Functional Forum local communities connect like-minded practitioners and enable dialog, information sharing, interdisciplinary discussion, and community building for those who attend.

In this episode, we hear from a Functional Forum community host and a dedicated attendee. Kristen Brokaw, the host of this week’s podcast episode, is the leader of the St. Louis Functional Forum Community and founder of the St. Louis Institute for Integrative Medicine (SLiiM).

Our first guest this week, Grant Corsi, is the host of the Orange County Functional Forum Community. He shares his story about what drove him to begin planning local events and what has made his community successful.

Our second guest is Anthony Pasek, DC, who has been attending events with the St. Louis Functional Forum Community for at least seven years. He speaks to the value of his community, including professional camaraderie and collaboration.

Listen to this short episode to learn more about the following:

  • Valuable tips for initiating community meetups
  • Why you should consider hosting your own local community
  • What challenges to expect, and how to prepare for them as a new host
  • The benefits of attending local community events for physicians
  • And much more!

Help us honor our year of connection by sharing this episode, and please also consider joining or hosting a Functional Forum community near you.

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Grant Corsi: It’s daunting, it’s scary, but if you’re even thinking about doing a meetup, you a hundred percent should do it just because you’re bringing the community together, you’re helping people, and you’re pushing functional and integrative medicine forward, which at the end of the day is truly transform the practice of medicine, which we want to do.

James Maskell: Welcome to the Evolution of Medicine podcast, the place health professionals come to hear from innovators and agitators leading the charge. We cover the latest clinical breakthroughs in 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. That’s goevomed.com/lmrc.

Kristen Brokaw: Hello, Dr. Pasek. And Grant, I am here today with a meetup host, Grant Corsi, and also a meetup attendee. He actually goes to my meetup, Dr. Anthony Pasek. Hello gentlemen.

Dr. Anthony Pasek: Hello, Kristin.

Grant Corsi: Hello. Happy Friday.

Kristen Brokaw: Happy Friday. And the purpose of our time today is to talk about what, from both ends of the spectrum, what the benefits are in hosting a meetup, but also what the benefits are and the enjoyment of attending a meetup and what you actually get out of it. And same for you, Grant, what you get out of hosting a meetup. So, we’ll start with you Grant at the gentleman who gets it all going. Right. So, where is your meetup hosted?

Grant Corsi: So, I am in Orange County, so it’s been an absolute blast. The meetup location is in Irvine. I chose a spot that’s right off the freeway, but we have people from San Diego that drive up. We have people from LA that drive down. I have some people that drive an hour every single meetup just because there’s no meetup in their specific area yet. But it’s been an absolute blast so far. But we’ve had 50+ medical professionals attend each of the last three events, which has been awesome. I am blessed with having Orange County, and there’s so much functional and integrative medicine in my area. So, everyone wants to come together. Everyone wants to learn from their peers, and I’ve just been blessed with an awesome group that’s just been able to dive right into this. So, we’re growing. We literally had 14 people at our first meetup in December of 2021 in a little IV room in one of my clinics, and now we’ve grown to 57 people at my last event. So, it’s been really exciting.

Kristen Brokaw: So, that’s a really good point to make that it can be 14 people and still a great time. Still a ton of value, correct?

Grant Corsi: A hundred percent. Yeah. The 14 I’ve been going back and forth. I probably want to do some smaller groups because the 14 people is very intimate. Everybody was sharing their story. With 57 people, you can’t go around the room and have everybody share their story. You’re really banking on that hour meet and greet for people to go around and connecting, which has been an awesome time. But there is a lot of value to both the smaller group or the bigger group, which is why people should never be afraid of, “Oh, my town is very large. There’s not that many people.” You can meet up with anybody and even have a group of six people and still have a ton of value.

Kristen Brokaw: Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ve done several meetups even in my home over the course of a summer. We never meet in the summer. We do four times a year, and I did smaller groups over the summer, and it was wonderful. So, I really, again, want to encourage you, and I find that 57 people is a great number. We tend to max out at about 35. We sell our dinners out, and we find that, I find that 35 is really that sweet spot for us. So, I think it just depends on what kind of a host you are. So, I’m going to throw it over to you, Dr. Pasek, as far as attending a dinner of 35 or any type of number, do you find it to change how you view the meetup?

