If you’re a clinician and finding yourself pressed for time in your practice, you’re certainly not alone. A recent survey of over 9,000 US physicians revealed that more than half are experiencing burnout. Fortunately, the field of functional medicine is rapidly evolving, bringing tools that promise to streamline and improve accessibility in our practices. Rupa Health is one such tool.
In this episode of New Frontiers, I’m joined by Dr. Kate Kresge, Head of Medical Education at Rupa Health. Together, we’ll explore the remarkable resources offered by this advanced specialty lab testing platform. We’ll also dive into the profound impact of chronic illnesses on our society, the crucial role functional labs play in providing answers that lead to lasting solutions, and how Rupa Health is at the forefront of reshaping the healthcare landscape through continuous innovation.
Don’t forget to check out the show notes for all the relevant links. As always, thank you for listening and please do leave a thumbs up or a kind review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to New Frontiers.
Delivering functional medicine services can be complex, but there are ways to streamline the process. In this episode of New Frontiers we turn our focus to Rupa Health – an innovative platform for specialty laboratory testing, and how they are living out their mission to make functional medicine accessible to all.
Dr. Kate Kresge, Head of Medical Education at Rupa, shares her inspiring health journey, which led her to become a naturopathic doctor and join forces with Rupa. She takes us through the impressive array of tools this platform offers, including access to cutting-edge functional labs, seamless integration with popular EMRs, practitioner Bootcamps for comprehensive lab training, and complimentary AI Food Plans tailored to patients’ specific needs. These resources not only save practitioners precious time but also empower them to have a more profound impact on their patients’ healing journeys.
In this episode of New Frontiers, learn about:
- [00:02:08] – How functional medicine can be streamlined and made more accessible.
- [00:09:24] – Rupa University’s six-week Bootcamps designed to help practitioners understand and interpret specialty lab test results.
- [00:18:38] – Improving patient compliance with nutrient-replete meal plans that meet specific client needs using Rupa’s free AI personalized Food Plans.
- [00:28:21] – Using Rupa LabShops to pair labs with an asynchronous course in order to reach more people and empower clients in their healthcare journey.
- [00:30:16] – How CEO and Co-Founder Tara Viswanathan’s personal story shaped her vision for accessible functional medicine.
- [00:33:41] – Dr. Kate’s health journey and the potential for Rupa Health to make functional medicine more accessible.
- [00:35:52] – The connection between mental health disorders and dysbiosis, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, nutrition deficiencies, and hormonal issues, and how functional labs can provide valuable answers that lead to lasting solutions.
- [00:40:19] – The impact of chronic illnesses on society, the high number of deaths caused by noncommunicable diseases, and Rupa’s vision to disrupt the healthcare paradigm.
- [00:41:45] – Rupa’s time-saving and accessible practitioner education, resources, tools and specialty tests.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Hi, everybody, welcome to New Frontiers in Functional Medicine, where we are interviewing the best minds in functional medicine, and of course today is no exception. You can see if you’re watching this on YouTube, who I am sitting next to in the virtual space. Let me tell you about her, and we are going to jump into today’s podcast sponsored by, and about, Rupa. This is Dr. Kate Henry. (Formerly Dr. Kate Henry – Congratulations to Dr. Kate on her recent marriage!) She is the head of medical education at Rupa Health, and before joining Rupa, Dr. Kate was the founding director of functional medicine at Sanare Today, a thirteen-location practice on the east coast of the US that combines therapy, coaching, natural medicine and more, to help over 8000 people thrive. That’s very cool Kate. I want to learn about it.
Dr. Kate’s training in naturopathic medicine, biofeedback, and nutrition, allow her to emphasize root cause treatments that are both low cost and effective in order to help keep functional medicine accessible to all. That’s awesome. Dr. Henry (Kresge), welcome to New Frontiers.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Thanks for having me. I feel like I belong here. We have a lot of the same shared values.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – I know Rupa also has that value of really pulling the branch down so functional medicine and functional medicine education is available to all. And the fact that you were so successful in Sanare Today, that it was massive and you were bringing affordable functional medicine to so many people is impressive, it’s important, and I want to understand that. So let’s move through everything I’ve just thrown out. And I want you to tell me about Rupa for anybody who doesn’t know. The Rupa platform, the Rupa product has taken functional medicine by storm. And as I say to you and Team Rupa frequently, it’s an essential tool that we didn’t know was essential until it was in our hands. And now we can’t live without it. My team absolutely loves who and what you’re about.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald (00:02:08) – We all do, actually, because it frees my team up and makes them happy. But anyway, so introduce us to the core Rupa offering and then we’ll take it from there.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Absolutely. So hi, guys. Thanks for having me today. At Rupa we have one mission, and it’s to help doctors and health care practitioners bring root cause medicine to the world. And what that means is that we need to make this more accessible. When you guys at home are thinking about functional medicine, you might be lucky enough to have a couple amazing doctors who take your insurance and spend 90 minutes with you once a month. But some of you don’t live in an area where you have access to that. Or you can’t see your doctor often enough. And what Rupa did was took a group of people who were really passionate about this medicine and how it could heal the world and they went to doctors and they said, what can we do to make your lives easier? How can we get you to reach more people? And the doctors told us, take this administration off our plate, right? Design me tools to make my job easier. Design me tools to help my clients collect complicated labs. Design me tools to make an amazing food-as-medicine plan in under two minutes instead of it taking two hours.
