My Journey to Become a Functional Medicine Practitioner
Becoming a functional medicine doctor was a journey that began with my own experiences as a young child who was frequently admitted to the hospital. I clearly recall my parents spending several hours with me throughout my hospital course. I also remember the hospital volunteers in their red and white striped uniforms laughing and talking with me to help the time go by.
I was in the hospital quite regularly as a child because I had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes, I would have a flare-up and be in terrible pain. Other days, I would not ache at all. As I got older, I had fewer in-patient stays, but my early experiences had led me to want to become a doctor. I longed to help people in the same way that my doctors had helped me. I wanted to make people feel better, smile, and feel comfortable during their stay in the hospital.
Many people have dreams and goals and want to become or do something special. For me, it was becoming a doctor. In addition to helping nameless others, I also wanted to help my family. Our family has been plagued with all kinds of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, elevated cholesterol, heart failure, knee replacements, obesity, gastric bypass, and a multitude of other medical issues.
Between my experiences as a child, my desire to help others, and my family history of disease, I knew that I had to find a way to get to medical school, no matter what it took. I was able to accomplish that dream and am now Dr. Tamika, M.D. Becoming a functional medicine practitioner, the goal I had not yet realized was a goal, would come later.
As a medical doctor, I saw countless sick people come in and out of the hospital. I also worked as a home visiting physician, taking care of people with multiple serious medical issues. Often taking care of the sickest of the sick, I went from house calls to nursing homes, watching families come and go with their loved ones. They were all wondering such things as, “Why did this happen?” as well as, “Will this happen to me, too? Will I get diabetes? Will I get Alzheimer’s? Will I have heart failure or kidney disease or cancer?”
When I started practicing medicine, I practiced what is called reactive medicine. Essentially, a physician is called in to fix something after it becomes a problem. So, I was called in to help someone dealing with advanced Alzheimer’s, but I rarely got the chance to help anyone keep it from showing up in the first place. I felt there had to be a better way.
Certainly, there was a way to get to the cause of the problems and understand the “why” behind all of this madness. There was a way to determine why a patient was having all of these symptoms in the first place. Although knowing I could treat a good portion of my patients after they were sick, I wanted to know why the disease existed in the first place. I wanted to be able to help my patients decrease their risks of entering hospitals and nursing homes. This is when I first began to look at functional health medicine as a way to help my patients.
Functional medicine is really root cause medicine. This approach takes into consideration the whole picture including such things as diet, exercise, environment, genetics, stress, sleep, medications, spiritual impact, toxins, and mold. This lifestyle approach was what my patients needed; knowing this could make an impact on my patients and family’s’ lives as we looked at the entire picture. Everything discovered about functional medicine motivated me to learn even more, especially realizing how all these pieces in my own life were intertwined.
As a wife, mom, and physician, I could relate very well to the multitude of stressors that could hit a person on a daily basis. I understood that my patients were searching for more hours in a day to accomplish everything that was set before them. Functional medicine helped me to learn that the best way to be happy and healthy is to STOP being reactive to life and START being proactive. That is why I developed a practice that enabled me to connect with my patients, encouraging them to embrace life and set forth on a path that develops personal well-being, inner and outer beauty, and a healthier lifestyle.
The focus of my practice is to look at my patient’s entire story and help them get back to the basics. I show my patients and their extended families that health and well-being are more than just taking a pill for every symptom. Although I believe in using prescription medications, I firmly believe that it is best to discover the root cause of the problem before going down that road. I can also help them see that things like an adult’s childhood history, family history, and current stress levels are keys to understanding current health. In fact, looking at the big picture and determining the underlying cause of symptoms is the definition of functional medicine.
Functional medicine got me excited about being a doctor. It has me conference hopping, networking, shadowing other providers, and seeking more knowledge to help my family and patients.
Dr. Tamika C. Henry is a Southern California native who earned both her Bachelor of Science and Doctorate of Medicine degrees from the University of Southern California. She also earned her Masters in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine. For the last 13 years, Dr. Henry has been practicing as a board certified family physician with emphasis in geriatric medicine. She has also received extensive training in the areas of preventive medicine, bariatrics (non-surgical weight loss) and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).
When she is not training her patients in the art of personal health and wellness, Dr. Henry enjoys spending time with her family and Great Dane. Though she leads a busy life like the rest of us, she is intentional about leading by example. As an exercise enthusiast, you can often find Dr. Henry hiking, cardio strength-training, dancing, or trying any new class that hits the workout circuit. What she teaches her patients, she is sure to live out in her everyday life.
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