The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) has announced the winners of its Linus Pauling Award in Functional Medicine, Debbie Sanstad Memorial Scholarship, and the inaugural Founders’ Scholarships, presented at its 2023 Annual International Conference (AIC). In its 30th year, AIC brought together more than 1,000 renowned health care professionals, researchers and practitioners from around the globe to explore the latest advancements and innovations in functional medicine.
“IFM extends its warmest congratulations to all the award winners for their outstanding contributions to the field of functional medicine,” said Amy R. Mack, MSES/MPA, IFM CEO. “Their tireless efforts and unwavering commitment to patient-centered care have helped advance the transformation of health care and will continue to improve the health and well-being of patients and communities around the globe.”
The Linus Pauling Award in Functional Medicine recognizes a visionary clinician or researcher who has made a significant contribution to the development of the functional medicine model or to the reach of functional medicine, nationally or internationally. This year’s recipient joins the slate of an impressive 26 previous award recipients since its inception in 1996.
The 2023 Linus Pauling Award went to Aristo Vojdani, PhD, MSc, CLS for his work as a scholar, researcher and teacher. According to IFM, his contributions to the fields of immunology and microbiology shed light on the complex mechanisms of autoimmune diseases, food sensitivities and environmental toxins.
IFM also offers annual scholarships to expand access to functional medicine training for practitioners. These scholarships allow clinicians to gain new clinical skills and effectively apply the functional medicine model in diverse clinical settings.
In memory of longtime IFM team member Debbie Sanstad, this annual scholarship covers the cost of all coursework in IFM’s Certification Program. In 2023, the scholarship is intended for clinicians practicing outside of the United States and who are at the beginning of the IFM Certification Pathway. The 2023 Debbie Sanstad Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Erin Jankauskas, a physician assistant with an enthusiasm for community health education, global public health and functional medicine.
Jankauskas has clinical experience in various fields, including primary care, critical care medicine, and vascular surgery. It is through these experiences that she became increasingly interested in understanding the prevention, management, and root causes of chronic disease. Most recently, Jankauskas worked in a primary care clinic in Senegal, Centre de Santé Aristide Mensah, where she treated patients of all ages..
The Founders’ Scholarship was established and funded in 2023 by IFM co-founders, Susan Bland, MA and Jeff Bland, PhD. This scholarship supports functional medicine education for primary care practitioners working with underserved communities who show exemplary leadership and passion for their communities and the mission of IFM. Irdina Aminuddin, MBBS, primary care doctor from Malaysia, and Tarika James, MD, family medicine doctor from New York, were named as this year’s Founders’ Scholarship winners.
Following her mother’s footsteps, Dr. Aminuddin obtained her medical degree from the University of Malaysia, rotating through various disciplines and places of practice including rural postings, primary care, and tertiary hospitals. Upon graduation, Dr. Aminuddin entered public service and worked as a junior doctor in Sarawak General Hospital for almost three years. She completed postings in obstetrics & gynecology, internal medicine, surgery, orthopedics, pediatrics, and emergency medicine.
In 2019, she was called back to serve her home state in Sungai Buloh Hospital’s medical department, which was the main COVID center. Dr. Aminuddin said that it opened her eyes to the health care burden the nation was facing, not just with COVID but also with other chronic, noncommunicable diseases. With patients of the same diagnosis being grouped together in isolation, personalized care was lost, which influenced her to pursue primary care and functional medicine education in 2022. She is now a resident doctor at a primary care clinic in Selangor.
Dr. James, is dedicated to incorporating the principles of functional medicine into her practice. By recognizing the interconnectedness of the body’s systems and addressing the root causes of disease, it is her aim to help patients achieve optimal health and well-being.
In her role as Chief Medical Officer at Harmony Healthcare Long Island, NY, a not-for-profit federally qualified health center (FQHC), Dr. James said that she is committed to making functional medicine available in underserved communities so patients will have access to a wider range of health care options that may better align with their cultural beliefs and preferences. Equipped with the tools and knowledge to take charge of their health, she believes functional and integrative medicine can help remove health barriers, reduce health care costs, and improve health outcomes in underserved communities.
For more information, visit www.ifm.org.