Dr. Kate Kresge – And so Rupa is really a company that’s just answering the call and desires of functional medicine doctors so that they can help more people, because we desperately need that right now.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – We desperately need it. We really do. It needs to be broad. It needs to be accessible. So many people reach out to our clinic and we do practice virtually, but people want local providers. We’re helping as many people as we can in this space, but there are many, many, many, many more that that we’re not able to reach. So we need to just pull that branch down. It’s true. Whenever I have a conversation with you guys I just reflect on my residency, first of all, where I was in a large integrative clinic in Dunwoody, Georgia, and we had a full-time person just doing labs, explaining, highlighting how you collect the kit, what time, like all of these details.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – In my practice, before we started using Rupa, we had this massive closet full of kits and we were drop-shipping. We were much smaller actually than the clinic I was in in my residency, and it still took a huge amount of time for my team. And people don’t get it right, and people need to reach out to us. And so that is hugely disruptive that you took that on.
Dr. Kate Kresge – I’m so grateful. And I get it because I was in practice and Rupa came into my life and changed my practice and allowed me to help more people, which is why I fell in love with them. But for the guys at home who don’t understand what we’re talking about, let me drill down a little bit. Everyone here has probably had the experience of learning about a comprehensive stool test and being like, “Oh, I want to go learn about my microbiome. I’m going to ask my primary care doctor to test me.”
Dr. Kate Kresge – And then you show up and your primary care doctor is like, “I don’t know how to do that for you.” It’s because these tests can’t be done, usually, at LabCorp or Quest, the ones we’re talking about where you look at your whole genome or specific parts of your genome, or you look at your microbiome, or you look at your hormones over the course of a month. In order for your doctor to order that for you, they have to be signed up with a specific company and stock the kit in the office. That was the old way. And that’s what prevented more doctors from doing those tests. So even if you wanted them, they couldn’t get it for you. With Rupa, now they click one button and that kit goes to your house and you can learn anything about your health that you want. Which is a way that we’re really helping consumers get access to the information they need while not overburdening our doctors who are already overburdened.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – And you integrate with our EMR. (Electronic medical records) That’s huge. What more could we ask for that you’re actually now integrated with our EMR. Are you integrated with other EMRs? We use Practice Better.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Yeah, multiple; Cerbo, Healthie, you name it, either we are integrated or are going to be integrated. And for the non-practitioners at home, that means guys, when you go get your microbiome test, your results will show up in front of your doctor. You don’t have to print them out, take them in. The goal is make this as easy-
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – We don’t have to have to chase them down, as we spend a ton of time doing. Chasing them down, going to the website of the lab, looking to see if they’re available. Sometimes they tell us, sometimes they don’t. I mean, it’s just such an expletive, you know?
Dr. Kate Kresge – Yeah. On million percent. When you go from a traditional practice setting and you decide, I want to do something different.
Dr. Kate Kresge – I want to go into functional medicine. I want to start spending 90 minutes with my patients, getting to know them, finding the root cause. You have to change the way you practice entirely. And that’s a big burden on the doctor. Usually, they’re having to either start their own practice or start over. And it makes it hard to really see as many people as you should. And so we just want more doctors going into this. And beyond that, more practitioners in general. Most people don’t know this: we have a shortage of physicians in America already. And over the next few years we’re going to be short over 30,000 primary care clinicians. Right now, half of the people in America live in a county without a single psychiatrist. This isn’t going to get better. And so we need more of us trained to do root cause medicine to answer the health crises we’re facing. That’s part of what Rupa is doing as well, is making sure that providers of all types, RDs we’ve had some physical therapists, and therapists take our root cause medicine trainings because they want to be part of the solution and we need all of us right now.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Amen to that. Yeah. Since you talk about education, you started as just fulfilling this massive need for making these specialty labs easy for everybody. And I just want to underline an exclamation point that that’s a huge deal. That’s just huge for everybody. I remember one of my patients going home with three, maybe four kits that were important, we see people with complex issues here, and reporting to Rhonda our office manager that she put them all under the bed because she couldn’t look at them. She was so anxious. And so we had to walk her through- Okay, take one kit out today. Let’s talk you through. We spent a lot of time making it doable. And of course, it was worth it and it was important. But it was, in fact, a lot of time. So what you’re doing is priceless.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – So that’s your foundational product, making labs available to everybody. And now you’re branching out into education and you mentioned something about Food Plans that you’re developing, so I want to talk about both. But let’s first talk about your educational world, which is equally cool. Like tell me about Rupa University.
