A bit about me and my journey to founding FMPhA:
I graduated with my PharmD in 2013 from the Raabe College of Pharmacy at Ohio Northern University (with a minor in Business Administration.)
I discovered Functional Medicine in 2015 on my own personal journey towards health. I found a local FM practitioner who claimed he could fix all of the problems that my husband and I were experiencing, like allergies, congestion, poor digestion, rashes, fatigue, the list went on. After reading about the head-to-head trials at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, I was convinced that this wasn’t some pseudoscience or quackery, and so we started seeing our FM practitioners.
Through extensive labwork, we discovered our hidden food sensitivities, gluten and dairy intolerances, candida infection, nutrient deficiencies, methylation SNPs, early insulin resistance, increased inflammation, and more. No wonder we felt like crap! Our high-stress jobs, lack of sleep, infrequent exercise, and Standard American Diet (including regular attendance at craft beer and food festivals) had taken its toll on our health at an early age.
We completed an elimination diet, optimized our nutrition through high-quality supplements, and finally understood what it meant to feel 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. You have no idea how lousy you feel until you know how GOOD you can feel! I believed that this was truly the future of medicine and I wanted my patients to experience this incredible health as well.
In 2016, I then started my Master of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine at the University of Western States, and completed it in December 2018. 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.)
While completing my degree, I worked as a pharmacy manager and as a clinical services manager for a retail pharmacy chain, where 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.
I 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. So, I started a Facebook group on April 17, 2017 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 FMPhA.
Just over 2 years later, 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 FMPhA.org to support our efforts. In 2021, we announced partnerships with IFM and A4M to further integrate pharmacists into the FM space. In 2022, we will be celebrating the 5 year anniversary of our founding!
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!
Lauren Castle, PharmD, MS