As a Tampa doctor trained in functional medicine and integrative healthcare, I take a patient-focused, integrative approach to doctoring. That is, instead of merely diagnosing and treating illness, I focus on restoring health by addressing the root causes of illness, which are unique to each patient. These causes of illness include everything from genetic susceptibilities to environmental toxins and pathogens to diet and exercise and even psychological and emotional states.

This approach to doctoring is standard practice in functional medicine. However, each functional medicine doctor has his or her own approach to doctoring and to managing his or her practice. In this post, I describe my personal approach to doctoring and practice management, so you can:

  • Compare my approach to that of other doctors.
  • More effectively team up with me to restore your health, if you choose to become one of my patients.

Earning Patients

I do very little marketing to build my practice. Instead, I earn my patients through referrals from several sources:

  • Other patients — typically a friend, relative, or colleague I helped with a similar health issue or concern.
  • Conventional doctors who are “stuck” with a patient’s health issues and realize a different approach is needed (especially those who have had experience with my methods and witnessed the profound improvement in these most difficult cases).
  • Other natural healthcare providers who do not practice functional medicine but understand its value and prefer an approach that helps their clients avoid the automatic application of pharmaceuticals or invasive medical tests and treatments.
  • Personal trainers or nutritional or health coaches whose client are frustrated because they have plateaued.

I am not the only provider in functional medicine who can attest to how well patients perform when they have a different option and more time and attention during office visits. Unfortunately, in the current healthcare system, too much is being missed in the quick 10- to 15-minute visit that occurs once every few months and is centered around the use of pharmaceuticals and surgery as the sole means of addressing health conditions.

Educating Patients

I invest a great deal of my time and effort educating patients, even those who are not mypatients. I do this through my blog posts and during office visits. Patient education is key to successful treatment, because educated patients understand and accept the critical role they play in restoring and maintaining their health, and they understand why specific treatments are necessary. Patients who do not understand the reasons that certain steps are necessary are less likely to adhere to the treatment plan.

Most of my patient referrals will have spent time reading my blog and familiarizing themselves with my work. They come in feeling hopeful after having read through the variety of patient reports and the medical education I provide on my site.

When I first started to practice, 19 years ago, it was a different story, I was not blogging, and people were less informed. Getting pertinent medical information to each patient was a significant challenge.

Today, it’s a vastly different story. My patients are better informed and have a general understanding of the need for integrative healthcare, functional medicine and clinical nutrition. They often come to me seeking help with a suspected or previously diagnosed issue such as:

  • Allergies
  • Autoimmunity
  • Brain fog
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic Lyme disease
  • CIRS or Mold related illness
  • Diabetes or thyroid dysfunction
  • Hives
  • Hormone imbalance
  • IBS
  • Infertility
  • Intestinal disorders
  • Intestinal permeability
  • Leaky gut
  • Mold illness from a home or work environment
  • Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Weight loss resistance

Patients have often read up on the topic of their concern. Some are following protocols from books or something they have tried as an online program. Many have tried other providers within the field of functional medicine and have moved in a positive direction but need more guidance or another look at their case. For some, I am the first practitioner outside of the conventional system they will see.

I love to hear from a new patient that they found me online as they were searching for information about a health concern and found one of my educational posts. Then I know that they have a general understanding of their condition and how a functional medicine approach can help. This gives us a jump start on identifying root causes and developing a personalized treatment plan.

I  have personal experience with significant health problems that started with a bad mold exposure in an office I worked in. I was not aware for about eight years when I finally discovered my health problems were coming from a water damaged building. It has taken significant time to manage and recover from this exposure and now I help patients do the same. What I realized was that many of the patients with digestive issues, pain, fatigue and brain fog are suffering at least in part to exposure as well. 

On-boarding New Patients

If you are interested in becoming one of my patients, please visit my New Patient Registration page to get started. The registration process presents you with a series of prompts to enter the information required to conduct your functional medicine analysis. This analysis provides you and me with a big-picture view of your health in the form of a Timeline and Functional Medicine Matrix, so that I can gain insight into the underlying causes of whatever may be ailing you and identify the areas we need to focus on in testing and treatment.

The functional medicine analysis needs to be completed at least 72 hours prior to your first appointment. After you have registered, the results of your functional medicine analysis are automatically transferred to my system, so I can review them with you at your first appointment.

Scheduling an Appointment

My online calendar is available for you to schedule your appointment.  My patients have found this to be a convenient and easy process. You will be asked to provide your basic information along with credit card information to hold the appointment. You may need to schedule your appointment two-three weeks in advance. If you cannot find an open appointment time on the calendar, email me at to request an appointment. My hours for new clients are between 8 A.M. and 6 P.M. on Fridays. Please be specific with what time of day you prefer.

Appointments can be scheduled for my Tampa or Lutz office or via phone consultation (for those that are out of town). I have a client base in New York and other parts of the country that I do consultative work for. This ranges from reviewing their current case to full assistance in the management of a patient’s health concerns.

