Welcome back to the Evolution of Medicine podcast! We are excited to reboot the podcast with none other than the godfather of functional medicine, Dr. Jeffrey Bland.
In this inspiring 20 minutes, we talk about where we’ve been in the last five years and where we want to go in the next five, with highlights including:

  • The development of the upcoming Big Bold Health podcast
  • Biorhythms at the center of understanding the “when” of functional medicine
  • The potential of the functional medicine community to infect the rest of healthcare with health creation as medicine
  • A preview of the PLMI Spring Conference, April 26 & 27, in Chicago
  • Group visits and the power of health education in a peer-to-peer setting
  • And so much more

With a true functional medicine visionary like Dr. Bland at the mic, this is an episode you don’t want to miss.
Grab your notebooks, listen up, and subscribe to the podcast today.

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James: Welcome to the Evolution of Medicine podcast, the place healthcare professionals come to hear from innovators and agitators leading the charge. We cover the latest clinical breakthroughs and health technology, as well as practical tools to help you transform your practice and the health of your community. This podcast is brought to you by the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center, who provide a range of options to help you deliver successful, effective functional and integrative medicine. To find out more and to get started, go to goevomed.com/LMRC.
James: A warm welcome back to the podcast, Dr. Bland, great to have you here.
Dr. Bland: Well, I can’t tell you, James, what a treat this is, wow!
James: This is the relaunch of the Evolution of Medicine podcast, and I was just thinking that today is almost exactly five years since we recorded your interview for the first Evolution of Medicine Summit. And what a five years…what a transformation and maturation of this field, over the last five years.
Dr. Bland: I can’t believe five years has run by so fast, it’s like time compression. But what you have accomplished, with your EvoMed programs, is just nothing short of amazing.
James: Well, I really appreciate that, and you know that we are just getting started, right?
Dr. Bland: Oh heavens, yes! Life is all a process and we’re right in the stream of it.
James: So, right now we are sitting on-set at Big Bold Health podcast, which is something that’s coming a bit later. And I’ve been telling my audience a little about what to expect. So, what is the point of the Big Bold Heath podcast and why are we doing it together?
Dr. Bland: Yeah, you know it’s very interesting isn’t it, James, we’ve watched the evolution of our field and you and I have collaborated over the last five years, to recognize that we’re still kind of high-centered slightly about the model. How does this model, kind of gain the flexibility and also the scalability to really impact healthcare in such a way that it transforms the way that we see health? And the reason I say that it’s high-centered around the concept of disease, and everything kind of came back to the primacy of disease, disease risk, ICD coding, all these kind of things that are really disease-focused, so I felt that we needed to have something that would de-dock from the disease model, that really is focused about the primacy of health. And that becomes the Big Bold Health podcast.
James: Well, if the Big Bold Health podcast reaches its potential, I hope that it can be something that really educates the general public at scale about the difference between the architecture needed for disease care and healthcare. And in my mind, the timing is such that if you look back at when the Functional Forum started, so if you go back to the beginning of 2014, you’ve got no Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, you’ve got far fewer doctors out in every zip code of this country, practicing a root cause approach in every little town and village across the country. You haven’t had functional medicine really reach China, or any of these other countries where now it’s taking off, so it seems like good timing to be big and bold and really shout from the rooftops that health creation as medicine is the future.
Dr. Bland: Oh boy, did you say it there. I think the concept of health creation is an extraordinarily important buzzword for so many of the practitioners in the functional medicine movement, when you really look deeply at what they’re doing, they’re really creating health in their patients, they’re not just preventing disease or creating a number of a biomarker or treating chronic illness in and of itself. What they’re really doing is they’re examining root causes of what prohibits that person from being healthy. And that’s a very, very different kind of an approach than traditional medical education, which is focused on: what is the name of the disease, what is the standard in usual customary treatment for that disease, is if you’re a member of a class called that disease. So, I think that what you’ve just stated is an extraordinarily transformative concept, that is really, I think, infective. It’s going to really sweep across the globe; I already see it from my travel in Asia, in Australasia, in Europe, in Eastern Europe we’re seeing this concept really start to gain traction.