Dr. Kate Kresge (00:09:24) – Yeah, absolutely. We often get new clinicians who come to us who are new to functional medicine, and they’re asking our customer service team, “I’ve heard it’s a good idea to order a Lyme disease panel for my patients who have chronic joint pain and who’ve never really been tested, or a comprehensive food allergy and sensitivity panel. But I don’t know what to do with those results because I’m new to this. Can you help me?” And the answer to that from us was, okay, let’s make a six-week Bootcamp where you can run the test on yourself, which is very good for clinicians because they get that empathy of like, Oh, this is hard.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Or “Oh, I have to collect this in a specific way at a specific time and find the lab.” And it’s good for the practitioner so-.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – It’s great that it’s by design. Yeah, you need to do it.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Yes! The kinesthetic aspect. Plus, it’s like practitioner heal thyself. How many of us actually, as doctors and practitioners, take the time to check in on our own health once we get busy caring for others? So it’s that moment of pause, really get the kinesthetic aspect, touch the test, feel the test, get the test results in your hands. But then it’s also six weeks of education and Q&A with a professional who is an expert in that test and in the condition being discussed. It’s a nice way to introduce people so that they’re ready to go. And when they start ordering a food sensitivity panel or whatever, they’re really an expert by the time they set their first order and then the client gets the best bang for the buck. Because what you don’t want to do is order a client a microbiome test and then be like, “What do I do with the ten pages I just got back?”
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Yeah, that’s exactly right.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Yeah, it’s pretty daunting. Yeah. If you order a specialty test that you have not used yet, chances are high that when you look at it, it’s going to be a few minutes before your patient walks in the door and you’re going to break out in a cold sweat. It is really nice to have an idea of what you’re going into. How much is the Bootcamp, how much is it for that training?
Dr. Kate Kresge – It depends, but less than 400 bucks including the test. We try to keep it accessible, again because so many of our practitioners are just starting out and maybe they just started their own practice, they just took out a loan, they’re still putting their furniture together, you know? Let’s keep it accessible. You were part of the Institute for Functional Medicine Bootcamp that we did. Right?
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – That’s right. It was so fun.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Tell us, you talked to people and there were questions on questions on questions for an hour straight. People are hungry for this knowledge..
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Yeah, that’s right. Robert Luby and I, the director of medical education at IFM (The Institute For Functional Medicine), did that one and they did a full series with you. Yeah, it was fast. It was so fun. It’s always interesting for me. I’ve been lecturing on food allergies and sensitivities and intolerances for many, many, many years. And it’s always interesting. And yeah, great, eager questions. People want to know, for sure. Is it just an hour long. I know you don’t want it to suck up somebody’s day. Is it an hour long weekly. What is the structure of the Bootcamp?
Dr. Kate Kresge – Most of our Bootcamps are 1 to 2 hours of material per week, prerecorded. You go through it at your own pace and it really helps you dive deep into physiology and treatment approaches and protocols. But then the live Q&A is just an hour with usually a pretty high-profile doc and you just ask your questions.
Dr. Kate Kresge – And so what a lot of the doctors and practitioners will do is come and say, here’s my case, here’s the results, here’s where I’m stuck. Can you please help? And then we have our experts dive in right then and there. And it’s really valuable because in med school, we get case review, but when you’re out in the real world you don’t have a mentor or supervisor unless you literally go out and find one sometimes if you’re in private practice. So we’re trying to help fill that gap a little bit.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Such an important gap. So I was part of the live Q&A. I love doing stuff live. It’s fun and actually, I’ll be jumping on in the not-so-distant future. I think I’m going to be doing a live Q&A with True Diagnostic talking about some of their biological age testing. So that’ll be really fun. I enjoy them. I just enjoy them quite a bit.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – So as you said about my Q&A, it was packed with questions. There were way more questions than we could actually get to in that chunk of time and the Rupa team gathered and collated all those questions and got them all answered. I know that Robert pinged me on a handful of questions and we got it done and we sent them out. Anybody who had a question got an answer, which is a heavy lift. And it’s a gift. So, for clinicians listening that haven’t participated or are concerned because maybe you won’t be heard or whatever it might be, you made it happen. So bravo to you.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Thanks. That’s the ethos of the company, really, in general. When I was a practitioner using Rupa, I loved that I could trust their customer service team to take care of my patients no matter what. They had their back. It didn’t matter how many times somebody messed up their DUTCH test and needed a new one, or needed support, or had questions. The “get it done” and then “leave no person behind” ethos is what guides us because that’s what doctors need and that’s what doctors want. And really, you need it for the doctors themselves. How many of us really- By the time you hire your first practitioner or your first support person, the relief that you feel. Because it’s a lot. And I think we have an exercise we’re actually developing to go through with our employees which is similar to what we did in med school where we take people through an appointment and we go, you’re going to be the patient, you’re going to be the practitioner.
Dr. Kate Kresge – And we show them what it’s like to try to find somebody’s root cause in five minutes versus 30 when you have the full history in front of you? And what was really interesting was I was doing this with one of my coworkers and I was talking her through the USPSTF recommendations. Which is for the guys at home who are listening, it’s like when you go into your doctor, you think you’re there to talk about your joint pain. They have a list of 30 things in front of them that they’re supposed to talk to you about from the United States Preventive (Services) Task Force. Which is “You’re a 35 year old female, which means I need to be screening you for these three cancers, these two infections, and I have to get all that done in this visit, and do a medication interaction check, and make sure that nothing has changed with your health that’s major, or you have an updated family history. And now we have to talk about your joint pain.
