Dr. Shane Holland joins this week’s podcast to share his experience with the Practice Accelerator. Shane’s story is one we hear over and over amongst our Practice Accelerator participants. In this series, Success Leaves Clues, we celebrate alumni stories in conjunction with our current open enrollment period, running September through October 2022.

Shane began his career as a teacher and later became an emergency medicine physician, and he is currently transitioning into operating a functional medicine practice. Over the years, Shane has been interested in treating patients with chiropractic manipulation, herbs and supplements, and lifestyle adjustments. Still, he did not have access to a clear path toward building his own clinic around those strategies.

As an emergency medicine physician, Dr. Holland observed that roughly 90% of his patients did not require emergency care and were using emergency services in lieu of primary care. The training he received from The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) provided him with greater clinical insights into preventative medicine to better serve his community, and the Practice Accelerator program then guided him through building his practice.

Listen to the full episode to hear Dr. Holland’s story, including:



Success Leaves Clues: Building a Functional Medicine Practice from Scratch | Ep 284


James Maskell: This broadcast is brought to you by the Evolution of Medicine’s Practice Accelerator. For more than six years, we’ve helped doctors and health professionals build their own low-overhead, high-technology practice, making it efficient and effective at bringing in patients, educating them consistently, getting the right technology stack and building a strong, sustainable practice. If you want to find out more about the Practice Accelerator, go to goevomed.com/accelerator.

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. This is part of our series called Success Leaves Clues, where we speak to practitioners who have made the journey from conventional to functional medicine through our Practice Accelerator. The Practice Accelerator is open two times a year between February and September. We open the doors. We bring in practitioners. They work in cohorts to implement the information in the course. Super excited today to bring you one of our new recruits. He joined the Accelerator just in February in our last enrollment and now has his practice up and running.

One of the reasons I wanted to bring him on is because he’s practicing in Northwest Arkansas. You might not think of as a hotbed for functional medicine, but you’ll see there is definitely some exciting things happening up there, no least of which is his practice functionalmedicinenwa.com. Dr. Shane Holland is an osteopathic physician and did emergency medicine for 20 years and now is excited to be practicing the medicine that he loves every day in his practice. So, there’s lots to learn here. I think a lot of pieces that many of you will resonate with, if this is some part of your journey, and lessons for practitioners who are trying to make the jump from being empl¬oyed to running their own functional medicine practice. Really interesting half an hour. Enjoy.

So, a warm welcome to the podcast, Shane Holland. Welcome, doc.

Shane Holland: Thank you very much. I appreciate you having me on.

James Maskell: Well, look, it’s great to be here and to be with you and to talk about your practice. This is part of our series called Success Leaves Clues. And over the years, we’ve just interviewed doctors that have had success through our program at the Practice Accelerator and who are living their dream and practicing the way that they want to practice and helping people. So, let’s just start at the beginning. So, most practitioners that I’ve met over time have some interesting reason why they decided that this is the path for them. So, how did you end up in functional medicine, and where did you start out?

Shane Holland: Yeah, so that’s a 25-year journey so I won’t take too long on that. But when I was in college, I wanted to be a chiropractor at one point and really wanted to do something with manual medicine because that was something that I was very interested in and my parents were interested in. But I was an education major. I didn’t really think that I could do the science and math part, so I did history and social sciences. And then met my wife, who is a daughter of a physician, and we got to talking. He thought I was able to do all the things, so I started looking at doing medical school at that time. But then we had kids, so that kind of prolonged the thing.

And then as I was teaching school, I met some physicians in the community that I was living in, and one was a chiropractor, one was a naturopath, and one was an osteopathic physician. And all of them basically told me what they did. I was very excited about what each of them were doing, but they all pointed me towards osteopathic medicine. And, at that time, functional medicine in the early nineties was a very new concept and a new term. And so, that was very exciting to me—to do that type of medicine—but I really didn’t have an avenue to learn it, so I ended up going to osteopathic school in the late 90s, early 2000s and loved what I was doing. I did a fellowship in manipulative medicine during medical school and taught that and did some research and then went to a residency in Northeast Tennessee that was led by one of the physicians who became the president of the AAFP, the American Academy of Family Physicians.