James: Now, a little bird told me that you had lectured to 12,000 doctors in China at one time. How does that happen?
Dr. Bland: Yeah, it really is quite amazing because there, you know, we’re overwhelmed by numbers, you know, there are over 20 cities with more that 20 million people in China, which is hard to even fathom, when you live in the United States. So, the density of individuals that would sit in various communities is remarkable, as are the number of hospitals in China, as are the number of physicians in China, it’s just a whole different scale, so for us to think about 10 or 12,000 physicians.
Dr. Bland: I actually started back in the early 90s in speaking at the Hong Kong Colosseum, before the changeover occurred and that would hold 10,000 people. And then, over time now more recently in 2018, I was invited to speak up at Harbin, which is the northern-most city in China, the northern-most city of large population density right on the border of Russia and North Korea. And this was the Health Check Center Annual Meeting, of which there were over 20,000 community health centers, what are called health check centers in China. And these were the representatives of those different health checks from these cities and there were as I said, over 10,000 doctors and principals there, representing these individual communities. I had the chance to talk about functional medicine, so we are starting to gain some stickiness and traction, and people are starting to take seriously what we’ve been talking about for almost 30 years now.
James: That’s amazing. So, I’m really excited obviously to continue that work over the next five years I think if you look at what we’ve done in the last five years, it’s really, you know, if I could just succinctly say it, it’s to try and make functional medicine cool, right, to try and make it cool for physicians to want to practice this, to move as you said, from being weird to being cool, and this is the journey that’s happening. You know, I saw a meme the other day that Mark Hyman had written which was conventional medicine is the medicine of the what, and functional medicine is the medicine of the why. In about a few weeks’ time, we are gonna embark at the PLMI conference in Chicago, and we’re going to be really talking about a new “W”, which is the medicine of the “when.”
James: Why is this such a priority, and how do you feel it fits into the functional medicine framework?
Dr. Bland: Oh my word, James. You’re talking like a journalist now. What, when, why, where; these are really the important “W’s”, aren’t they? And so the timing, the concept of how our bodies go through rhythms, is really an important emerging concept in healthcare. So, the timing of when certain things happen, and we know about certain cycles that women have in their menstrual cycles, we know about men’s hormonal flexes, we know about all of us with our daily rhythms of cortisol, which affects our blood sugar. I mean, there are many, many rhythms that are going on within our body that regulate, then, how we function and when those rhythms, those circadian rhythms are out of sync, then we have dysfunction, which then, relates to disease.
Dr. Bland: So, this meeting that we’re having in April, in Chicago, April 26th and 27th, that we’re co-partnering with Ortho Molecular Products, is really, I think, a very interesting opportunity for us to bring some of the world’s leading experts in circadian rhythms in relationship to sleep, chronobiology, how that interrelates with how you re-pattern and re-program your cycle, so that you’re in sync, basically in synchrony. And this is a major new emerging topic within healthcare, that we feel is extraordinarily important, it tracks against so many different later stage health problems, if you don’t get things in sync.
James: Absolutely. Well, I’m really excited, because we’re gonna be there. We’re gonna have our cameras there. We’re gonna be interviewing all of those speakers, and some of the people who are attendees, too. And I’m thrilled that the Functional Forum will be able to play a role in the next few months, to be able to really bring that conversation out to more people. Because ultimately, kind of where the Functional Forum started is coming to IHS and seeing you talk. I’m like, “Why isn’t anyone videoing this, like we need to get the word out, and make it free for any physician in the world to find out about this kind of stuff.” So, the Functional Forum for the next 12 months, is really gonna get into the that and really start to sort of spread that virus into the minds of physicians across the world, because it’s really not something that even in the functional medicine world is that well understood, but you know, you got to keep on the cutting edge, right?
