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Mar 3, 2024

How to Start Building Your Dream Functional Medicine Practice

by Dr. Dan Kalish

Over the past 20 years, I have trained a wide range of practitioners from MDs and DCs to LACs and NPs, in all stages of life and in countries around the world. Despite their varying professional backgrounds, they all shared a personal dedication to health and healing of their patients as well as an ongoing commitment to continually evolve their own knowledge base. They all also value a data-driven, root-cause approach to their patients’ health, and appreciate having a holistic, systems-oriented view of each case. That said, no transition comes without questions and a bit of discomfort in forging ahead on a new path. 

What empowers practitioners to make the transition?

The first step is making the emotional decision to embrace the change. This first step isn’t logical. Once you are emotionally committed, focus on the people around who are successfully doing what you want to do. Seeing real life examples will help you to turn the volume down on any lingering doubts you may have. Go visit clinics throughout the country that you feel represent the type of work you’d like to do. Take a practitioner out to lunch, and just talk with those in the position you aspire to be in. Find out through an informational interview type format how they did it, what advice they have, what they wish they had known at your stage. 

If you’ve been an employee your entire career, venturing out on your own is daunting. At the Kalish Institute we want to provide you with a blueprint for success in functional medicine practice building, while avoiding all the predictable roadblocks that often occur.

The two key ingredients to building an all-cash Functional Medicine clinic are 1) a passion for Functional Medicine and 2) a little, not a lot, of entrepreneurial spirit. If you look back in history just 100 years ago, doctors ran their own cash practices, they ran hospitals too, they were involved in every aspect of the business of medicine. We didn’t have insurance companies, HMO’s, PPO’s or large hospital chains. Not too many doctors back then were employees. Somehow those doctors figured it out and for the most part in an ethical and patient centric way.  So moving into a cash model is really more of a return to the historical norm than an aberration or “radical” move. I like to think of it as “a restoration of the private practice model”.

The business challenges and practice management challenges of running a clinic are about the same as the issues a car repair shop has to deal with or a restaurant or bicycle shop. Do you have a favorite local business, the fundamental concepts are the same, go visit that business and talk to the owner. There are examples all around us of people who don’t have extensive business backgrounds, building great small businesses that are customer service centric. Just because the human body is multi-system and interrelational and the microbiome diversity is mind numbingly complex doesn’t mean Functional Medicine clinic building is. We way way over complicate the whole thing because that’s how our brains have been trained, keyed into the complexity of Functional Medicine itself we turn the business part into more than it is. 

I’ve witnessed hundreds of practitioners in our training programs at Kalish Institute start their practices. The practitioners always enter the process with about 10x more worries than actual problems they encounter once the business is launched. In other words, most of the worries you have now simply won’t manifest in reality. So don’t let them stop you.

 It’s not a rocket science kind of thing. You need a physical space, staff, inventory, bookkeeping, a CPA, and you have to pay taxes. You need to attract customers which these days is extremely easy and you need to build a clinic model that works for you. The mechanics of the practice management side of our profession seem overwhelming to some simply because they are new. 

After deciding that this is what you want to do, then you can progress to the next step of devoting yourself to a community of like minded people. Having the full resources of Kalish Institute at your fingertips, gives you immediate access to community, course work and training programs. You can meet and network with other practitioners that match you, and are at your phase of development.

With a little focus and a few hours a week of study you can start to break free of that inner dialogue that says “this is impossible” or “I can’t do this because…”. 

It’s been my great pleasure to watch hundreds of doctors take these steps and to see the joy and sense of fulfillment that comes from a Functional Medicine career; The reality I see doctors embrace once they have their dream practice is well worth the minor aches and pains of the journey.

Dr. Dan Kalish

Dr. Dan Kalish

Founder of the Kalish Institute
Dan Kalish, DC, IFMCP, is founder of the Kalish Institute, an online practice implementation training program dedicated to building Integrative and Functional Medicine practices through clinical and business courses.