A Call and Letter To All Revolutionary Healthcare Professionals and Healers

Dear Healthcare Professionals and Healers,

I’m writing in hopes that you’ll want to join me on a journey to transform the healthcare system. We all went into medicine and healing for the same reason: to help others. The system that we dedicated our lives to was once very simple. The relationship we built was based on a one-on-one interaction with our patients. This connection allowed us to build trust, loyalty, respect and honor with another human being and their health. Then it began to turn into a business, where we still had some control over how we delivered our care, but we could feel the pressure, so we bent to follow the change. Then the industry took over and we found ourselves working like factory employees, running through the day, checking boxes for meaningful use and spending hours on end on the computer, signing prior authorizations and referrals. Our patients felt like they were on the conveyor belt and the little connection that was left evaporated and brought us to today.

We’re all familiar with this world, the industry of healthcare. We know and feel the pressure from administrators to produce, to see more patients and raise our satisfaction scores. Our time is so limited we can’t teach our patients about prevention, lifestyle changes and stress-relief. We don’t have the opportunity to truly listen to our patients and their fears, concerns, and barriers to real health. Again, I’m preaching to the choir, you all know and understand this reality.

Often we’re left to feel helpless. We go home at the end of a 12 -hour day or 50-hour week and just want to decompress. Often we sink into our couches and escape into television or we numb it up at happy hour or our neighborhood bar. We let our exercise routine fall to the wayside; our food choices falter and stress dominates our day.  We learned this lifestyle early on in training; we dedicate all of our time and energy to our patients. Sometimes we get excited at the prospect of a new position that promises more time with patients and less time in front of the computer, but soon enough, it’s the same once again.

The other devastating part of this equation are the rates of depression and suicide in the healthcare community. Doctors and dentists remain first and second among the occupations with highest suicide rates. Dr. Wilbe calls it “Medicine’s dirty little secret”.

  • Each year in the U.S., roughly 300–400 physicians die by suicide.
  • In the U.S., suicide deaths are 250–400 percent higher among female physicians when compared to females in other professions.
  • In the general population, males complete suicide four times more often than females. However, female physicians have a rate equal to male physicians.
  • Medical students have rates of depression 15 to 30 percent higher than the general population. Depression is a major risk factor in physician suicide. Other factors include bipolar disorder and alcohol and substance abuse.

These facts make it even more imperative to come together. Social isolation is more dangerous to your health than smoking and obesity. We have to collectively join forces and build a healthcare system that is genuinely healthy for all involved.

Some of you have broken the mold. Some of you have opened direct primary care or concierge practices. Some have established monthly membership fees or a pay-per-visit programs, eliminating the need for insurance companies. Many of you have considered making the transition, but find it daunting to do so. For those who have, I commend you for making the pivot and the jump from the status quo.

But we’re still in the red when it comes to outcomes and true health, which is more than absence of disease. Our chronic disease rates are higher than most developed countries and yet we spend the most money on our care. And despite the Affordable Care Act,  Americans are still underinsured, having to pay monthly premiums and deductibles that are too astronomical for the average middle-class citizen.

Enough with the facts, we are all very well aware of the crisis we’re in. Fortunately, there are people everywhere from outspoken physicians and firemen to healthcare programs for farmers and musicians. Here in Austin we have a solid group of clinicians, healers, trailblazers and thought leaders working to change the system. It’s inspiring and exciting and continues to motivate me to work towards the change I wish to see in healthcare.

I believe we can change the world of healthcare and return it to what it once was. We can do this by having nurturing conversations and cultivating community. In medicine, we often participate in Grand Rounds, which are an important teaching tool and ritual of medical education. I’ve taken this traditional education forum and have designed Revolutionary Rounds, which invites all healers, healthcare professionals and stakeholders to discuss the future of medicine, to share what ideal healthcare delivery looks like and connect over food. I want to invite you to join me, Melisa, Layla and other visionaries to discuss what this new world looks like, what it feels like, how it benefits our patients and how it transforms our entire healthcare world.

