A Tribute to Darlene Bernard, MD, IFM Educator

Published 5/13/22

Dr Bernard HeadshotWe are deeply saddened to share news of the passing of Darlene C. Bernard, MD, FACOG.

After becoming an IFM Certified Practitioner in November 2019, Dr. Bernard served as an esteemed educator with IFM for the last two years. Dr. Bernard was a lively and passionate educator, clinician, and advocate and a highly respected member of the functional medicine community.

Her contributions to IFM were many, from her role as an educator for the online course, Resistance, Resilience, and Recovery: Patient Care in a Pandemic (3Rs), to amplifying the importance of the therapeutic practitioner-patient relationship with Dr. David Jones in celebration of the 30th anniversary of IFM during the 2021 Annual International Conference (AIC), and so much more. Dr. Bernard was connected to her authentic self, her mission, and her purpose, and she shared her passion for promoting health and well-being with the world. As an advocate, Dr. Bernard used her voice to support the widespread adoption of functional medicine and spent much her time taking care of those who do not have access to health care, both at home and internationally.

Dr. Bernard was instrumental in helping IFM advance its efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion, lending her personal and professional expertise in addressing health disparities and inequities that practitioners and patients experience. She educated us all on how practitioners may be more aware of their own “implicit biases,” improving upon the therapeutic partnership. Dr. Bernard had experienced significant discrimination throughout her life and always chose to forgive and use her suffering and her experience to help others. She demonstrated how to lead and live a life of understanding, grace, and growth, both for the functional medicine and wellness fields and for so many others in her local community, too.

“With a default emotion of happiness and curiosity, Darlene’s engagement with IFM over the last two years is one of the bright spots.  Her early engagement in IFM’s diversity, equity, and inclusion work helped to shape our direction and commitments, and I am forever grateful for her support, leadership, and selflessness. Darlene is greatly missed and her memory forever cherished,” said Amy R. Mack, MSES/MPA, IFM CEO. Her husband, Anthony, told us that her work with IFM was some of the most rewarding of her career, and her entire family heard all about the work she was doing with our organization.

Raised in the Washington-Baltimore area, Dr. Bernard matriculated at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland in 1985, where she fell in love with obstetrics and gynecology. Serving as the medical director of the Charleston Hormone and Health Center for over seven years, she most recently worked as a functional gynecologist just outside of Charleston, SC.

Dr. Bernard used her knowledge and experience to inspire positive change in her patients, community, and the world. Her absence will be felt by many, and the IFM team is thankful for the opportunity to have known her. Our hearts go out to Dr. Bernard’s family, friends, and community.

Shared today are the memories of just some of Dr. Bernard’s IFM colleagues and friends as they offer their thoughts, remembrances, and stories of how she made an impact on their lives:

Robert Luby, MD, IFM director of medical education initiatives, worked closely with “our dear Darlene” and shared, “her heart seemed to have no limits.”

“Though she clearly left us too early, though she clearly would have helped the lives of so many if she were still with us, I can’t help but feel how lucky she was to know her true self,” shared Joel Evans, MD, IFM consultant–chief of medical affairs.

“Darlene was the absolute sweetest woman to work with.  She was genuine and so full of life and joy during all our interactions,” shared Paola Martini, IFM video manager, who worked closely with Dr. Bernard on filming her 3Rs and AIC 2021 videos.

IFM audio and visual specialist, Will Dyar added, “I can say, without a doubt, that Darlene played a role in my desire to be a part of the IFM team as a full-time employee. She exemplified the best of IFM educators and came to our sessions with brightness, joy, and openness. It felt like she was there to learn as much as she was to share her knowledge, experiences, and teach.”

A meaningful statement demonstrating her passion for women’s health was shared by Leslie Stone MD, OB/FP Fellow, IFMCP, Emily Rydbom CN, BCHN, CNP, and P Michael Stone MD, MS, IFMCP, IFM educator: “Darlene Bernard OB/GYN, IFMCP, when introduced to the concept of developmental programming through a systems biology lens, eagerly collaborated with Growbaby Life Project in applying this program to the most vulnerable among us. Darlene’s deep heart for the underserved and intimate perspective into the structural barriers that get in the way of good care, as well as her wise understanding of the “nuts and bolts” required for effective delivery of women’s health care were invaluable in raising the quality and applicability of our program. She used her life journey to see the mother during pregnancy more clearly. Darlene lifted her eyes to imagine a better place for health and caring. We were working together to change the health of our world, one pregnancy at a time. This was a heart project for her. Her willingness, her thoroughness, her huge heart and tender spirit provide examples for all of us. Darlene’s untimely passing hurts to the core, but she will inspire us to meet the challenge of service to those who need it most.”