Dr. Anthony Pasek: Not really. I mean, I think there’s enough variety at each of those, and I’ve been going for I don’t know how long now, seven-

Kristen Brokaw: Seven or eight years.

Dr. Anthony Pasek: So, I mean, I like the different flavors sometimes, you know. You get to know some people that are there all the time. And then there’s almost always new faces, and some people share a lot and some people never speak up. It just kind of depends. So, it’s nice to have a variety. If it was the same thing every time, I think it could be a little stale.

Kristen Brokaw: Right. So, let’s talk to you as someone who’s been coming to a meetup for seven or eight years, what is it that keeps you coming back? I mean, you are very consistent.

Dr. Anthony Pasek: Yeah, I mean, you’re a fabulous host first of all. So, you really do curate great content as well. And you’re really good at getting to some bullet points and moving the conversation along and kind of directing the flow. I mean, it gets organic and spontaneous as well. At the end of the day, I just am kind of a people person, so I like just hanging out with peers too. So, it’s a great chance. And even last night colleague in the office here, we don’t get a lot of time to just talk. And that was a nice opportunity for that.

It’s… Ultimately, I keep coming back because I know that our patients need a wide network of support, and it’s hard to send people to somebody that’s a name on a sheet of paper or somebody that you look at on a website, but when you have sat down and talked to them and heard them share and really know how they’re going to operate and seeing consistent great feedback from patients with them and they’re getting better, that’s what it’s all about.

Because it’s pretty rare that there’s a patient that I’m working with that doesn’t need some other kind of support. And to have that network built is really what it’s all about. We have a referral list in my drawer that I give out regularly, and it’s filled with people from SLiiM and it’s… That’s how they get on there. And then other people end up on that list, and we tell them about SLiiM. And then they show up and get in the circle. So, I mean, that’s really the bottom line. It’s fun, and I’m just a geek. We like talking about this stuff, but at the end of the day, it’s ultimately for the betterment of our patients.

Kristen Brokaw: That’s awesome. So, from what I’m hearing you say you enjoy the content. There’s typically always a very pertinent topic. And Grant, I’ll be curious to hear what you say about your topics. And frankly, I think the topic is irrelevant. However, you do have to have a good topic because we know we’re always going to have a good time. Everybody’s just happy to be together. So, got to have a good topic, and you get to learn. So, you’re probably… Dr. Pasek, you’re hearing what the other doctors are saying and doing. We have this open organic conversation, but then you also like getting to network and to meet these people and put a face to a name so that you actually are sending someone to someone you know and trust and isn’t going to poo poo what you’re doing. Said correctly?

Dr. Anthony Pasek: Exactly. Perfect.

Kristen Brokaw: Okay, cool. Well, let’s talk about topics. That’s interesting that you brought that up. So, Grant, how do you choose your topics? And tell us a little bit about how the night goes for you.

Grant Corsi: So, in terms of topics, I do not choose the topics. I think if I was the one choosing the topics every single meetup, people would just simply stop coming to my meetups because it’s catered to what I wanted people to listen to. But what I’ve done, and I actually got this from my wife, I do a survey, every single meetup just on SurveyMonkey. It’s anonymous survey if they want it to be. But one of the questions within the survey, and a lot of the questions are like, “Hey, what do you think about the venue? What do you think about the food? What would you like to be seen in future events that we’re not doing currently?” But one of the topics—or one the questions in the survey—is, “What topics would you want to hear in future events?” And I think that’s one of the most beneficial parts of the survey or frankly my whole events because people can write down what they want to hear or what they’re seeing in their clinic that they might need some help with.

And I have a running list now of every single topic that people have put where there’s anywhere from 20 to 25 people filling out a survey every night. I wish everybody filled out a survey, but some people are just busy, and they can’t. But there’s topics where they’re listed 5, 6, 7 times. I’m like, alright, this is a topic that my group really wants to hear. And after I find out that topic, whether it’s, hey, long-haul COVID, or specifically regenerative medicine or stem cell therapy, I go out and find the expert who I believe is the expert within my field, within Orange County, and ask them to come speak. So, I think that’s really important because again, if I’m choosing the topics, it’s not going to be organic, but I even tell the whole entire group, it’s like, “I want you to choose the topics for this event. I don’t want to choose the topics I want to hear from y’all every single time.”

