IFM History

Putting Our Functional Medicine Vision Into Action

Pediatric Physician in exam room smiling

The Institute for Functional Medicine grew out of the energy and dedication of Susan and Dr. Jeffrey Bland. They had the vision of bringing to clinical medicine the emerging evidence and insights that would enable it to move from the drug-based model of fighting infectious diseases that worked so well in the 20th century to a systems-oriented, patient-focused clinical model designed to reverse the growing chronic disease epidemic. The Blands recognized that today’s most prevalent health issues are mostly caused by the interactions between genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures and that treating them requires understanding these interactions and subsequently using that understanding to design appropriate treatments that are personalized to each individual.

Over the past 25 years, the prescience of this vision has become increasingly apparent. Leading scientists and clinicians have taken up the challenge of researching and developing applications for genomic (personalized) medicine, and the field has been growing rapidly. The emerging science about the origins of disease has validated the broad principles of functional medicine by convincingly demonstrating the critical influence of epigenetic factors—including diet and nutrition, environmental toxins, and lifestyle choices—on the development of chronic diseases. IFM honors these reputed scientists and clinicians by presenting the annual Linus Pauling Award in Functional Medicine.

While many of today’s tools were not yet available in 1991, IFM was already focused on using this emerging knowledge to adapt therapies to the patient (rather than the reverse) by training clinicians to examine the genetic and epigenetic factors for each patient and to develop an individualized therapeutic approach that addresses these underlying factors.

The result is an ever-evolving, cutting-edge, systems-biology approach to health that treats each patient as a whole person. No longer is the patient seen purely through the lens of a dysfunctional organ system, a disease, or a syndrome, but instead as a person who can be helped on the path to optimal wellness. By evaluating a matrix of fundamental causes in the diagnostic and therapeutic process, we can more accurately understand the roots of pathophysiology, leading to earlier and more effective interventions that not only extend lives but also give patients back years of good living.

IFM is more determined than ever to help clinicians and patients alike develop the nutritional, environmental, social, and lifestyle strategies that, over time, will move us away from reacting to the chronic disease epidemic and toward a preventive, patient-empowered healthcare system focused on optimum wellness, not just freedom from symptoms. As long as the world pours most of its resources into post-diagnosis, pharmaceutical-based care, we shall not fully succeed in this great task. IFM seeks your help in our mission of ensuring the widespread adoption of functional medicine.

Learn More About IFM’s Founders


How to Get Involved

Whether you are a clinician, patient, caregiver, or community member interested in functional medicine, you can help us promote the widespread adoption of functional medicine. Here’s how you can get involved and stay informed about The Institute for Functional Medicine:

  1. Become a Member
  2. Get Certified
  3. Explore Functional Medicine Training
  4. Partner With Us
  5. Find a Practitioner
  6. Donate to IFM
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