doctor (because I couldn’t find what I needed close by), so I had to make the decision of being willing to invest time in travel. Often, when you find a good functional doctor they are not in your own town, you may have to drive or travel
Weekly, I invest time into my health and it has offered me the best return of any investment I have ever made: reduced pain, increased energy, weight loss, joy, fulfilling relationships, strength and my HEALTH.
EFFORT: You must have skin in the game with a functional doctor. They can teach you what lifestyle changes to make (which are often challenging), but you have to be willing to do the work outside of their office. See above: this is not taking a pill, it is taking accountability for your choices and lifestyle.
FINANCES: Your insurance (most likely) will NOT cover the amount of time a functional doctor will spend with you. Functional doctors get to know the whole you and because they do that, the time they spend with you is typically longer than other docs - time that is not covered by insurance.
It is worth it.
Functional doctors see the whole picture and my experience has been you end up seeing them less in the long term because they take this approach and look at all of you vs. treating you piece by piece. It has also been my experience that I need less doctors on my team because this one doctor takes care of so much (again, cost efficient - both for my time and wallet).
Functional doctors also typically make recommendation for supplements, which are an outside cost. Again, for supplements, I find that they help me to feel better and the healthier I get the less I have to take. It has been a financial investment for me to invest in supplements AND I have taken less and less as I get better.
2. Second, try to get a referral from friends, family or patients that you trust.
My experience: Most of my functional medicine team has come from friends or other patients. I find that the right doctors showed up at the right time for me. (When I WAS READY.) I don’t think it's a coincidence. I believe when the student is ready the teacher will appear. I prayed often for the right doctors and in the right time they were revealed to me.
Ask people in your life (who have healed as you desire) what doctors they go to or find communities online with people afflicted with similar challenges and see who they are going to.
Patience is certainly a part of this search.
3. Finally, be prepared. Do your research.
My experience: If you are not able to gain a referral, there are resources like IFM that offers lists of clinicians that are functional medicine certified. Also, google functional doctors in your local area and review the website or online reviews about the clinic. Call the office and ask for a consult call with a member of the team to learn more about the approach.
If you decide to try a functional doctor be prepared.
I always come with a list of questions I have for the doctor so I do not forget. I also ask the best way to ask questions after the appointment. I have learned I most likely will have questions because the information I learn requires ME to make a lot of changes (and my brain needs to know WHY I am making those changes and HOW to make the changes). In case I forget or need more information, I need to know how to ask questions post my appointment. Most functional doctors know that questions will arise and have systems in place to respond.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. Have you had an experience with a functional doctor? What was your experience? What tips have I missed? Or, are you looking for a functional doctor and frustrated? Please, share your story in the comments below.
In health & healing,
Sera Fiana is on a mission to use her voice, experience and passion for wellness to inspire healthy change. As a cancer survivor and woman in recovery from an eating disorder, Sera uses her life’s story to challenge the way we honor our personal health and overall wellness. She is an advocate of a holistic approach to health and shares openly about how combining traditional and complementary therapies helps her thrive. Her authenticity, vulnerability and compassion will make you love her, engage in her mission and inspire healthy change in your own life.
In 2009, following her first surgery to remove her tumor, Sera founded Running for Answers (RFA), a running event that brings together a community to raise money and awareness for desmoids. The race, which takes place annually in Philadelphia, allowed Sera to take her passion of running to promote advocacy in the Desmoid community.
In 6 short years, RFA has raised over $1.5 million for desmoid research and ignited a movement in this rare disease community. Her story to build and grow this initiative has been featured in USA Today Health & Wellness, Men’s Fitness, on the Dr. Oz Show and CBS Philadelphia.
Sera currently lives in Virginia. She works in healthcare and sits on the board of directors for the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation and Casey Health Institute.