And in terms of the event flow, we usually start around six from six to seven meet and greeting. We’re going around bumping elbows with each other. We have a tight room, so it forces everybody to kind of come in and huddle and talk with each other, which I love. If we’re in a huge space, everyone would kind of crowd and space out. But I want everybody to come together. And from six to seven people are meeting and greeting people. There’s some doctors who hadn’t seen each other for two years because of COVID, and they’re coming in, “Oh, Dr. Raleigh, Dr. McCann, how are you? Oh my goodness.” And it’s really cool for me to see because I just love connecting people. And then at seven o’clock, we’ll begin the introductions.

I thank everybody for coming. We sit down and tell them like, “Hey, this is what the event’s going to look like. We’re going to have a presentation, but we’re going to have live discussion after that, so be ready to speak.” And I think that’s important, just laying the groundwork. And for about 15 to 20 minutes, one presentation is speaking, we jump into a live Q&A discussion where the audience is asking the speaker question. I’m asking questions to the audience to actually jump into a live discussion. And then we’ll have another speaker present. And then for about 20 to 30 minutes afterwards, we’re all hanging out, talking. The event ends at 8:30, but I usually have people stay till 9, 9:15, just spending time with each other communicating. I’m like, “Hey, I got to go home at some point.” But it’s a lot hanging with everybody.

Kristen Brokaw: Oh my God, that sounds about… Anthony, what’s your experience of how we operate our meetup?

Dr. Anthony Pasek: Yeah, it’s a pretty similar structure. I’m usually seeing patients until six, so I’m one of the later to arrive. So, I think we have about roughly 45 minutes of networking. Does that sound about right?

Kristen Brokaw: Yeah.

Dr. Anthony Pasek: So, it’s always a lot less for me, but that’s always a fun part. You’ve got to try to pry people away to get them to start eating. And then usually I have some catered meal coming in, or might be at a country club or something. And we might have somebody remote like Tom O’Brien or Neil Nathan. Those are some of the names that come to mind of people you’ve had Zoom in or Mark Newman, one of my lab nerd heroes, creator of the Dutch test. So, those are great. And then often somebody local or just, for instance, in the topic last night, looking at COVID triggering autoimmunity. So, I spoke on that topic with a little bit of a case study but just kind of an overview of how we’re seeing a big uptick in that.

So, some kind of central topic, and then typically, a bit of a round table discussion on some maybe key questions that you would ask about, “How are you approaching this?” But I don’t know, it’s a little bit like being in school too because sometimes there’s like the same three people that’ll that speak up and no one else says anything. And I was one of those people who talked in school, so I’m usually talking a lot, but that varies. But, and then a little bit of networking time at the end too, and that’s about it.

Kristen Brokaw: And it’s before you know it, it’s here and gone. It’s a ton of fun. Yes, we always ask everybody at the end, “What is the topic?” So, I don’t do SurveyMonkey, that’s a great idea. Maybe some people just don’t want to raise their hand. But I usually say, “What is it that we want to talk about?” And we decided for the next one, we’re going to do hormones. That’s always fun, a good one to come back to. But similarly to you, I will ask someone, “Hey, what do you think is the best way to address this?” And they may stand up, we typically do not do PowerPoint presentations. I don’t know. Grant, do you have a presentation for everyone?

Grant Corsi: I do. Just for the fact that I like having my group walk away with some content because I’ll put the PowerPoint online, and if somebody wants to look back for a case study or protocol or something that the doctor said, they can go back on the PowerPoint at a later point via the website and see the PowerPoint. But the only reason I do. Sometimes PowerPoints might get a little too mundane where you’re just looking at a screen, and that’s why I try to keep it engaged even through their presentation.

Kristen Brokaw: So, either here nor there, everyone’s engaged. And it sounds like the part that you’re doing that’s working really well is the open, organic conversation Q&A, and people are able to ask questions, correct?

