If you're a doctor in today's world, you know helping your patients heal is just getting more difficult. It is troubling that, in conventional medicine, doctors are pressured to spend less and less time with their patients, many of whom have increasingly complicated chronic illnesses. When you can, at best, spend 10 to 15 minutes with a patient, it's hard to get to the root cause of their conditions. This is part of why there is an increasingly large movement of conventional doctors deciding to receive functional medicine training.
Functional medicine allows doctors to prioritize finding the root causes of their patient's chronic and acute conditions and help them along their road to recovery in a high-impact way. This article will explore the world of functional medicine training, what to expect, and how to get started.
The History of Functional Medicine
Functional and Integrative medicine started making its way on the scene in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. During that era, progressive healers started using “natural medicine” to get to the root of disease and treat the whole person. By the 1980s, medical providers were using labs to test amino acid levels, fatty acids, toxic metals, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, hormones, and so on. They were treating chronic ailments with nutrition, supplements, and exercise and getting outstanding results.
In 1990 Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., coined the term Functional Medicine and started conducting regular seminars throughout the United States, sharing his knowledge on various subjects such as gastrointestinal health, immune health, hormone balance, and detoxification. He, along with his wife Susan, founded the first Functional Medicine Institute in 1991.
Functional Medicine Training
Now is an exciting time for Functional Medicine Practitioners; the trend has been growing and gaining attention for the past 50 years. What was once considered “alternative medicine” is now becoming mainstream medicine as more and more patients seek answers to their chronic health conditions. With this increase in demand for Functional Medicine practitioners, the trainings and courses are popping up everywhere.
Eligible medical professionals can take classes with Rupa University, continuing education courses, or become certified in Functional Medicine. If you are interested in any of the above options, this article will guide you through some of the most popular choices out there.
Functional Medicine Doctor Eligibility
To be eligible for certification as a functional medicine doctor or practitioner, you must have a higher education degree in a health-related field with one of the following credentials: Medical Doctor, Doctor of Osteopathy, Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), Naturopathic Doctor (ND), Dentist, Nurse Practitioner (NP), Acupuncturist (LAc), Pharmacist, mental health professionals, or an equivalent degree from countries outside of the US.
Physician Assistant (PA), Registered Nurse (RN), Registered Dietitian (RD), Occupational Therapist (OT), and Physical Therapist (PT) must hold at least a bachelor’s level degree in their field as long as their education was completed prior to the entry-level education change.
Requirements are constantly changing to keep up with the times. If you have a specific question about eligibility, it is recommended you reach out to the program you are interested in.
Rupa Health has recently launched Rupa University, an online platform allowing medical providers from various backgrounds to learn more about Functional Medicine.
The types of practitioners who join our programs are a mixture of new functional medicine practitioners, practitioners curious about Functional Medicine but not ready to commit to a complete functional medicine program or those who want to specialize in one diagnosis type at a time and need more 1-1 guidance.
Our most popular option is our Rupa Health Bootcamps which are six-week programs taught by industry professionals and veteran educators. They are designed to teach you the fundamentals of labs, conditions, protocols, and studies surrounding them. They provide detailed, actionable curriculums that jumpstart practitioners' understanding of specific topics.
Bootcamps are a combination of pre-recorded modules and live classes (recorded and sent out afterward) for your convenience. This allows you complete control and flexibility in your schedule.
Cost varies depending on the modules taught. You can learn more about upcoming bootcamps and their cost here.
Rupa University's Free Courses and Content
The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM)
IFM is best known for being one of the first FM institutes as well as its partnership with the Cleveland Clinic and some of its medical “celebrity” educators, including Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Terry Wahls.
The Institute for Functional Medicine holds a hybrid of classes including live streaming, online, and in-person seminars. The typical length of time to complete the IFM certification is 2 – 2.5 years. To maintain certification, you must pass a written examination every tenth year and provide a current healthcare practitioner license.
The program costs between $12,000-$16,000 (includes the price of all programs, application fee, exam fee, and case report fee). This cost does not include the maintenance and renewal of IFM Certification (every ten years).
- Gut Dysfunction & Chronic Conditions
- Environmental Health (formerly Detox)
- Bioenergetics (formerly Energy)
The Kalish Institute has helped over 1,000 practitioners worldwide since 2006. You have the option to choose between a six- or twelve-month mentorship with Dr. Kalish, and you will receive a Kalish Method Mentorship™ certification once completed. The classes are all online and a combination of live classes and recorded webinars.
The Kalish Method focuses on The Three-Body Systems™. It uses three types of lab tests, a very specific series of natural supplements, patient communication techniques, and practice management tools, to enable practitioners to manage common chronic health conditions in their patients.
If paid upfront, the one-year program is $13,490, or the six-month program is $8,495. You may also make monthly payments for an additional cost.
- Practice Plan
Functional Medicine University (FMU)
Functional Medicine University is an entirely online functional medicine training program that Dr. Ron Grisanti founded in 2006.
FMU offers a Functional Medicine education program that you can complete at your own pace, but most students complete the training in 6-7 months, with about 10 hours a week of study. FMU’s primary instructor is Dr. Ron Grisanti, but he also has a panel of highly respected medical experts that guest teach many of the classes. At the end of your training, you will receive a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioners (CFMP®) Certification.
FMU is also an approved Continuing Education Provider throughout the US for a wide range of health care entities including MDs, DCs, DOs, NDs, Acupuncturists, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Dietitians, Pharmacists, and Dentists. (7)
The total cost of the program is $2,695, payable in six or twelve months—quite a substantial savings in comparison to other certification programs on this list. A unique feature that FMU offers is access to all course materials for up to 30 days once enrolled. If you discover Functional Medicine University is not right for you within those 30 days, you can cancel your registration get a full refund.
- Introduction to Functional Medicine
- GI System
- Immune System
- Oxidative Stress
- Detoxification of the Liver
- Neuroendocrine Regulation
- Psychological, Emotional, and Spiritual Balance
- Structural Integrity
- Case Reviews
After completing your CFMP®, you can use your earned 200 hours of Functional Medicine Training towards the 300 hours needed for the American Clinical Board of Nutrition DACBN board examination.
Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy (IFNA)
The Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy (IFNA) is one of the industry’s most respected online functional nutrition training and mentoring programs. It was founded by two of the nation’s premier integrative medicine nutritionists, Dr. Sheila Dean and Kathie Swift MS.
One standout feature with IFNA is that anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to take IFNA training, which is an excellent option for anyone wanting to enter the field of integrative medicine but doesn’t currently hold a doctoral degree.
Depending on eligibility, the following options are available to meet your needs:
- Continuing Professional Education (CPEUs)
- Certificate of Training (COT)
- Advanced Practice Credential, Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner (IFNCP)
The total cost varies based on full-time student rate and optional add-on mentoring. You can check out their fee schedule for a more detailed description and breakdown of all costs.
IFNA offers 33 modules divided into 5 Tracks that are 100% online and self-paced.
A “food as medicine” approach is central to IFN therapy; thus, an understanding and application of culinary nutrition concepts to support health and healing are inherent in the curriculum.
IFNA training includes skill-building and competencies in six key clinical areas:
- Whole body systems approach
- Root cause analysis
- Therapeutic elimination diets and food plans
- Conventional and functional diagnostic labs including nutrigenetic testing
- The art and science of dietary supplements
- Mind-body modalities such as meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, and other lifestyle-oriented coaching practices to support behavior change
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