Teaching vs Treating

When we go to the health care clinic, we expect to leave with a cause of our illness (aka diagnosis) and a treatment to feel better.  But there should be one more thing you get from your doctor - education.

In functional medicine, the focus is on teaching patients how to obtain/maintain optimal health (versus the conventional model, which focuses on treatments).  Although I am not a "doctor", I was trained in the same medical model, alongside medical students and residents.  The same code of ethics applies to my profession.  

We tend to forget, however, that doctor comes from the latin verb meaning "to teach".  Somehow, over the last 30 years or so, this meaning seems to have been replaced with "to treat".  Throughout my years of practice, I've come to realize that patients are more satisfied with care if I empower them with tools and information to improve their health.  Sharing my years of knowledge and experience is a bridge that connects the doctor/provider to the patient, creating a partnership of care.  

In functional medicine, we do use treatments in the form of supplements and therapeutic medications, but the foundation of health relies on how we nourish our bodies, which builds resiliency.  This includes:

  • The food we eat: Do we eat foods that not only provide energy (calories), but also foods that add nutrients (the building blocks of health)?
  • The thoughts we have:  Do we practice the use of "positive" thoughts (in our head and in our social lives), or do we let our negative thoughts shape our lives?  
  • The external influencers: Do we surround ourselves with supportive people?  How do we measure success - through work and money?  Through our abilities to handle a lot of stress and still survive? 
  • The internal influencers: Do we give our bodies a break (good sleep, stress reduction habits, etc), or do we simultaneously have the gas pedal and the brakes on, as we engage in our daily activities?

In our culture, a healthy lifestyle is usually not taught in families, in schools, even by our health system. I encourage all health practitioners to return to the roots of medicine, and start teaching our patients how to avoid disease and build resiliency.

Wishing everyone great health, happiness, and a life at ease,