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Meg Mill: A Functional Medicine Practitioner’s Perspective on Healthcare

in this episode, we get a functional medicine practitioner’s perspective on healthcare from Meg Mill. Meg is a former clinical pharmacist practicing in the state of Pennsylvania. A member of Generation X, she joined the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast with Rob Oliver to give her unique viewpoint on quality healthcare, it’s future and how to improve it.

Here are 3 things that stood out as Meg Mill shared a functional medicine practitioner’s perspective on healthcare:

· Functional medicine is not as concerned with the diagnosis as with the root cause of the symptoms the patient is exhibiting
· Everything that has happened to you since birth has a contributing factor to where you are right now (you are an n of 1.)
· Listening to a patient’s intuition is imperative but it is only part. It is also important to look at the role that food plays in your own life or the life of your patients.

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Here is the transcript of Meg Mill: A Functional Medicine Practitioner’s Perspective on Healthcare:

Rob Oliver: Thank you and welcome to another episode of Perspectives on Healthcare. Today’s perspective comes from Meg Mill. She is a fellow Pittsburgh area resident, and as such, I am delighted to have her. She is a member of Generation X. She is a former clinical pharmacist and current functional medicine practitioner. Meg, welcome to the show.

Meg Mill: Hi, Rob. Thank you so much for having me.

Rob Oliver: Absolutely. My pleasure. So tell me about yourself and your role in health care, please.

Meg Mill: Yes. As you said, I spent almost 20 years practicing as a clinical pharmacist, and I have transitioned into I’m now practicing as a functional medicine practitioner. And I see people all over the country in my virtual functional medicine practice. And through functional medicine, we work on healing the root cause of people’s health issues and bringing their health back into balance naturally by digging into those root causes.

Rob Oliver: Okay. Can you talk to me a little bit more about that concept when you say you’re dealing with the root cause and handling that, how is that different from what would be traditional medicine?

Meg Mill: We kind of flipped things around in functional medicine. So it’s almost like generally, in conventional medicine, you look at a diagnosis and you would say you treat that diagnosis often with a medication and we flip it around. And we would say we’re not so concerned about the diagnosis. We said these are a set of symptoms, and we want to look at what imbalances are going on in your body to create those symptoms to happen. So we can look at in functional medicine. We kind of look at one disease could have many different reasons that are making it occur. And one symptom could actually have many different diseases. So it’s just looking at the imbalances and what imbalances are going on in the body to cause that symptom to occur, and that disease state to happen.

Rob Oliver: Okay. Work with me on this. A few years or a number of years ago, the World Health Organization moved to doing functional assessment and looking at things from that perspective rather than from a diagnostic perspective. Does that kind of fit in? And here’s a full disclosure. Okay. For me, I’ve got a spinal cord injury, but I come to understand that spinal cord injuries are like snowflakes. They’re all different. And I need a power wheelchair. But it’s not necessarily because I’m a quad. Not every quad needs a power wheelchair. It’s because of the functional limitations that I have. So in that way, I think the World Health Organization is moving more towards looking at function instead of diagnosis. And you’re just taking it a step beyond that. What’s your reaction to that?

Meg Mill: Yeah. So every patient that comes to me, we do a full detailed intake questionnaire, and we would do a symptom questionnaire, and I go back with the patient and look at everything that’s happened since birth. So I would really look at all of those different triggers and say, even like, let’s say, the ear infections that someone had as a three year old or a trip. They went on out of the country where they could have got picked up some parasite or something from Unclean Water. Everything that you’ve had happen in your life leads you to the place you are now. So we dig into all the reasons that are building you up to the place you are now really dig into all of that and all the symptoms and then work with them on rebalancing. So yes, what you’re saying is true. You’re different. It’s an end of one. We look at you as an individual because we’re all individual. Our body is unique. So it’s not standard for everyone to have even one thing. I always thought in my old role as a clinical pharmacist, even with medication, we give everyone the same doses if there are standard doses and everyone is different. So you and I wouldn’t always maybe need the same dose of a medication. But we just use sort of standardized procedures where we’re really looking at individual cases and how everyone is different individually and then really digging up what is unique about the person and can contribute overall to what’s going on in their health and then work to rebalance that.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. What you’re saying, I think really appeals to me from this perspective that when you’re talking about a dosage, this is what works for the general population. And it’s a statistical thing where this is what’s likely going to work for you. And if it doesn’t, we can adjust it. But this is kind of on average what happens. Whereas you’re saying, let’s not go with what works on average. Let’s find out what works exactly for you, and that has a definite appeal to it. What does quality health care mean to you?