Grant Corsi: Correct. A hundred percent. We spend anywhere from 10, 15 minutes discussing after the presentation, which is always where the best conversation comes from.

Kristen Brokaw: So, Anthony, as someone who, I’m sorry, Dr. Pasek, I know Dr. Pasek very, very well. I do call him by his first name, so I apologize. Anyway.

Dr. Anthony Pasek: That’s okay.

Kristen Brokaw: What are your thoughts on the open organic conversation and the presentation? I’m just like, how does that fit for you?

Dr. Anthony Pasek: Yeah, you know, mentioned the topic is kind of irrelevant, but I mean, I’m kind of with Grant here. I think we all, as providers and clinicians, we want, I think anybody who’s showing up in these things was kind of of the never-stop-learning mindset, even if it’s just little nuggets. Classic example, I was not necessarily open to any kind of GLP-1 pharmaceuticals. And then the topic of the dinner really changed my mind. And I mean, we’re sending people out for that now, and I don’t have a lot of follow up and feedback, but I have seen enough and I trust the people that are here that are saying these things, and it’s like, “Oh, I’m open to that now.” So, it is very relevant.

The open, organic conversation is great. I mean, there’s so many just completely different perspectives that I would never even think of. I mean, we get in our own little bubbles. My licensure is as a doctor of chiropractic. So, we have our own paradigm on things, and we tend to hang out with other chiropractors. And most of the providers in our office are chiropractors. We do have some nurse practitioners on now. So that’s a diverse perspective that we don’t get within our own little circles, but you know, you would have a better idea. But I mean, what do we have? Pharmacists, nurse practitioners, midwives, acupuncturists, what other professions are-

Kristen Brokaw: Medical doctors, DOs, nurses. We have all, health coaches, they all are in attendance.

Dr. Anthony Pasek: So many different things that just never would’ve even considered from a different perspective of a different topic that have many of which have just become part of what we do with patients. And that’s just something I never would’ve arrived to on my own. So, it’s invaluable.

Kristen Brokaw: Awesome. So yes, that is the keyword. Invaluable. So, Grant, let’s talk about starting one of these. So, I’m sure there was some trepidation where you’re like, “Oh, this is going to be a lot of work or whatever.” Maybe I’m making that up. Maybe you just went right into it, but you decided to do it, and then tell me what happened for you. What occurred to you?

Grant Corsi: Right. It was very daunting thinking about, “Oh my goodness, I’m going to get all these people in the same room together and provide content for them for two hours.” It’s… When I got this job, I never thought I’d also be a part-time event planner, which is what I am now, which I’m loving. It’s a blast for me. But there’s two doctors within my territory that were hosting some meetups before COVID, and just through organic conversation with them during COVID, I found this out, and I found out that they wanted to start these meetups again but just had no time. Their office had no time. They had no energy. It took them close to eight hours a week, they said, to put these events together and make sure that they had the right speakers come in. So, I just asked them one time, I was like, “Well, what if I do it?”

And they’re like, “Yes, please, a hundred percent.” So, I did my first meetup. It was a lot of it was those two doctors, they came and we just started with a smaller group of just inviting a lot of their colleagues. And again, it was, I got lucky, there’s an IV room that could host us. And sometimes you might have to try to get creative. Maybe there’s a space at one of your doctor’s offices, like a conference room or a pharmacist has a back room that you can go to. It’s just trying to get creative and think like, “Okay, how can I spend the least amount of money, but also get a group together and make this a good space?” So, that was the first event. And then just by word of mouth, people started telling other people about the Orange County Functional meetup, what their experience was like.

We went from 14 to 23, and then after that, we quickly outgrew the IV room. There’s just no way that we were going to be able to keep people there. So, we had to actually move to an actual conference center. But it’s daunting, it’s scary, but if you’re even thinking about doing a meetup, you a hundred percent should do it just because you’re bringing the community together, you’re helping people, and you’re pushing functional and integrative medicine forward, which, at the end of the day, truly transforms the practice of medicine, which we want to do.