And he was very into some alternative medicine and wanted me to do manipulation. I was able to learn some things about herbs and relaxation techniques and other nontraditional medicine, but really didn’t have a good footing into what functional medicine really was. And at that time, there was still not any avenue really to learn functional medicine. So, while I was in residency, because I had three kids, I started doing moonlighting in the emergency department, did that for three years and felt like that was a great way to treat patients who needed urgent and emergent care. I think it’s one of Western medicine’s greatest things in medicine is they’re able to deliver great emergent care. So, I decided that that’s what I was going to do and stuck with that for about 20 years.

And then was able to start studying for functional medicine since that was my initial love for medicine was functional medicine. I finally found through The Institute for Functional Medicine the training that I felt would educate me on the things that I needed to know to be able to treat patients with functional medicine. And along the way through my emergency medicine career, I didn’t just take care of emergencies. Ninety percent of what walks into the emergency department is non-emergent. They just need a doctor to take care of something.

So, I tried to educate those patients on health and wellness and educate them on diet and lifestyle changes, even at that stage. But then, through the training through IFM, learned a ton more. So finally, when I finished that, it was right in the middle of COVID when I finished that, so I wasn’t really able to start looking at doing a practice because of that. So, I continued in the emergency department. And in the last year, finally decided to put all this together and start a practice. So, I started my practice not quite a month ago.

James Maskell: That’s exciting. Well, it’s a great journey, and I’m excited that you are doing your thing. I just want to take a moment to just reflect on the sort of synergy between functional medicine now that you’ve taken the training and your osteopathic medical school. A chiropractor, a naturopath and osteopath walk into a bar sounds like the beginning of a great joke.

But I really feel like… When I saw the functional medicine operating system for the first time, what got me excited about it was, I just felt like here was a way that those kind of providers, as an example, might be able to work together on a patient case because, if you do the intake and structure equals function and the structure’s off, you can have the chiropractor or the osteopath work on it. And I just felt like this was something that could maybe… A clinical operating system that could unite providers who saw the body in the same way but had a different language and so forth. I guess I’d love to get your input on that having now been an emergency room physician, being an osteopathic doctor, being in the emergency room and now taking all the training.

Shane Holland: Yeah, well that’s one of the things I think is so beautiful about functional medicine and, in particular, the IFM, which is my only real exposure to functional medicine. But it includes all of those people, and it doesn’t seem as… I don’t know what the word would be. But MDs and DOs tend to look down their noses at physicians who are doing things in an alternative way sometimes. And so, I think that chiropractors are amazing, I think that naturopaths are amazing, I think that nurse practitioners and PAs are amazing, and each of those disciplines allows for different things. And I think, if you take all of those and combine them into functional medicine, we can all learn from each other. And so, the structure and function part is one of the things that I really love and desire to do because I do love the osteopathic manipulation and the principles of osteopathy.

But I don’t feel like I’m the only one that has it all together. I feel like that there are so many people out there who are doing great things and being able to learn from each other. And the operating system like you talk about, those seven nodes of the matrix, the things that we can look at from a different perspective… The structure and function is maybe something I understand more than an MD would, but maybe not as much as a chiropractor would, and so, I think working together is something that’s great.

James Maskell: Absolutely. Well, look, I appreciate you sharing that, and I’m excited now to get into this journey that we identified early on. When we started the functional forum, actually right at the beginning, we had a big email list. We did all these summits, and we sort of gave the opportunity for doctors who were interested in functional medicine to have what we call a “concierge call” with us. And we did about a thousand of them in the end of 2014, 2015, 16.

And so often we heard the story of the doctor who is going to the training, wants to learn more, but, just like you, has an emergency room job that they’re doing and doesn’t really have the ability to implement it, might be practicing on their family, but isn’t doing it day to day, and finds themselves in an interesting position of then realizing that, in Northwest Arkansas where you are, there’s not a huge functional medicine clinic ready to hire you. So, you’re going to have to make a practice that does it and serve the people there. And so, I guess I just want to just ask you what your mindset is as you’re going through these trainings and you’re seeing people in different options and how you came to the conclusion that private practice was going to be for you and what it was like to even consider that having been employed for your career.

Shane Holland: Yeah, it’s a very nerve-wracking deal to go through. We get used to a certain standard of living doing what we do and making the money that we make in the emergency department, and so I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I feel like it was the thing I was called to do. I definitely believe in functional medicine more after the training than even before. And so, it’s like, if you have something that itches, you have to scratch it. And I had to get this thing off the ground, and like you said, there’s not really an opportunity to be employed to do this. I’m still working in the emergency department. I’m working in my clinic Monday through Thursday, and then every other weekend, I spend 60 hours doing emergency medicine just to be able to make ends meet because doing a clinic is not a cheap thing.