Dr. Kate Kresge – And it’s really interesting when our teammates go through that because they’re like, wow, this is hard! And no wonder we’re helping these doctors because if we can take some of the other stuff off their plate, like, oh, in the middle of a visit, you get a call that somebody needs a new kit, or somebody has a question about how to collect their urine sample. If you can take that away, you just give the practitioner more time to do what they do best.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Yeah, 100%. And even when I was in a residency in a very established clinic, we were paying someone full time to manage all of that. And she wasn’t managing all of it, there was still more management to happen peripherally with the rest of the team. And then it was upon us to make sure we understood the test, etcetera, etcetera and all of that. It’s just a massive undertaking. But these tests are essential. We know that they’re essential for practice.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – So again, my hat’s off to what you’ve done and what a stressful training, just listening to you describe it, it’s just impossible. That’s why physicians are frustrated practicing in the standard model. Extremely frustrated and migrating over into our space as much as they can. And that’s why patients are frustrated. That’s a big, huge piece of what’s going on.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – So you touched on the idea of making food plans a lot easier and I was very excited when your CEO, Tara (Viswanathan), mentioned to me that you were moving into leaning on AI in a way that was going to make our lives easier. I was pretty thrilled with the fact that you are early adopters of that in our space. Talk to me about these Food Plans and how can we access them and what can we do with them?
Dr. Kate Kresge – They’re free on the platform. So guys, you can sign up for Rupa just to use the Food Plans. All you do is you just type in someone’s name and email and then you have a couple fields you’re going to fill out. What type of diet do you want them to eat? How many times a day are they eating? What food do they love? What food do they hate? What are they allergic to? How many calories do they need? And do you want them to get certain nutrients, like omega threes, or vitamin D from their diet? And then within 30 seconds, the Food Planner will build you a meal plan for them. Here’s why that’s important. So many people who are practicing functional medicine are very good at telling their patient, “Hey, you know what? You came in with terrible bloating, and we did some root cause medicine testing for you and found out you have SIBO. Now I want you to go home and eat a low FODMAP diet.” And what they’re not good at, because it takes a long time, is telling someone how to do that successfully.
Dr. Kate Kresge (00:18:38) – So then you have patients who are like, okay, well I’ll just do Monash (Monash University Low FODMAP Diet) and they’re eating steak and that’s it for three weeks, right? And we can’t have that. And not everyone has the time to build meal plans. There are not enough doctors or RDs who are trained to give every single person on the planet a meal plan. So the easier thing for us to do is to use AI to build it for the doctor right when they need it to give to the client. What that looks like guys, is instead of you thinking, Oh shoot, now I have to be low FODMAP for six weeks, all I can eat is meat, which is what you would think if you read certain websites online, instead, what the AI Food Planning tool will do is build you a whole meal plan full of recipes and delicious and nourishing food that actually makes it possible for you to do food as medicine.
Dr. Kate Kresge – I worked with RDs at Senare and one of the things I was such a stickler for is, two things, actually: One, you have to make sure their diet is nutrient replete. Most people who are building therapeutic diets for people do not know how many vitamins and minerals they’re getting because they don’t check because we don’t have time. And that doesn’t serve someone. We are not here to give everyone supplements. The place we need to move as functional medicine practitioners is teaching our clients how to get these nutrients and medicines through what they eat every day. You have done such a good job of that in Younger You. Just listening to that I’m like, Oh my God, yeah! This is why we vibe. Because you get it. For people to do this long term, they need to learn what to eat, but they need to learn what to eat in a fun and delicious way and not like, I’m going to eat some raw kale for my breakfast type of way. There’s so much that goes into actually making that a reality and we wanted to just make it super easy and free and intuitive. I highly encourage you guys to go try it.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – That’s very, very cool. Yeah, we had for many, many, many years, we’ve just put it on hold recently, an in-depth nutrition training program affiliated with IFM. We still have a good-sized nutrition team, but we always had interns with us and they were doing all of that AI work that now takes 30 seconds. It’s mind-blowing. We were building out our plans, we were evaluating for nutrients, we were individualizing, doing preferences, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. It’s a massive lift and we had a large team assisting us in this. It’s just extraordinary. Is it is it a very popular tool? Has it been really embraced by the community?
Dr. Kate Kresge – Yeah, we thought only a few folks would use it to be honest, and a ton of our folks are using it now every day, multiple times a day.
Dr. Kate Kresge – So building a meal plan, if you guys have never done it, I encourage you to try it. Our standard at our practice was everybody’s meal plan needed to meet 100% RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) every single nutrient in that day. That is a very hard thing to do, and when our RDs would first come and start working for us it would take them eight hours to do one plan. And that’s not uncommon. And when you’re doing food as medicine like this, it has to be individualized for the client to actually do it. So it frequently takes like 3 or 4 hours even, and that’s only one person.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – And you may need to be competent at creating recipes. Our team had to develop that competency. That’s not easy.
Dr. Kate Kresge – No, there’s nothing more personal, because it’s not just science. It’s not just data. It’s also like, what does your person like to eat?
