Visionary Tracy Gaudet, MD, on Transforming Health Care

Doctor explaining to patient
                                        Read time 3 minutes

Transformation in health and well-being has never been more pertinent. It’s directly linked to the outcomes we’re seeing in this nation. How can we optimize our health so that we can be as resilient as possible? We need to have a system that actually is designed to support people in learning new skills and making lifestyle changes.1

Tracy Gaudet, MD

Dr. Gaudet is a recognized leader in the evolution of health care and the founding executive director of the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) National Office of Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation. While at the VHA, her office was charged with leading the VHA’s evolution to Whole Health, a unique and visionary approach to wellness that delivers personalized, proactive, and patient-centered care to US veterans.2 In an interview with Integrative Medicine, Dr. Gaudet explained that the number-one strategic priority of the VHA is to empower veterans to improve their health and well-being and that the impact of the change to Whole Health on progress toward that goal has been far greater than she had anticipated.3

Expanding her vision of redesigning health systems and making Whole Health affordable and accessible nationwide, Dr. Gaudet is now the executive director of the new Whole Health Institute and Chopra Library. Key to the Whole Health approach is to start with what matters most to the patient, Gaudet has explained.4 For example, even when living with a difficult condition such as chronic pain, would the person like to return to a favorite sport or hobby? To play on the floor with their children or grandchildren? To feel and function better at work?2 Compared to the current medical system that may start with a problem or complaint, Whole Health changes the perspective to the patient’s motivations for living, their values, needs, and goals, and their relationships to community, including their providers.4-6

The Whole Health approach supports patients in their health and wellness journeys and creates opportunities for better clinical outcomes.4 And studies continue to suggest improved patient outcomes after Whole Health–based interventions.7,8 Specific to complementary and integrative health participation as part of a Whole Health approach, a 2020 study analyzed 401 surveys that reflected patient-reported outcomes from 119 veterans across several time points.8 Results suggested that yoga participation was associated with decreases in perceived stress, meditation participation was associated with significant improvement for physical functioning, and tai chi participation was related to overall improvement in patient-reported outcomes for physical and mental functioning, including anxiety.8

Functional medicine and the Whole Health model are similar in their structured and personalized patient-centered care. IFM’s foundational course, Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP), emphasizes the importance of the therapeutic relationship and provides clinicians with in-depth, evidence-based overviews of the six physiological systems—cardiometabolic, immune, hormone, energy, gastrointestinal, and biotransformation—that form the foundation for treating a wide array of clinical disorders. Learn more:

Learn More About Functional Medicine

Learn Proven Techniques to Help Patients Make Lifestyle Changes

What Is the IFM Toolkit?

When Standardized Diets Don’t Work for Your Patient


  1. Institute for Functional Medicine. IFM announces Tracy W. Gaudet, MD, as closing keynote at 2020 Annual International Conference. Business Wire. Published May 27, 2020. Accessed April 6, 2021.
  2. NCCIH Research Blog Team. Dr. Tracy Gaudet to speak on health care transformation in the VA’s patient-centered model. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Published October 25, 2018. Accessed November 12, 2020.
  3. Benda B. Tracy Gaudet, MD: being an agent of health care transformation. Integr Med. 2016;15(5):68-72.
  4. YouTube: Gaudet T. The frontline of health care transformation. End Well Symposium. Published March 13, 2018. Accessed November 12, 2020.
  5. United States Department of Veterans Affairs. What is whole health? Updated March 29, 2021. Accessed November 3, 2020.
  6. Krejci LP, Carter K, Gaudet T. Whole health: the vision and implementation of personalized, proactive, patient-driven health care for veterans. Med Care. 2014;52(12 Suppl 5):S5-S8. doi:10.1097/MLR.0000000000000226
  7. Erickson KL, Ringdahl D, Kulzer SR, Marka N. Improving VA whole-person health care using functional nutrition and mindful eating in patients with SCI and neurologic disorders. Rehabil Nurs. 2021;46(1):24-32. doi:10.1097/rnj.0000000000000263
  8. Elwy AR, Taylor SL, Zhao S, et al. Participating in complementary and integrative health approaches is associated with veterans’ patient-reported outcomes over time. Med Care. 2020;58(Suppl 2 9S):S125-S132. doi:10.1097/MLR.0000000000001357

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