Just last year, Paris Kharbat, DO, left a thriving private practice in Washington State to join the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. The move cross-country was worth it, she says, to be a part of the functional medicine movement.
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“This is a chance to change medicine,” she says, of the center started at Cleveland Clinic in 2014 under the leadership of Mark Hyman, MD, and Patrick Hanaway, MD. Today, the center has a waiting list of patients and a number of research projects underway to further prove the efficacy of functional medicine to the wider medical community. And it continues to expand its model of care through medical education and community outreach.
For Dr. Kharbat, it has been her work with patients every step of the way that led her on the path to practicing functional medicine. During her family medicine residency while at UC Davis Medical Center/Mercy Methodist Hospital, she had good results performing osteopathic manipulation (OMT) on her obstetrics patients. So good that many pregnant patients began requesting her care to help them with their back pain.
Following her residency
After residency and becoming a Board-certified Family Medicine physician she joined Indian Health Services (IHS) in California where she worked in the clinic, the hospital and the nursing home and assumed the role of medical director serving a large Native American population. While there, the one chronic pain management specialist left the practice. This led her to take an intensive six-month program to learn medical acupuncture to address their needs.
In 2003, she and her family moved to Pullman, Washington where she soon started her private practice providing OMT and acupuncture. While these services helped patients, she knew that diet needed to be a part of their care if her patients were to truly regain health and alleviate pain. “I wanted to find a clinical way to advise patients on diet,” she says.
Soon after, she met a functional medicine colleague at a conference and her knowledge impressed her. In 2007, this led Dr. Kharbat to enroll in the introductory Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice training class offered by the Institute for Functional Medicine. At the time, she was pregnant with her second set of twins (two girls) and she was put on bed rest. She says this downtime gave her a chance to apply her learnings to her own family’s health. The functional medicine training helped her to treat her children’s headaches, stomach aches and gluten intolerance.
“Functional medicine allows the body to heal at its own pace, in its own time by combining appropriate medical treatments and medications and supplements when needed, with a lifestyle of healthy diet and regular exercise,” she says. Today she is a fully certified functional medicine physician after completing the IFM program.
Throughout 11 years of operating her own practice, she continued to learn new therapies to help patients deal with their pain. In addition to medical acupuncture, Dr. Kharbat has extensive training in fascial distortion modelTM (FDM) and frequency specific microcurrent (FSM). She explains that FDM is a patient-directed soft tissue therapy while FSM uses electric current to decrease inflammation. “Both methods are incredibly effective at treating pain,” she says.
Today, Dr. Kharbat has a full case load and she serves as the clinical lead in developing a Functional Medicine Fellowship and seeing research patients. She is also training her Cleveland Clinic colleagues on how to perform FDM. “Functional medicine gives us so many tools in our toolkit to improve patients’ lives,” she says. “And it allows for a joyful connection with patients. It is exciting to work with a great team of colleagues here — we are helping so many people and we are just getting started.”
Dr. Kharbat is married with two sets of twins. She enjoys cooking healthy and she and her family are very active – they enjoy hiking, skiing, snowboarding and paddle boarding.