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – And where do they eat? Are they willing to go shopping, and what kind of grocery stores do they have access to? You can’t just send somebody to the farmer’s market or the CSA or, assuming they have… You know, it’s different for everyone.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – I remember our nutritionist needing to build out a plan for a guy who was a trucker and only ate gas station food. We literally had to, for at least a few days, to assign this basically mobile diet. He had to pull gluten out and maybe dairy. He had to do two cornerstone things. He adhered to it. We succeeded at doing that. I mean it’s absurd. I know it’s absurd. I’m sure a lot of people are thinking that. But he adhered to it enough where he was able to experience the extraordinary relief of somebody whose first time abstaining from gluten, who’s got a clear sensitivity, and dairy as well. He stuck with this, got better, and that experience brought him back into his kitchen and real food. So that was our gateway. But yeah, I mean that was a pretty crazy heavy lift.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Yeah. And that’s the type of thing though. When you guys put in the work he healed.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Yeah. And, and he was willing to do it and we met him where he was at. We honored what he said his limitation was. He did it and his life was transformed actually, and he moved towards where we ultimately wanted him to be, and that was a whole foods diet,
Dr. Kate Kresge – That was brilliant. So that’s what we want. We want you guys to be able to do that times four. Because if we save your RD four hours or three hours, that means your RD can see four times more people.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Yeah, it’s amazing.
Dr. Kate Kresge – And then you have four of those guys who just went out and healed. So that’s what happens when you use AI and you can scale, is that you really can heal the world much more quickly.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – So let me ask you this. Who’s tested these recipes? I don’t know if you missed it. Last Thanksgiving The New York Times used AI to generate Thanksgiving dinners and at best they were funky. At best they were a little weird. So you’ve vetted the recipes? How did you create a collection of recipes that would actually be palatable for folks? Like, I don’t know, combining peanuts with some… I don’t know what would be weird? I think they had peanuts in one of the New York Times classic Thanksgiving dishes. It was just this odd… Anyways, tell me about the recipes.
Dr. Kate Kresge – So I actually don’t know where our recipes are pulled from in terms of how that technically works. But what I will tell you is I’ve tried it because I have my own. Of course I’m going to make my own meal plan. All the recipes are great. And part of it is you never want to shock somebody’s system, right? You’re never going to make a whole new different type of cuisine for the first time.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Generally you’re typing in things like, they like smoothies, they like bowls, they like salads, they like oatmeal, they like pizza. And what the AI tool will do is make all of those things healthier or modify them slightly to accomplish the nutrition goals you want.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – And you’re putting in what they like and what they dislike. So they’re starting from a framework that is already necessary and palatable to the participant.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Yes, so that helps. We’ve had thousands of people use them at this point and literally nothing but positive feedback.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – That’s amazing.
Dr. Kate Kresge – So I haven’t heard anyone say they hated the recipe and people frequently steal my meal plan. They see my meal on my fridge and they’re like, “Can I have that?” And I mean, it’s not your same calories, but if you want the recipe ideas, sure. And so they go home and make them and they love them.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – That is so cool. All right, that’s awesome Kate.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Actually, it’s funny. I was packing my daughter’s lunch today feeling like every desperate parent across the country, what the heck am I going to put into it? And I’m going to do it. I’m going to use the Rupa plan. And so next time we chat, ask me. I’m going to get some ideas from Rupa because I’m at a loss for her.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Bring your daughter on for a testimonial. Oh, my God. How cute would that be. Cute.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – All right. So you’ve got this AI launch with the Food Plan. That’s amazing. You’ve got Rupa University, and then, of course, you have the flagship product of making labs available to everybody. What else is going on over there?
Dr. Kate Kresge – It’s really anything and everything people ask us for is in our pipeline. And so, use our chat. If you’re a Rupa user guys, anytime you have a dream, like, “I wish you guys made this or this would make my life easier”, let us know because we listen to that.
Dr. Kate Kresge – We have an entire channel that we’re all going through every day where we look at every single feedback message we get. And it’s because we truly want to know what to build next that’s actually going to move the dial for functional medicine practitioners. A great example of that is that a lot of our newer pracs (practitioners) were coming and saying, I want a resource that will guide me through a functional medicine approach to treating Hashimoto’s that I can very quickly access. Because when I look in UpToDate or Medscape, I get the medications to use, but I don’t know how to treat it with functional medicine. Where can I find that?
Dr. Kate Kresge – So we started paying amazing functional medicine practitioners to compile write ups on different conditions and protocols that live on the Rupa magazine for free. And now it’s not just practitioners who are using it. Actually clients and people who are just everyday folks wondering, “Well, how would a functional medicine doctor approach Hashimoto’s?” are coming to this site and really getting empowered to understand the type of treatments and the type of approach that’s being used in this space and then have more informed conversations with their own practitioners.
Dr. Kate Kresge (00:28:21) – That’s something that I think, that because it’s free, it often doesn’t seem like it’s something that we do, but we invest a lot of time and money into that and practitioners tell us that it really helps. The other thing that we’re doing is LabShops, which is an answer to the problem of how do I reach more people at once? You and so many, thank God, so many practitioners like you are starting online courses where instead of teaching clients one to one and then repeating the same… We all feel like at a certain point we’re like, Oh my God, I say the same thing five times a week. I might as well just record myself. There’s a movement in medicine in general to start to educate the public and then empower them with their own test results to understand what to do. Again, your book is a beautiful example of this. LabShops is a way that you can pair labs with an asynchronous course for your clients.