Dr. Bland: Yeah, I think that is one thing, that has been really a watchword for your podcast, it’s you’re really the first forecaster of things that are really are on the horizon that people should be aware of it, are gonna come into the fold, and become part of the creeded knowledge, of our field. I love being in this field, because we’re able to translate new developments and new technologies, and new understandings much more quickly in a clinical practice than going through the labyrinth, and kind of process it, traditional medicine goes through, which are so many standards of everybody having to sign on onto the guild in order for a new idea to ultimately arrive in clinical practice.
Dr. Bland: And it may take 30 or 40 years for an idea that is really, an extraordinarily important idea to weave its way through the tortuosity of traditional medicine to become a practice application. Not so in this field, we can bring things much more quickly that are both safe and effective into practice, through the appropriation of these new extraordinary developments. You’ve been a really important conduit for getting in information into people’s hands so they can start using this information.
James: Yeah, it really has blown up. When I sit back and think about all the people who have made careers, and books, and podcasts, and all kinds of things off the one idea that was functional medicine and what that’s led to, I can see this next gear. What do you see as sort of like your focus here in the next five years?
Dr. Bland: Yeah, I think that the exciting thing for me personally, is I watch the landscape that’s really the topography of change and where we’re heading. It’s this inner section of all these new ideas that have originally seemed like they’re insular one to another, but now we’re starting to come together convergently, to form this new technology of health versus disease. So, things like omics, things like social media, things like big data clouds; we carry our information up in the cloud, that we can access it whenever we need it. Things like transportable med-electronic health records, not just medical records.
Dr. Bland: Things like digital help through wearable devices, and things that will ultimately make it easier for us to comply and adhere with certain things that are good for us. And help to stimulate the positive behavior change, which we know is the biggest singular challenge, is changing our behavior, ’cause those are things that are seemingly hardwired into our behavior. So, I think that all of these things are converging to form this new landscape of healthcare, which is really where I’m spending most of my time understanding how they fit together, what is this system upon which they can be applied and how we can make them easier to use and more consumer-applicable.
James: Why I couldn’t agree more, and I want to run by you a thesis that I’m working on, which the future if the Evolution of Medicine podcast, at least the very-near future, will be banking on. I think you’ve identified there’s something very clear that behavior change is not easy, and we have a whole medical, or like a whole health system, that’s being built on behavior change, and ultimately, we need to get way better at facilitating behavior change, and I think one of the reasons, perhaps, why behavior change is difficult, because it’s happening in a very isolated environment.
James: Right, the only two people who can facilitate it, one is the person themselves. But then, some medical professional that’s either supporting or inspiring that journey. My feeling is, that when you look at behavior change at scale, when you look at how to do this effectively to create it, there’s typically something that’s happening in a group environment.
James: There’s some of the burden of the behavior changes being bestowed onto the group of peer-to-peer transactions, rather than a medical professional, and ultimately, one of the things that I want to catalog, towards the second book, towards where this is all going, is what is the most efficient, effective way of facilitating behavior change for our industry, but also for the future of healthcare that is value-based, and is cost-effective, and is really effective at creating health in a meaningful way.
Dr. Bland: Yeah, I think that you are pioneering a new model, and the model is really built around a new perception, a privacy, I think. I think back to the generation of my parents, in which the concept of privacy and secrecy and having everything, information, kind of held and owned by certain people, so if you wanted health information or medical information, you went to a provider that held it with a lock and key, and you didn’t have access to that information, you couldn’t get your medical record, you couldn’t get access to the way these drugs might be used effectively that you’re going to be recommended, and so this concept of owning information was kind of the standard of identity and people were very, kind of, reticent to share anything about their health.
James: And that led to the disfunction that we currently see?