I’m scheduling a series of community dinners where we come together and discuss the revolution of healthcare over locally sourced, nutrient-rich food. My hope is to empower our community- the doctors, PAs, nurses, healthcare pros and healers- to build strong, healthy connections that help us transform the system from the inside out.

I envision this happening as a supper club among old friends. I see egos left at the door and open hearts and minds. I imagine conversations throughout picnic tables about blueberries, local farms, the antibacterial effects of garlic, dirty living, clean eating, APO-4, telomeres and NF-kappa B.  I see cardiologists learning from physical therapists and vice versa. I can almost hear the cacophony of laughter from therapists who use play as medicine. I see ER PA’s learning about ‘pregnenolone steal’ from nutritionists and health coaches. It’s all happening in my minds eye and you can help make it a reality.

So that’s that. If you want to be part of the healthcare revolution that is imperative to our survival, please let me know. You have the power. You’re the one with the degree, the education, the skill set. Companies, organizations, hospitals, clinics count on you to make them money and once you lead, they’ll be forced to follow. You have the ability to make the administrators, the rule-makers and the policy makers to rethink their approach and transform it. We are healers first, titles and degrees second. Lets get back to medicine of what it once was. It takes 17 years for the healthcare industry to adopt an innovative change. We cannot wait for this change to happen, we have to make it happen.
Food is the great super connector. Let’s break bread together and discuss the ways we can make this happen. If you’re in, we’ll meet at the one year anniversary of the Functional Forum Meet-up In Austin at 6:30. I’ll send the invite out soon. From there I will send out the dinner series invites.

Thank you for your time and attention. Let’s get this party started and begin the journey towards healing healthcare.

I hope you’ll join me.

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead


Erica Benedicto, PA-C, MPH, YT, Clinical & Community Curator

I’ll leave you with a photo from the last Functional Forum meeting and Jamie Harvie’s presentation.



Inflammation: What It Does and How To Stop It

Every single disease and symptoms can be linked to inflammation. Inflammation happens when the body mounts an attack on invading microorganisms or injured tissue. The blood vessels open up and white blood cells flow into the area to fix the damage.  The redness and heat comes from the increased blood flow. The influx of the cells causes swelling that takes up room and pushes on the nerves surrounding, often causing pain. This is a good thing. The body is doing its job and healing itself.

When is it a bad thing? When it is chronic and constant. In our modern society, we’re constantly ingesting and digesting inflammatory food, ideas, thoughts, actions. We know that foods like sugar, dairy (milk, cheese, butter, yogurt), gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, kamut), factory-farmed beef, pork, package or prepared foods, corn, eggs, soy, certain nuts, nightshades (tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, eggplant), citrus, and yeast (baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast, and fermented products, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol cause spurts of inflammation in the body.

Then we get stressed out, which is the most common reason for primary care visits in the US. Stress can be anything: worrying about the past, worrying about the future, concerns about money, paying bills, our relationships, keeping our jobs, feeding our kids. Then there is the outside stress that we consume with the news, gossip, fights, television shows, movies, video games. But since it causes changes on the inside of our bodies, we aren’t always able to see it. Eventually what ends up happening is that our bodies mount little attacks over years. Maybe we gain weight or start losing our hair or have fungus on our skin or nails or have a little pain or numbness and tingling. Then we get full-blown diseases like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol or auto-immune disease. That’s what happened to me. I was go, go, go, making the benchmarks that I thought would make me successful as a human being and then while in PA school, I got Ulcerative Colitis, an auto-immune disease of the colon. Bleh!