Dr. Kate Kresge – So you can say, all right, do you have PCOS? Here’s the lab panel, now go through this course. Now you’re in a really empowered, informed place to go take the next step with your provider who you probably only get to see twice a year. But this “docere” part of naturopathic medicine, functional medicine, where – docere is the root word of doctor and it means teacher – we see so many of our practitioners realizing I can reach thousands or millions of people online if I’m able to just have a platform where I explain how their body works to them and give them the tools that they need to go have the conversation with somebody in a different state. Because, how heartbreaking is it when someone calls you, they’re in a state, you don’t have a license and you can’t see them. You don’t even know somebody within 100 miles of them. What are they supposed to do? So it’s any way that we can help practitioners reach more people.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – That’s amazing. And that has been your CEO, Tara’s, vision since even before she started the company. But yeah, it’s just it’s very cool. Yeah.
Dr. Kate Kresge (00:30:16) – Just so great. I feel like when people hear Tara’s story, it’s so easy to be like, okay, Rupa, whatever. You guys are a tech company, I don’t really know what you do, maybe another company in the functional medicine space. When Tara gets in front of you and she tells you her story you fall in love with her, first of all. I mean that I did. And you’re like, oh, my God, you care? Tara’s story is that her dad… She’s okay with me sharing this. I asked her, actually, and she shares this a lot. Tara’s dad is an excellent ER clinician, but when Tara’s mom developed a chronic illness they really had a hard time figuring out what was going on. And that’s when they discovered functional medicine.
Dr. Kate Kresge – But it was really hard for them to access, and it was even harder to get the functional medicine tests. And that helped Tara and her family realize, because functional medicine ultimately healed her mom. She was like, Whoa. we all have higher degrees and know about medicine and this took forever, tons of time and stress and imagine what everybody else is going through and how do I fix this? How do I help more people access this type of care? And what she did was brilliant, which is she went straight to the doctors and said, How can I help? How can I help you? They told her and she did it.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Let’s layer on to the fact that she’s a Stanford educated, you know, really disruptive Silicon Valley chick. So the lens was broad and different than what we generally encounter and we needed that. We needed somebody to have that experience of the power of functional medicine, and it’s very powerful when it’s personal like that, and have the background capability to apply this really disruptive lens. And that’s what you’re continuing to do.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Being in this space for fifteen plus years now it’s exciting for me to see some of this technology lens being applied appropriately. It’s really exciting for me to see what you’re doing and how you’re bringing that power. Because really, for most of my career, it was drop-shipping kits that we kept in the office, explaining them, just this very onerous, totally labor intensive, highly low tech, expensive, complete time suck journey. But because that information was so valuable, we all do it, you know, we all do it. We all did it. And so hats off. And I look forward to seeing how you will take what you are doing and bring it to us, because I know that you’re all so committed to making functional medicine available everywhere.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – I know that that’s your truth and that’s what you’re doing. Tell me a little bit about you and how you ended up joining Rupa. I mean, clearly, you were the head of a really successful clinic system. What’s your journey about? Actually, even before that, what brought you to naturopathic medicine? Just tell us a little bit about who you are, what brought you into naturopathic medicine and ultimately brought you over to Rupa.
Dr. Kate Kresge (00:33:41) – For me, the journey to naturopathic medicine was because I had a personal experience that set me free. I was a sick kid. I was sick from eleven to twenty-one. I had daily stomach aches, depression, anxiety, insomnia. Every diagnosis in the book. Really great care. I live in Philadelphia and went to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) and my doctors were amazing and they would patch me up when I got belly aches and send me home and they would do all the right things. But it wasn’t until I was twenty-one that we figured out I had celiac disease, and that’s because I saw a functional medicine doctor.
Dr. Kate Kresge – And so within three days I was better. Within three days of taking gluten out of my diet. And so I was hooked after that. I thought, wow, ten years of struggle. Ten years of doctors appointments and being sick and missing out on my adolescence, really. That didn’t have to happen. And more importantly, I knew so many other people who were struggling with similar things. And I thought, what if this is true for them, too? What if they have a root cause that’s rooted in some really sound science and biochemistry that would actually be easy to find if we just knew what to test? And I thought, I have to do this for other people. And so my MD, who is functional medicine certified, said, well, if you want to learn how to do functional medicine from day one in medical school you should go to naturopathic school. And I researched it and I thought, wow, okay. Along with all our basic sciences and pharmacy and minor surgery, I’m also going to get nutrition and botanical medicine and physical therapy, basically, and regular therapy, counseling. Cool. I’m gonna go there. Right? Because the goal is-
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – And a ton of nutrition.