So, I feel like, to pay the bills, I need to keep working, but doing the functional medicine is really my dream and passion. And it is nerve wracking, but my kids are grown. They’re out of the house. We don’t have those expenses, and there’s some things. But it’s been a journey that… It took me so long to get to this point just because of those reasons, just the thought of trying to start something new and not having a guaranteed income is definitely nerve wracking, which is one of the reasons that I looked at the Accelerator because I didn’t have a clue how to start a practice.

James Maskell: That’s great. Well, look, I want to just jump into that a little bit because your situation is actually very typical where we would say to doctors, “Hey, look, it is going to be a process.” Right? We saw at the beginning that some doctors would try and do two things at the same time. One, learn a completely new operating system of care, functional medicine, and then two, learn a whole new way of being in the world, i.e., being an entrepreneur. And those two things are actually almost impossible to do simultaneously, I would say. And so, I think you’re doing it in the right way, which is you want to learn, and then once you have all the clinical knowledge, you feel confident, you could go. It’s not that people haven’t done it, it’s just that it’s not easy to do it, and it can lead to a lot of extra stress and problems.

And the other thing you shared there that I want to reflect on as part of a Success Leaves Clues series is that we highly advocate during the Accelerator that don’t quit your day job until you feel confident. One of the things that is available to physicians is the ability to work every other weekend and work 60 hours and make enough money to keep the lights on and to give yourself the time and space to ease into something that is going to be your sort of next era of your life.

And so, I’m glad you shared that because we’ve had doctors that—and nurse practitioners—that have come in and started a practice on a Saturday morning and just taken a few patients to get their feet wet. They start to get some traction, people ask if they can come in, they start getting some referrals, they renegotiate their contract to be a few days a week in their job, and just end up titrating their way across. And it actually makes for a much healthier, smoother transition, if you don’t have the capital to last you for 6, 9, 12 months or however long it’s going to take you, especially if you are depending on the model that you’re doing. So, I definitely applaud that. So, give us some of the things that went wrong like early days. What did you try? How did it work? What would you wish that anyone who’s listening to this doesn’t do because you can help them to miss out on making the mistakes that you did?

Shane Holland: So, I’ll just kind of start this with an applause for what you’ve done with the Evolution of Medicine and the coursework through the Accelerator because there are so many things that I learned not to do. There are a lot of things in there that I learned to do, but there are so many things I learned not to do. And sitting down with the coach, with Patrick, every week for a long period of time to bounce ideas off of and for him to make it very clear that some of the things that I was thinking were not going to work and really honing in on what I need to have as my avatar and knowing what I need to do to put systems in place because everything is a system. And so, getting those things started, but some of the things I made… I’m only a month in.

So, I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to make a lot of mistakes yet, but as I have gotten started, one of the mistakes that we made early on is we didn’t do a ton of market analysis to determine what things people were willing to do because there’s just not a lot of models like what we have out there. So, it’s difficult to know what people are willing to do and not willing to do. So, we initially put together packages that we thought were very fairly priced that were three months, four months and six months. But as we looked at the cost of those and people were not responding well at all… When we first had our initial meeting and we advertised the packages and we started getting a couple of phone calls, people looked at those packages after their initial consult, and we weren’t getting any buy in.

And so, we initially only were doing that, and we quickly changed gears and started putting together memberships where people were able to bite off a little bit more. And we made those memberships relatively inexpensive for what we’re offering with functional medicine, though I think some people think it is quite expensive. But as far as what we offer and what is usually reimbursed by insurance, I still think we’re better than what is even paid for through traditional medicine. And so, we had to rethink that. We have kept it small but not quite what I would say a micro practice. And I think those micro practice techniques and suggestions that are on the Accelerator are excellent, and that would be somewhere… If I was not working full time in the emergency department and able to pay my bills to do that, I think the only way I would’ve been able to start would be through a micro practice.