Note that I do not handle emergencies. I work with clients who are struggling with chronic conditions. After our initial consultation, I will present a plan for addressing the root cause(s) of your suffering. Over time, I except to see flare-ups of the chronic condition gradually lessen in frequency, duration, and intensity until, according to our plan, your health is restored.

Conducting My Initial Evaluation

Although every evaluation is unique based on my patient’s reported symptoms and other health-related information, my initial evaluation generally consists of the following six-step process:

  1. Review your Health Timeline and Functional Medicine Matrix, which you complete online during the New Patient Registration process. (Please note:New patients need to complete my new patient registration process at least 72 hours prior to the initial appointment.)
  2. Perform a physical exam, which we all know can be helpful in isolating areas of concern and picking up on areas that may have been overlooked.
  3. Listen to your story. I need to hear all that has been done — what has been tried, what has worked, and what has not, whether a diagnosis has been given and if so what it is, what types of doctors (conventional and alternative) you have seen, and so on. I like to look at a new case much like a consultant. Many of my patients have been to too many doctors and have yet to find a long-term solution or at least a way to healthfully manage their conditions. By listening closely to patients, I develop a clearer understanding of what they have already been through, and I can direct them to the next steps.
  4. Order diagnostic testing to collect additional information and to confirm or rule out any suspected conditions. Although my new patients often have been subject to a battery of medical tests, I often find that certain tests, which should have been ordered, were not done or that previous doctors were going down the wrong road and came up empty. By paying close attention to your history and timeline, I can order the tests that “bear fruit.”
  5. If I can do something to help you right away, I do it. This may include recommending lifestyle or dietary changes or starting a treatment protocol on your initial visit.
  6. Meet with you during a follow-up visit to review the diagnostic test results and present a detailed treatment plan over a three- to six-month period. Plans typically include recommendations for diet, and natural solutions for sleep, digestion, mood, improving blood chemistry, restoring energy, supporting hormonal balance, all designed specifically for you. I find that many people have tried at least some form of supplement or diet but are failing to make the gains they badly want because they either lack direction, planning, or technical support and oversight.

Much of what I do during the initial evaluation is listen. That is really what my patients say helps them most initially. By really listening to you as my patient, I can get a clear picture of what you need and whether I can help.

Monitoring Treatment and Results

I always make adequate time for follow-up and discovery with my patients. I want to see how each patient is progressing and responding to treatment, and I don’t wait three months between visits. At first, I schedule monthly visits, until I see that you are consistently healthy. I monitor and measure success in the following ways:

  • Check how you’re feeling: Patients come to me to have their health issues resolved, so the bottom line is whether you are feeling better in respect to that issue. I look for primary complaints to start to be resolved from within a few weeks to 45 days.
  • Repeat diagnostic testing: If treatment is working, then the diagnostic test results should show improvement. If results are not improving, we need to find out why and determine what else can be done. I repeat tests usually within three months, some tests as soon as 30 or 45 days after starting treatment.
  • Look for long-term progress, not just short-term results: Most conditions I treat are chronic and require a long-term treatment plan. Once a patient is feeling better and the underlying causes have been addressed successfully, I present a long-term plan for optimizing health.

No Cookie-Cutter Approach

Whether you choose me or someone else to be your doctor, I strongly recommend you avoid any doctor who uses a cookie-cutter approach to deal with serious health issues or concerns. Also, be wary if the first consultation is less than 30 minutes — especially if, when you leave, you do not feel as though your concerns were actually heard. To avoid this from happening, ask up front how long the initial consult will take and what exactly the doctor covers during that time with you.

You want a doctor who:

  • Listens and hears your concerns.
  • Digs below the surface to identify and treat underlying causes.
  • Restores health instead of merely suppressing symptoms.
  • Tests to confirm or rule out underlying causes before recommending treatment.
  • Closely monitors treatment and adjusts if and when necessary.

You are unlikely to find a doctor who meets those criteria in the conventional medicine space. I strongly recommend you look for a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner (CFMP). CFMPs like myself have a deeper understanding and appreciation of how numerous factors can interact over long periods of time to cause dysfunction and how various systems in the body interact to support healthy function. If you are seeing a doctor who merely prescribes medication or surgery to provide symptomatic relief, it is probably time you change doctors.

Schedule with Dr. Matt Lewis

About the Author: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, specializes in diagnosing and treating the underlying causes of the symptoms related to chronic and unexplained illness through nutrition, lifestyle, chiropractic, and other natural approaches to whole-health healing in Tampa, Florida. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Shenandoah University, his Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life University, his Diplomate status in Clinical Nutrition from the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, his CFMP® from Functional Medicine University, and his certification as a Digestive Health Specialist (DHS) through the Food Enzyme Institute. Dr. Lewis’ passion for health and wellness stems from his own personal experience. With a family history of autoimmune conditions and diabetes, and his own lab tests showing his genetic susceptibility to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid), he has learned how to restore his own health and vigor to prevent the onset of these and other illnesses and live an incredibly active life. Through this process, he acquired a deeper understanding of health and wellness, which he now offers his patients in Tampa.