Here are some early symptoms caused by chronic inflammation (from SCD Lifestyle gurus) :

  • Ongoing, irritating pain in the body (like the joints or muscles)
  • Allergies or asthma (especially when they keep getting worse)
  • High blood pressure or blood sugar problems
  • Ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (constipation or diarrhea)
  • Constant fatigue or lethargy
  • Skin problems or red, bloodshot eyes

The longer we live with this chronic inflammation, eventually they lead to full-blown disease:heart disease

  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Crohns
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Hypo or Hyperthyroidism
  • Diabetes
  • Psoriasis
  • Asthma, allergies, eczema

Once you get a disease or a diagnosis, then its time to take action. Don’t be like me and take years of side effect producing medications while continuing to eat, stress, drink and stress some more just like before my diagnosis. They say once you get the diagnosis, it is too late. I don’t believe this. I self-healed and you can too. Whether it is 1 week into your diagnosis, one year, or 10, it is never too late. The body wants to heal, you just have to give it the right tools.

The first step to removing inflammatory triggers is through stress-relief and self-care. Stress-relief, mindfulness and meditation helps build resilience, which allows your body and mind to react more calmly to seemingly challenging situations. This is a really difficult practice in our go, go, go society, but is absolutely imperative. A really easy way to do this is through elongating your exhale. That activates the vagus nerve to place your body into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘rest and digest’ mode. Counting your breath so that you exhale longer than your inhale allows for this type of relaxation.

In practice, I teach this to patients, have them choose a relaxing essential oil from my toolbox, have them lay down, place their hands on their belly (sometimes I’ll adjust their hood or sweater or pillow to adjust the head so that it more naturally falls into parasympathetic mode), turn down lights and let them do this on their own. I leave them with the intention of decreasing stress enough that they can relax and the body can do what it needs to. My patients are busy, non-stop, single moms, overworked dads, underpain, overstressed, chronic pain, sleep deprived folks and usually they’ve never had more than 1 minute to relax. When I return after about 15 minutes, most of them are asleep or on the verge.

Just like that, they’ve learned a free tool that is always available to them whenever they need a break. Once you gain the ability to place your body and mind into a relaxing, stress-less place, then you can focus on self-care. Food is an easy way to raise your vibration, energy and practice self-care. Simply by eating nutrient-rich whole food you are taking care of your mind, body and spirit. I say food is the gateway drug to self-care because once you feel better and have more energy, the other steps towards taking control of your healing come naturally. Starting an elimination diet is key to getting your health in order. I outline it step by step starting with this post.

Part of the reseting the body and mind in the 4R routine is Reinoculation, which includes rebalancing your microbiome, the ecosystem in our body. We have more bacteria, viruses and fungus than we have cells. Introducing a daily ritual of eating or drinking probiotics is another way to boost your energy, help your skin, decrease pain, clear your mind and create an overall sense of well-being. This can be done through kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, escabeche. Just taking two teaspoons of the food probiotics or drinking a cup of probiotic-rich beverages, you’ll do your body and mind good. One spoonful of probiotic foods have the same amount of beneficial bacteria as a bottle of capsuled probiotic. Add this to your everyday and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Dr. Hyman, Functional Medicine doctor who runs the Cleveland Clinic Center for FM says all chronic disease, even aging, is considered an inflammatory process. That means if you live an anti-inflammatory life, you’ve found the fountain of youth. Like everything else, I recommend weaving a small part of this whole health program into your life. If you’re wanting to target stress, then add a morning guided meditation or relaxation breathing exercise to your day. You could also do the food part by trying a 3-day juice cleanse. If you have a question or are confused about where to start, I always say check-in with the healer within. Try stillness, a walk, meditation to see where that leads you and just make the choice to take that first step.

You can either dedicate your life to making appointments, going to others to ‘fix’ you and take medications or you can dedicate your life to self-health, self-care, nurturing the healer within and doing the work to prevent disease. Both take time and dedication, but the choice is up to you.

I hope you choose health and at least try the path away from the inflammation generation. Your body and mind and loved ones hope you do too.

photo by: twobee