So, it’s not a mistake that I made. But I think for people who are starting out, who don’t have the ability to pay their bills through a second job like I can, the micro practice is an excellent way, just to have a place that they use one day a week. Or they rent a small space for a short period of time and then grow their practice. We ended up moving into a low-rent place. We were able to make some changes ourselves that were really inexpensive, put paint on the walls, put one wall up. And we put some things in that were a little more expensive, now that I look at it, maybe more than we should have spent. But I think in the long run, it’ll be what we need. But in the beginning, it’s a little more expensive, but those are some of the things I would say I could do differently.

James Maskell: So, give us an idea for everyone listening: What does it look like now? What does your team look like? What does the space look like? What’s the product and sort of mix that you guys have landed on?

Shane Holland: So, we decided that we wanted to offer some micronutrient, IV micronutrient, some IM micronutrient. So, we have a space that’s almost more spa-like when you walk in so some massage chairs and some plants, and that’s where I’m sitting right now. So, a well-lit room with some lamps. And then, we have another room that’s a photo biomodulation room where we have some red-light therapy that we promote to patients, and it’s part of their packages—or part, not their packages, part of their membership. And they can use those twice a week.

And we have another area in our clinic where we’re going to offer neurofeedback. That’s not set up yet, but neurofeedback is something I feel like is very functional medicine. It’s not prescribing a lot of medication, but it’s allowing people to get well mentally through a non… It’s an excellent way of doing some things, so the photo… That’s one room. And then my exam room where I do manipulation is the only other exam room. So, we have four rooms, but they’re all used for different things. We only have one exam room, and then, I have an office upstairs in the… It’s not at all fancy. It’s a little break room and a little office upstairs where I have a couple camp chairs right now. That’s all I can afford right now.

James Maskell: Well, I’ll be checking out your website, functionalmedicinenwa.com, Northwest Arkansas. So, what’s been your journey to find these first patients that have come through the door? And what is your strategy for bringing in new patients now?

Shane Holland: Yeah, so I didn’t mention the staff that I have. I’m sorry, I forgot to mention that. I have two amazing staff that do incredible job with taking care of patients. I have a patient care coordinator who checks people in, gets their vitals, does all their body measurements and communicates with them via phone and online. She’s just amazing. And then I have an office manager who does most of her work from home because she’s a mom, and we value that a lot and want her to be able to do that. But she literally does things I’ve never even thought of. She is unbelievable with putting this thing together. And so, we have two staff that we pay, and they do a lot to bring in patients. They make phone calls. I’ve gone to networking events, joined the Chamber of Commerce. We’re having a ribbon cutting ceremony next week.

We’re on Facebook and Instagram where we’re trying to do some videos. And that’s not my forte, but I’m beginning to get a little more involved in that. And we also are doing some monthly meetings where I’m speaking about our practice but also going to introduce different topics within the functional medicine space. We’re planning on having some movie nights going, doing a shopping deal. We’re also going to put together some community events. We have walking and movement, yoga, and we also have some great coaches that are going to be used. Each membership gets some coaching, and so, the coaching part is also another community access. And they’re going to do some group coaching as well.

James Maskell: That’s great. Well, how do you feel about it today? You’re doing it, you’re seeing patients, you’re practicing functional medicine, you’re implementing it. How does it feel to be doing something that you’ve been thinking about for a long time?

Shane Holland: It feels amazing. And I love what I’m doing. It’s truly everything I thought it would be. The part that’s a little nerve wracking is just the part of the business. I think every businessperson goes through is just: Are we going to be busy enough? Are we going to be able to pay the bills? Are we going to continue to have to borrow money instead of bringing it in through other things? But the medicine part is incredible. I love what I’m doing. I think patients are going to get a lot out of it. And the business is fun. It’s a different kind of challenge. I don’t think there’s a physician out there who’s gone through medical school, residency training, who isn’t up for a challenge. And I think I’m up for that challenge. I’m excited about the whole process.

James Maskell: Yeah. That’s great. Well, give us a little thinking of the future, obviously you’re in a community there. What do you think? What’s your vision for where you’d like this to go? And how do you see the future for you and your practice?

Shane Holland: Yeah, so the landscape of Northwest Arkansas is… People don’t think of Arkansas and think, “Wow, it’s a great location.” But we’re the home of four Fortune 400 companies, and we have a lot going on. There’s a lot of movement with people coming in and out of the community, so trying to reach the community and trying to help promote healthcare, not a disease management type of set up. And it’s pretty exciting too because this area also is the home of the new Whole Health Institute that Alice Walton is building and a new medical school, so a lot of people in this area are beginning to be more interested in a Whole Health type of atmosphere. And they’re looking for Whole Health. They’re looking for functional medicine. And so, I think, if I can get my name out there, I think that that’s going to help bring people in.