Dr. Bland: Yes, and I think that you’re hitting upon it. So, now there is a revolution, when I look at the millennials and my sons, I see that there is a whole different attitude. They’re talking about their gene testing, and they’re talking about their problems and their health in ways that are very, very different than say, my parents’ generation. This concept of opening up so we can have group discussions, reinforcement, and we can work in teams to build common consensus and then we can reinforce our needs with the people that we trust, and it comes back again to trust. So, the concept of group practices and group visits, and facilitation with the people who are really good at opening up dialogue among people. I mean, many times doctors don’t have the time to be the facilitator for that type of dialogue. So, we need other kinds of professionals that are capable of doing that and that’s their skill set, so this is a new model, is a distributive model versus a top-down model, that I think we’re witnessing and that you’re talking about.
James: And what a great opportunity for the non-physician members of this community to add value in a specific way. I mean, when I took the tour of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine last year on the bus tour, I had a chance to interview one of the PAs who had never done functional medicine, had never facilitated a group, just a PA in traditional healthcare, gets a job at the Cleveland Clinic, finds herself doing functional medicine in a group format, and would never do it any other way, is having the time of her life, facilitating and witnessing, the transformation of health of groups of people through peer-to-peer interaction.
Dr. Bland: Yeah, and I think that this plays out, its infectious also to the individual who is being cared for, the patient. You know, the patient feels very alone, they often feel very abandoned, they often feel very hopeless, or maybe even a lack of control. And so when you put them in a group in which they’re with peers they can talk this through, they develop the reinforcement for the fact that they’re not alone. They’re not by themselves, they’re not fighting this hidden thing that’s threatening them, in a way in which they have no support. And that concept of gaining affiliation, and gaining attribution, and gaining a sense of a power in the group, is a tremendously energizing concept, that I think what we’re witnessing is transformation, particularly with the health of the chronic disease patient where complexity can be resolved by communication.
James: Complexity can be resolved by communication, ain’t that the truth? So, I just wanna give a shout-out to some of those groups, that will be resolving this complexity, all of the meet-up groups of the Functional Forum around the world, thanks to the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center, which is the new sponsor for this podcast and the Forum. We are gonna have a lot more resources behind the meet-up groups, to really help them grow and continue and see that develop and mature. Obviously, we are going to be focusing on one of the big things that the LMRC does is facilitate the group visits through Dr. Shilpa Saxena and others who have pioneered the sort of cross-section of group visit and functional medicine. Obviously, the groups that are attending the PLMI in April, and also the IFM annual conference, we are gonna be shooting video there, and so we would love to hear from practitioners who want to contribute to this conversation, who have something to say about biological rhythms, about healing and groups, root-cause resolution, about health as medicine, or health creation as medicine.
James: So, I’m really thrilled about the next five years, I’m glad to be here together, and excited to see that now that the army is being assembled, right?
James: Right, the army is being assembled, there’s a doctor practicing like this in every little town, health systems are being infiltrated just where I lived in Sacramento and Sutter Health is functional medicine now. I think that we have enough of an infrastructure to be able to do something, and so all the people who are on the front lines taking this to the general public, that can be a place for everyone that’s affordable, that’s accessible, and that has group behavior change transformation models built into it. What a fun time it’s going to be.
Dr. Bland: It is, and I think the payoff is huge, I mean there are so many people who are suffering needlessly, that are looking for a help and solutions to things that are stealing from them the full value of their life. And it once was said to me, and I’ve repeated this, it’s kind of a double entendre, people are dying to know what we know. People are dying to know what we know. And it’s not just said loosely, that there is so many things that we have learned over the years that can provide value to people, to reduce kind of the things that are really burdening them. That prevent the full expression of the quality of their lives, that they deserve. And that’s what we’re all about and it’s pretty exciting to be part of that process.
James: Absolutely. Thanks for listening to the Evolution of Medicine podcast! Please share this with colleagues who need to hear it. Thanks so much to our sponsor, the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center, this podcast is possible because of them. Please visit goevomed.com/LMRC to find out more about their clinical tools like the Group Visit Toolkit. That’s goevomed.com/LMRC. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you next time!


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