Meg Mill: I think it really means meeting the patient where they are and really listening to what the patient is telling you and what their needs are. And really, I think people have intuition that they maybe don’t even realize or recognize, because there can sometimes be this role of the doctor versus the patient. And I think just really evening that out. We’re a team. We work together, and I’m there to work with them as a team to really give them the care that they’re looking for and listening to their intuition and what they say and what their needs are.

Rob Oliver: Again, I had a urologist, he was old and he’s since retired. But his thing was if you listen to your patient long enough, they will tell you what’s wrong. And if you listen to them a little bit longer than that, they may even tell you how to fix it. Which sounds to me a lot like what you’re talking about with listening to a patient’s intuition. Can you give me an example of quality health care?

Meg Mill: So I work with people generally in my functional medicine practice over a period of time. So we will work. I’d say, like, coming really? That coming in once a year or something. And just getting that one time appointment can often lead to even if I’m telling them everything. If I give them a plan, let’s say and it’s like, oh, this is what you need to do. And we work through a plan. If they can’t do that plan, then they’re not going to receive the benefit of even what we’ve created if they can’t do it in their life. So we work together over a period of time in order to really make a plan that works for them and make sure they’re able to do that in their life and sustain it so that they can see that transformation and health and really see that change. I say we want to see the transformation that both the patient and I want to see for them.

Rob Oliver: Got it. It sounds like this is not going to be handled in your standard 15 minutes doctor’s visit, where usually people are used to traditional medicine, where you go in and you see the doctor and you’re lucky if you get, you know, the nurse, take your blood pressure and your temperature. And you’re lucky if you see the doctor for eight minutes, ten minutes. It sounds like that’s not exactly the way things are going with you.

Meg Mill: No. Usually the first appointment takes about 90 minutes. So like, when I’m saying we dig into I have people fill out a really detailed intake questionnaire and really detailed, simply questionnaire before they even come. I review that before I even meet with them, so I can really get the full picture. And then our first appointment takes about 90 minutes to really dig into everything with their whole health history and what they have going on. And then the follow up appointments are usually an hour. So we really do spend a lot of time together and work together to really make a change.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. How do your patients or your clients react to that? When you say, like, okay, you’re going to come in for 90 minutes. Sometimes I feel like 15 minutes is too short. Sometimes I feel like 90 minutes can be a really long time. What are your patients typical reactions?

Meg Mill: Well, I’m flexible if they are busy and they don’t want to say 90 minutes, we work together. But I think by the time someone is seeking out a functional medicine practitioner, they are interested in making a change. And so I can’t say I’ve had anyone argue about that because people are just really I think sometimes maybe the functional practitioner isn’t their first stop. They’ve probably been to that appointment that they were told. I’ve had people telling me crying that their doctors are telling them they look like a picture of health, and they feel terrible. So they’ve been to that like, oh, you’re fine. And they’re not feeling fine. But they’ve been told that. So they’re really usually ready to dig in. I definitely work with them. But I don’t know. I think people like to be heard. So I haven’t had that pushback of, like, too much time for me.

Rob Oliver: Yeah, you’re definitely right. People like to be heard. What do you wish people understood about your role in health care?

Megan Mill: Well, I feel like functional medicine is a newer modality. So often the people practicing functional medicine come from like I have from a conventional space and found that although there’s life saving benefits and wonderful things about that space, there’s always also some gaps. And so I wish that I will hope that more and more people become aware that there is this other option for people that are suffering with more chronic conditions, like people with gut imbalances or chronic headaches or migraines or autoimmunity hormone imbalances, all sorts of spaces that insulin resistance and diabetes. There’s a lot of things you can do that don’t require medication, and that can actually make a huge difference in how you feel.

Rob Oliver: Okay. So just from my own clarification, you’re talking about things that don’t require medication. What are the things that people can do if they’re not taking a medication for a particular chronic condition?

Meg Mill: I guess when you’re saying understand, I think a lot of people don’t understand the role food plays in their health. So I would wish that more people really understood that. And really what every bite of food you take is giving your body information, whether that’s good information or bad information. So there’s so much we can do with food with regard to health. And then we look at lifestyle modifications and work through a lot of things like balancing the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. So you can be in more of a rest and digest place rather than be living in. A lot of us live in fight or flight a lot of the time. And then we do use supplements to do some nutrient balancing and use supplements for treatment, too.