But ultimately, it’s like with your kids or a student: You always want your kids or your student to go beyond you. So, I want to build this practice to where people no longer need me, but they can refer new people in. And so, there’s only one of me, but there’s a medical school close by in Fort Smith. There’s a medical school being built here, so I want to have the opportunity to teach others on how to do functional medicine, get them involved in learning that process and helping teach that, so that’s part of the thing. And just teaching people in the community. Teaching is a big part of who I am. I was an educator first and now a physician, which doctor, actually the root word for that is to teach. So, I think teaching other people and teaching patients on how to be healthy and to deliver healthcare in a better way is the vision that I have.

James Maskell: As you went through the Accelerator and you set up sort of the education automation parts of it, how does it feel to know that like that’s already happening? Ultimately, part of what we wanted to do at the Practice Accelerator was to set up reproducible education system so that you could put your best foot forward. You could bring people in. They would get to know you. They would get to know functional medicine. They would get to know how you could help. And ultimately, those are things that they could share with their community, and so, your impact is going beyond just the people that you’re seeing one on one in the clinic.

Shane Holland: Yeah. It’s exciting to be able to put together even a website with blogs and a Facebook page and an Instagram where you’re able to educate people, even if they never walk into the clinic. And I think that’s one of the things I did learn through the Accelerator is always add value to what people are looking at. If they’re looking at my website and they’re not able to learn anything, then they’re not really getting any value. And it takes a lot of people, a lot of time, to make a decision on things. And so, educating people and putting that out there and the emails through the Accelerator course, the way that the auto responder was put together, just is one of the things I learned the most about. And then putting together a website that actually helps people, things to post on Instagram and Facebook. It’s all part of the Accelerator. That’s been amazing. So yeah, I think it’s incredible.

James Maskell: We’re grateful to have you here in the community and grateful that you’re doing it. And yeah, I’m really excited about the opportunity ahead of you because certainly… The whole health movement is its own movement, but it’s also, as you said, very intertwined with integrative and functional medicine. And I know Alice Walton is really committed to making an impact quickly as well, not just waiting around for it to happen. So, it sounds like you’re in the right place at the right time to help a lot of people. And then, who knows where the future could take you after that? Well, look I guess, yeah. Thank you so much for participating. Anything else you want to share with our community?

Shane Holland: Man, I just really want to thank you very much for what you put together with the Accelerator. I thank Patrick immensely for what he’s done to help me get started. And for those who are looking at starting a functional medicine practice, take the steps, get the education, do the Accelerator course, do anything you can to learn the things before you get going, and then don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to fail because that’s all part of the learning process, and that’s what’s going to move all of us forward and work in community with other physicians. If possible, get involved in these group meetings with other physicians. Try to get involved in those and all the other education avenues that are through the Evolution of Medicine. And so, yeah, I think it’s exciting to see what’s going to happen, and I appreciate you being a big part of that and a big part of what my journey has been, even though I’ve never met you before. So, I just appreciate you a lot.

James Maskell: Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that, and yeah, thanks everyone for tuning in. This is the Evolution Of Medicine podcast and the way, what we really do here, the goal with these podcasts and all of a hundred plus Functional Forums and all the content that we’ve made is just to make this journey of starting to practice a type of medicine that is capable of reversing and preventing chronic illness to be easy and to follow in the footsteps of other doctors that have done it.

And I just want to salute your courage in taking that step because it does take a lot to step out into new territory. Thank you everyone for tuning in, and we’ll see you next time. If you want to find out more about the Practice Accelerator, go to goevomed.com/accelerator. You can sign up for a free class. You can speak to Patrick who has been mentioned a couple times here. Patrick’s on our team at the Evolution Of Medicine and is not only running those concierge calls but is also working with doctors in small groups to help them implement the different segments of the Practice Accelerator. So, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you. Dr. Holland, thanks so much. If you want to find out more about Dr. Holland, check out his website, functionalmedicinenwa.com, and watch this space. It’s going to be exciting to see what comes in the future. Thanks so much for tuning in, and we’ll see you next time.

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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