The Path to Becoming a Functional Medicine Physician

What it takes to get certified

Four years ago Cleveland Clinic opened the doors of the Center for Functional Medicine (CFM). In collaboration with the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), the CFM is focused on the practice of functional medicine as a proven clinical model within the standard of care. The team is involved in research across the Cleveland Clinic health system and is closely measuring its patient outcomes.

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Today, Cleveland Clinic’s CFM is home to a staff of nine (and growing) physicians, certified nurse practitioners and physician assistants who are all certified functional medicine providers or in the process of becoming certified. In addition to certified providers, the team includes nutritionists, health coaches, and a behavioral health therapist who have all been trained in the practice of functional medicine.

Physicians of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine were all licensed medical physicians in their discipline prior to entering the IFM program.

Eligibility

To be eligible to become a certified functional medicine physician, practitioners must have a license in a primary specialty, with one of the following credentials:

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  • Medical Doctor
    • Doctor of Osteopathy
    • Doctor of Chiropractic
    • Naturopathic Doctor
    • Dentist
    • Nurse Practitioner
    • Physician Assistant
    • Registered Nurse
    • Registered Dietitian
    • Acupuncturist
    • Pharmacist

(Or equivalent degrees from countries outside of the USA)

Training

Once a practitioner is accepted into the IFM functional medicine program, they must take the overview course “Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice.” After this, the program is made up of six training modules focusing on different systems of the body. These six focus areas are: Gastrointestinal, Detox, Immune, Hormone, Cardiometabolic and Energy. Courses are offered onsite in cities around the country (and virtual courses are starting to be offered) and are an average of 17 credit hours. Once the modules are completed, a case report must be accepted and graded according to IFM criteria, and a written exam must be completed with a passing grade. Candidates must successfully complete these program requirements within seven years of the approved application to receive the certified practitioner designation. Like all medical physicians, there is ongoing education for functional medicine physicians.

Background

Functional medicine is an integrative, science-based healthcare approach that is patient-centered. Physicians in the Cleveland Clinic CFM focus on disease prevention through:

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  • Nutrition, diet and exercise.
  • Use of the latest laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques.
  • Prescribed combinations of drugs and/or botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs and stress-management techniques.

Across the country, 42 percent of hospitals offer patients a form of integrative medical care, including functional medicine. Cleveland Clinic was one of the first large academic medical centers in the country to house a department dedicated to the practice, education and research of functional medicine.

CFM Medical Director Elizabeth Bradley, MD, says this about her team’s work, “Here at Cleveland Clinic, we are doing all we can to advance the science of functional medicine so we can help more people live healthier lives. Our functional medicine team wants to be an integral part of Cleveland Clinic’s population health efforts, working alongside our specialist colleagues.”

The Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine is a collaboration between Cleveland Clinic and the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), led by Mark Hyman, MD. To learn more about the certification process, visit the IFM website