Five exabytes of data were created between the birth of the world and 2003. In 2013, statistics show us that 5 exabytes of content are created every day. To put this into perspective, 5 exabytes of data is the equivalent of all the words ever spoken by mankind. The way that we share information is changing exponentially and one crucial component is how we educate our youth. Education has changed very little in the past 100 years, and we are at a turning point in our society with respect to how we educate future healthcare professionals.

Our understanding of how the body heals itself, the role of nutrition, and the role of our microbiome in our overall health is part of this information explosion. There is a movement within the conventional medicine community that has emerged called functional medicine. Functional medicine acknowledges the fact that our body is a complex network of systems all working to maintain balance and vitality while addressing the underlying causes of disease in a patient-centered approach that takes into account the entire person, their relationship with their microbiome, and how imbalances manifest themselves as symptoms that many consider diseases.

The relationship between the doctor and patient is of utmost importance as the doctor performs more of a coaching role in recognizing that it is the patient who must ultimately heal him or herself. Acute treatment is certainly necessary when there is an acute trauma, but utilizing acute care when treating chronic disease can no longer be the answer. This is where functional medicine comes in. The Institute for Functional Medicine provides free resources for the public regarding how transformative this approach is when adopted by healthcare professionals.

As the world changes and our understanding of the human condition in health and in disease evolves, so must our delivery and training system for our future healthcare professionals. Techniques like “building rapport with your patient” are not only interesting to learn but absolutely necessary as they provide improved patient outcomes and patient satisfaction, an increasingly critical component of our healthcare institutions. Functional medicine recognizes the importance of genetic science, systems biology, and how our lifestyles and environment play a key role in our overall health and well-being.

In the light of this new information that grows daily, an educator’s opportunity becomes a responsibility to provide our young pre-med students with the most advanced knowledge possible in regards to the art of healing. The Health and Nutritional Sciences Academy of Wellness at Indio High School has fully embraced and integrated the functional medicine model into all four years of their academy with the goal in mind of producing a future healthcare workforce that embraces the body’s profound ability to heal, given the right circumstances. Let us not forget the words of Hippocrates when he said, “It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.”

Jason Tate is the Director of the Health & Wellness Academy at Indio High School where he is creating one of the nation’s first Functional Medicine Wellness Academies for high school pre-med students. For more information on starting a Wellness Academy or integrating Wellness into an existing academy at your school, please contact Mr. Tate at [email protected].

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