Kristen Brokaw: What do your doctors say to you after that first one or after the first several? What are they saying to you? Because clearly your numbers have grown, so they’re liking it. What do they say?

Grant Corsi: They love it. Yeah, they absolutely love it. They thank me every single time for doing it. They’re just happy that someone’s connecting the group because a lot of these doctors, they know of each other, they just don’t get to spend much time with each other. So, kind of what Dr. Pasek was saying, it’s so much better than looking at somebody from a website or just seeing a name and then actually going and spending time with them is invaluable, where they never can have these opportunities. So, a lot of my doctors are just extremely grateful for these opportunities, even though it’s brief, it’s about three hours every quarter, hope to do it possibly more in the future, but they’re very thankful for these opportunities.

Kristen Brokaw: So, in wrapping up, if someone was to say to you, “Should I do one of these?” From a host standpoint, what would you say to them? And what could they be… What advice would you give them? What could they be guaranteed to get out of it?

Grant Corsi: Well, if you think about doing it, a hundred percent, go for it. The first event is always going to be the toughest. It always will be because you don’t know what to expect. You might be very nervous during that first event, but if you get that first one underneath your belt and you get some cadence where you say, “Hey, we’re going to do this every quarter.” It just starts running on and up on its own at that point. And some advice would be to just put yourself out there. Understand that you might not think that this can provide a lot of value to people within your territory or people within your area. But so many people will just love the opportunity to come network and learn. And by all means, go for it.

Kristen Brokaw: Excellent. Okay. Dr. Pasek, I’m going to tell you, I have doctors that I’ve invited for years and years, and they say this to me, they say, “Oh, I work late on Thursday nights. Oh, but I don’t get much time with my family.” One more thing. What would you say to them who know about it, but they’re not so sure?

Dr. Anthony Pasek: Yeah, I mean, you’re not going to make someone change their behavior. If you don’t see the value in it, then you’re not going to decide to do that. I mean, I couldn’t imagine not having this. So, one of my colleagues is like, I don’t really, I’ve invited him too. “I don’t really see the value in spending time in a room with other people or competition even.” I don’t know. I just don’t even understand that perspective. It’s so much of a disconnect to me that I’m like, “Oh, just do it.” If you don’t want to do it, maybe you’re not a type of person, as an individual, who’s constantly trying to improve yourself, and I am. And I think that the best clinicians are those people, and that patients get attracted to that, and your practice grows and your life becomes better. And people want more of that.

And if you’re not in that mindset, then maybe it’s not for you. But we have a pretty high standard here in our clinic, and I do personally. So, you know, really have to fundamentally be, at your core, improving yourself as an individual in every dimension to be the best provider you can be for your patients and to get ultimately the outcome that you want with your quality of life. And that’s something I’ve heard about for a long time, but in recent years, I’ve really embraced and it’s just made all the difference in the world. I mean, our schedule is full. We can’t keep up. And I mean, that’s really what it comes down to, right?

Kristen Brokaw: Well, I say those things because I’ve had doctors say that to me and then they come and then they go, “Oh, okay, I really had a good time.” And then I have doctors, and you’ll hear this too, Grant, you’ll have people say, I’m like, “Wow, that was a lot of fun.” Or, “Oh, I’m so bummed I can’t make it to the next dinner.” Genuinely really want to go. So, I just do. I hear that sometimes from people and I’m like, it happens four times a year. Really four times a year? So, well, I truly appreciate both of your time and thank you for doing this and transforming the Orange County community. Right now, they actually have a community, and I cannot emphasize that enough. It is like your peeps, these people have become friends. I mean, dear friends. And you can say that about the other providers in there, right, Anthony?

Dr. Anthony Pasek: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, my phone’s filled with those people. And I’ll shoot our cardiologist a question about some labs and he is like, “Yeah, here’s what this really means.” It’s like, how invaluable is that? Right? How invaluable is that, right?

Kristen Brokaw: Invaluable. Love it, love it. So thank you so much and I appreciate your time today and happy meetup.

James Maskell: Thanks for listening to the evolution of medicine podcast. Please share this with colleagues who need to hear it. Thanks so much to our sponsors, the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center. This podcast is really 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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