Dr. Kate Kresge (00:35:52) – A ton of nutrition. And I actually got even more nutrition training beyond school and sought out what is frequently referred to as functional psychiatry or orthomolecular psychiatry training. Every break I would find any functional psychiatrist who would let me sit in their office and watch them work, I would do it because I had been labeled with a mental health disorder that was actually an autoimmune and gastrointestinal disorder. And so my heart really was for the people who are labeled with similar mental health disorders, but who probably have physiological root causes. And it is so many people. And in that time, every day a new paper comes out about the root causes of mental health disorders, whether it’s mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, nutrition deficiencies, hormonal issues. So we know for a fact in psychiatry, I mean, you pick up a psychiatry journal and it’s going to talk about inflammatory biomarkers in mental health disorders or nutrient interventions.
Dr. Kate Kresge – We’re getting there now as a society. But what’s happening is we’ve got the research, we’ve got the information, but it’s not making it into clinical practice. So still the model in the US is psychiatry and psychology. So you go get your pill and then you go and you see your therapist. And we’re missing the body part of that Mind-Body Medicine approach. We know, for example, that hypothyroidism can lead to depression. We know that certain nutrient deficiencies can lead to anxiety, including iron deficiency anemia can lead to anxiety. But how many of you have felt like you or a loved one has experienced those things and have not been checked for those two very common conditions? My goal was, how do I change the standard of care so that the first time somebody is diagnosed with a mental health disorder they get a full workup that’s actually likely to detect their root cause right then and there instead of decades of struggle, which is what I would see every day in my practice. I mean, people coming in 20 years trying their hardest, having so much of their lives dedicated to just managing their disorder or getting treatment or not reaching their potential with school and work because they’re carrying this heavy load.
Dr. Kate Kresge – And then, Oh, you just needed inositol and omega-3s and you’re good to go. Sometimes it’s not that hard and they’d be set free and then they go live their life and then they’re able to improve the lives of other people because we take that off of their plate. And we take the shame away when we do that. Because a lot of times when you have even a physical, any kind of chronic illness, if you can’t figure out the reason why, a lot of times people will start to blame themselves. Like, Oh, it’s just me. I’m just lazy or whatever. But yeah, my passion really is in helping people find and heal the root cause of chronic illnesses.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – That’s an absolutely lovely story. And there’s so many examples, countless examples in functional medicine of similar- I mean, your story is all too common and very heartbreaking.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – So you had a lot back fill to do, sort of recovery just around that experience being misdiagnosed, even with the freedom of finally being accurately diagnosed. But losing your adolescence is no small statement.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Yeah, it’s funny. When the teenagers would come in my practice, there is this feeling of being alone when you are sick that young because so many of your peers are healthy. And what I say to them is, You’re not the only you’re just the first. Everybody has their decade where they have something to reckon with. Some people, it’s their 40s and they get an autoimmune disorder. Some people, it’s their 60s and they get cancer. Nobody gets out of this life for free. Whatever you’re dealing with, you’re dealing with it right now. We’re going to fix it right now, teach you how to be healthy right now. And the rest of your life you are going to thrive. So get excited. Because when you’re young going through something like that, it can be really isolating.
Dr. Kate Kresge – So yes, that’s true. And I was very lucky that I got to go straight into med school and learn how to continue to heal my body. With celiac disease, your listeners probably know this, but folks have a ton of nutrient deficiencies, usually by the time they’re diagnosed. And so you really have to work hard to replete things like iron and calcium and fat soluble vitamins and even B vitamins. Pick a nutrient.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.
Dr. Kate Kresge – So thank God I got diagnosed and then thrust into nutrition training so that I could learn to heal myself. But not everybody has that. So that’s why there’s such a fire in me. Like literally every day I wake up and I’m just like, somebody out there is suffering right now and needs help. And so, whatever we can do to reach them, we just have to do it.
Dr. Kate Kresge (00:40:19) – I just read a statistic from the World Health Organization. Noncommunicable diseases, which for everybody listening, is chronic illnesses, whether it’s cardiovascular disease, any non-infectious illness, they kill 41 (million) people a year across the globe. That’s staggering. I’ll give you this…. I didn’t believe it when I read it either. This is from the World Health Organization. People die early from these disorders. So when you think, okay, chronic illnesses, am I really making a difference when I help people treat those? Yes. For 41 million people.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – 41 million people? Wow.
Dr. Kate Kresge – It’s wild. We talk a lot about the burden of chronic illness on society and how many people have them, but just framing it is really helpful. And then talking about just the level of disability in the life that you lose when you’re sick just makes it an emergency, in my opinion.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – And it makes sense to me now when you said at the beginning, or it’s more impactful now listening to your story, why you would have left what was arguably an incredibly successful practice, and maybe you’re still there in some capacity, I don’t know, and transition over to Rupa where you can really influence. You were already locally influencing a lot of folks with your reach but it’s that much bigger now.