Rob Oliver: Okay. I had Deborah Muth on, and I think this is what she mentioned that really food is the building blocks of how your body takes care of itself and how your body builds itself and rebuilds itself. And if you’re not providing the right building blocks, you’re not going to be able to get your body into the condition that it needs to be in, which I think is a very powerful statement. What excites you about the future of health care?

Megan Mill: Well, I think that the world got shaken up a little bit in the past year and a half. So I think that it is making people just kind of shaking up the norms. And in some of that shake up, people are realizing that there are different answers that they can advocate for themselves, that there’s not just one way. So there’s not only one way to do things. And I think sometimes we’ve followed this pattern of this is the way it has to be done. And so I hope that there are excites me that new things are coming up. The whole role of genetics versus epigenetics and nutrigenomics, like we’re saying with the food and how food can affect your genes and all those things that we’re getting more and more information on and to be able to personalize care even better.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. It’s very enlightening what you’re saying. And part of it is to me that the patients are becoming empowered where they’re doing the research, they’re doing the digging, they’re taking the thing to say, listen, I am not satisfied with the solution that I’m being provided with. I need to go find out. Are there other places I can get a solution? Are there other places I can get treatment and to make sure that patients are acquiring knowledge, and that’s a really powerful thing, just from your perspective, it sounds to me like patients are doing the research in order to find you. But patients are also empowered in the process to make sure that the outcomes are not just what you’re prescribing, but the outcomes, as you’ve said before, are dually satisfactory. Am I properly understanding that?

Megan Mill: Yes. Absolutely.

Rob Oliver: Okay. Good. So what is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of health care?

Meg Mill: Well, I think really, as we’ve kind of mentioned before, listening to their patients. Well, I think there’s two things. So I think really listening to your patients, listening to what they’re telling you what their needs are. We talked about that patient intuition, and I think we do all have that like you were saying with your urologist, that intuition where we have a sense of what’s going on. So I think really listening. And the other thing would be to really value food and the information that food is providing, because if you’re taking a drug, let’s just use metformin, for example, if you’re taking metformin to treat your diabetes, but you’re not changing your diet at all and eating fast food all the time and drinking sodas with high fructose corn syrup in them that’s spiking your blood sugar as it’s entering your body. You’re not really helping yourself. You’re taking the medication that also has side effects. But you’re also making lifestyle choices that really are counteracting the benefit. So you’re progressing in your disease state even though you’re taking the medication. So we really need to look at the person as a whole and what their whole life looks like, because there’s so many things you can do without medications or having to have the side effects to improve overall outcomes in the patient.

Rob Oliver: Okay. How can you encourage patient buy in this because it seems to me like a lot of the people that are coming to you have done a lot of research. But to me, I’ve got people that I know in my life who are either diabetic or pre diabetic, and they are kind of the opinion like, yes, I know that. But I’m still going to eat the things that I enjoy. I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to go through the rest of my life just eating bland and terrible things that may be good for me, but are not enjoyable. Are there ways that you can encourage patient buy in with that?

Meg Mill: I know. And that’s tough because some of those Cardiometabolic syndrome things you don’t have side effects right now. So you’re having to make those changes, and you don’t feel bad right now. But you will progress to a place where you have a lot more health complications because of the choices you’re making right now. And that’s a hard sell. So really, it is just more education and having people realize like you do have complications that come from diabetes and all cardiometabolic syndrome, even though you’re not having the symptoms at this time, you can progress there. We’re in a society that wants a quick fix. So we want that you feel like, okay, that Hill that I take is my quick fix. But it helps. But is that really fixing the underlying issue? And so they have to just really take responsibility for some of the choices that they’re making because those are affecting their overall health.

Rob Oliver: Yeah, quick fix and quick fix is in and delayed gratification is out. And that’s kind of the paradigm that we’ve got to shift. Hey, listen. Meg Mill, thank you so much for being with me today. I really appreciate you sharing, and I value your perspective on health care.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by guests on the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast are solely the opinion of the guest. They are not to be misconstrued as medical diagnoses or medical advice. Please consult with a licensed medical professional before attempting any of the treatments suggested.

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