Lauren’s Journey

A bit about me and my journey to founding FMPhA:
2013: I graduated with my PharmD from the Raabe College of Pharmacy at Ohio Northern University (with a minor in Business Administration) and began working as a Pharmacy Manager for Walmart.
2015: We moved to Michigan, where I discovered Functional Medicine when my husband was dealing with some health issues and just generally “felt like crap” all the time. I knew that what I was recommending to him wasn’t working, despite following all the tips I learned in pharmacy school to be healthy: eat healthy foods like whole wheat bread and skim milk, get 8 hours of sleep, exercise daily. And it seemed any OTC or prescriptions medications would be just covering up the symptoms.
One day, I received a flyer in the mail from a local Functional Medicine practitioner who claimed he could fix all of the problems that my husband was experiencing, like allergies, sinus congestion, poor digestion, fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, anxiety, insomnia, snoring, the list went on.  My first google search of “functional medicine” turned up Wikipedia articles claiming this was pseudoscience or quackery, but after reading about the head-to-head trials at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, I thought there must be some evidence to this new approach. After attending a weekend seminar, he enrolled in a 12 week, $5000 program that included all of the labs and supplements and weekly visits he would need. I couldn’t believe we were going to spend this much on out of pocket healthcare costs, but at this point, it sounded like it would be worth it.
Through extensive labwork, we discovered his hidden food sensitivities of gluten and dairy, candida overgrowth in his gut, nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, methylation SNPs, early insulin resistance, increased inflammation, and more. No wonder he felt like crap! The high-stress job, lack of sleep, infrequent exercise, and Standard American Diet (including regular attendance at craft beer and food festivals) had taken its toll on his health at an early age.
He completed an elimination diet, optimized his nutrition through high-quality supplements, and within the first few weeks, all of his symptoms disappeared, even the snoring! By the end of the program he had lost 20 lbs. Interestingly enough for me, I had been following along on the dietary changes too, and couldn’t believe how much better I felt! I didn’t even know it was possible to go from feeling “normal” to feeling this good. This is what we mean when we say “health as a positive vitality and not merely the absence of disease!” It was like The Matrix (which is kind of punny since there is such as thing as the FM Matrix): we had taken the red pill and there was no going back. I believed that this was truly the future of medicine and I wanted my patients to experience this incredible health as well.

2016: I started my Master of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine at the University of Western States. (Note: you do not need a Masters degree to practice FM and you can read more on training in this blog, but my reason for pursing a master’s was because I was already looking into MBA or MPH programs when I found this program, and new my employer would want a formal program vs a certification.) At this time, I was working as a Pharmacy Manager in Flint, MI during the water crisis, so I took a particular interest in heavy metal toxicities and how to support detoxification through nutrition for patients who couldn’t afford most functional medicine practices. I would incorporate FM into my daily practice through counseling on lifestyle medicine (nutrition, exercise, sleeping, stress management) as well as drug-induced nutrient depletions, deprescribing, and supplements.

2017: I was promoted to a pharmacy clinical services manager, lead point of care testing training for my 11 stores incorporating lifestyle counseling, and lead a diabetes MTM pilot program in conjunction with POCT.
I also started looking for more resources on implementing FM in pharmacy practice, and I quickly realized the lack of pharmacist-specific training. CME abounds, but no CPE. So, I set out to create these opportunities for pharmacists. I presented my first CE program “Functional Medicine 101: A Primer for Pharmacists” at the Ohio Pharmacists Association Annual Conference in April 2017. While I was doing my research for this program, I discovered more and more pharmacists who were already providing FM. Old friends I hadn’t spoken to in years. New colleagues that I met through mutual connections.
On April 17, 2017 I started the Functional Medicine Pharmacists Facebook group as a way to gather pharmacists in FM. My next opportunity to educate pharmacists came during the Michigan Pharmacists Association Symposium 0n August 25, 2017. It was at this even that I officially announced the launch of
Initially, FMPhA was just a website to serve as a landing page for other pharmacists who were googling “functional medicine pharmacist” (just like I was in 2017) and direct them to the Facebook group. I also began to write blog posts on various topics that were inspired by question from the Facebook group. I had an idea for a directory of pharmacists but the original website didn’t have a great way to facilitate this.
At the end of 2017, we ended up moving from Michigan to back to Ohio and I was promoted to a market director.

2018: I took IFM’s AFMCP course, we held our first FMPhA Meetup at the Functional Pharmacy Symposium in September that year, and I graduated from my Master’s program in December.

2019: I completed a Special Project Assignment on Functional Medicine and Nutrition for Walmart Home Office in conjunction with Walmart Health. Unfortunately the project ended before the program launched, due to leadership changes.

2020: I returned from the project to my market director role, and immediately founded FMPhA, LLC. The Facebook group grew to over 2,000 members and it was time to move into a more sustainable and long term model, so we launched our new website and membership options on to support our efforts.

2021: I left my market director role to take on a remote work from home role in social media marketing, where I’d be able to have more flexibility while also gaining critical skills to help scale FMPhA. We announced partnerships with IFM and A4M to further integrate pharmacists into the FM space.

2022: We celebrated the 5 year anniversary of our founding. We also reached 3,000 members in the Facebook Group. In September 2022, I left the social media role to pursue FMPhA full time while continuing to practice as a part time staff pharmacist and part time functional medicine consultant with Pharm To Table.

2023: We launched our first live course, Functional Medicine Pharmacist Bootcamp (FMPhB).

Pharmacy is a small world, and the world of FM Pharmacy is even smaller. And while this field is growing on a grassroots level, there was no organization that could unite pharmacists in FM, until now. That’s why I created FMPhA. I hope you will consider joining and becoming an ally!

In Health,
Lauren Castle, PharmD, MS

Related Articles