Dr. Kate Kresge (00:41:45) – Yeah. It made more of a difference for me. So I started writing for Rupa, which if you’re a practitioner listening, you guys can submit your case studies, you guys can write for Rupa, like, we want you. Come help us help you spread your message. But I started writing for Rupa when they were publishing on the magazine, which I was super grateful for that, including case studies. Because to me, it’s so easy to land on somebody’s website and read all their promises and the science and their claims, but what I really want to know is, does it work? And let me read about somebody who’s like me, who’s better, and let me read about how much it cost. Right? In my case studies, I would put exactly how much the treatment costs and how long it took. And that would help all of our clients feel safe enough to trust us with their care. Which is scary, especially when you have a chronic illness and you’ve been sick for a while.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Usually you’ve seen a lot of doctors and you’ve been pretty let down. And so, I appreciated that Rupa was publishing those case studies and allowing that to be the medicine that people needed to feel like they could drop into that heart space and really connect and trust, and then we could help them heal. So, I was doing that, they had me on their podcast and then my phone started ringing off the hook. And I thought, Wow, that was really powerful. Me just being on a podcast and doing this magazine just took all the marketing I ever needed to do off my plate and brought all the people who needed me straight to my door. And I’m saving administrative time and this is all for free for me. I don’t have to pay a single dime. I thought, okay, if I can go do that for other practitioners just like me, then we’re going to help a ton more people heal. Because part of this- If you don’t know this, guys, you usually know the closest three hospitals around you.
Dr. Kate Kresge – You might not know the top ten functional medicine doctors in your state. And that’s probably because the hospital is well known, it’s established. They’ve got marketing budgets, they have marketing departments, usually, communications departments. When a doctor gets fed up and decides to go into functional medicine on their own, generally they’re on their own and they are seeing patients and trying to market, and we do not have marketing degrees. Marketing just means reaching the people who are sick to tell them we’re here. And while that sounds like it’s easy to do, it’s not, especially when you’re busy and what you really want to be doing is helping people heal. So to me Rupa was an answer that I needed, and what it did for my clients was help get them to me and help me heal them fast. And so, when the opportunity came up and they asked me to join, I just thought, there’s no world in which I could say no. I have to be a part of this because this is what’s changing the industry to help the clients that I love.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – That’s such a great story. You know, I want to just, I’m saying to my team here and to people listening that I would love to get connected to some of the cases that you wrote and published. And we could put them on our show notes and my team will reach out. We’ll just park some of the Rupa magazine content on the show notes page at the Dr. Kara Fitzgerald website where this particular podcast will live. If you can wind your way over there, folks, you’ll find a list of links for some of the things. Actually, we can link to the AI Food Plans, we can link to how you sign up, we can lead to Rupa Magazine, the University, we can just connect you. We’ll be a little hub of connecting you to the various Rupa sites. Or you can just go directly to Rupa and do that. But we’ll bring it on to the show notes.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Specifically it would be really fun to read some of your stories. Those are so moving. Powerful stuff. So, it makes sense to me that you would head over to Rupa, and I look forward to witnessing what you do, what you guys continue to do.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Thanks. So we love and this is the thing that I’m proud of, too, is that we love supporting doctors like you. So, think about your heart and the fact that you took time to write your book, do the research you’ve done, have the podcast you have. You’re changing millions of lives. And so, we’re proud to sponsor that. I feel so lucky every day I get to wake up and I’m like, Wow, We get to support the doctors who are doing the best work in the world. Whether we’re like, Hey, can we sponsor your podcast or whatever. Tell us what you’re doing next. How can we help? When you have that infrastructure where you can pick out the people who are doing the best work and just help elevate them in any way, it includes everything that you’re doing.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Thank you. Thank you. Well, if we overlaid our missions and the other people that you’re supporting, the institutes, IFM, Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute, and the labs, everybody’s mission is really to change the paradigm, the so-called health care paradigm that we live in. We really need to change it, and not just in the United States, although this is where we’re starting, this is where we are, but really globally. This is an all-hands-on-deck effort. All hands on deck.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Yeah, it’s a gap. And I explain this to patients and I think I’ve heard you say this, too. We have excellent care in some ways in America right now. When you go to your primary care doctor they do exactly what they’re supposed to do, which is get you referrals, get your prescriptions, get you your screenings.
Dr. Kate Kresge – But they don’t have 90 minutes to teach you how to reverse your Type 2 diabetes. That’s just a gap right now. It’s not that we need these doctors to do anything different is that we need more people in this in-between space of what do I do every day, the 363 days a year I’m not at the doctor, to take back my own health based on the evidence? And yeah. This is the answer to that that I’m really proud of.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Yay!. Well, Dr. Kate, it has been just such a fun conversation, an important conversation. Moving. Your story is really powerful. I appreciate the trajectory of your journey. I look forward to just paying attention to Rupa, paying attention to you, and watching you guys really disrupt and make this bigger and more accessible.
Dr. Kate Kresge – Thanks for having us on today.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald – Absolutely.
Dr. Kate Kresge (formerly Dr. Kate Henry) is the Head of Medical Education at Rupa Health. Before joining Rupa, Dr. Kate was the founding Director of Functional Medicine at Sanare Today, a 13-location practice on the east coast of the U.S. that combines therapy, coaching, natural medicine and more to help over 8,000 people thrive. Dr. Kate’s training in naturopathic medicine, biofeedback, and nutrition allows her to emphasize root-cause treatments that are both low-cost and effective in order to help keep functional medicine accessible to all.
- Rupa University
- Root Cause Medicine Podcast
- Articles by Dr. Kate Kresge (Henry)
- Articles by Tara Viswanathan – CEO & Co-Founder of Rupa Health
World Health Organization – Key facts on noncommunicable diseases
The global burden of multiple chronic conditions: A narrative review