Hi I am Dr. Rubina Azam. I have been practicing medicine for the past 12 years in Bay county. Most people know me for my reputation as an excellent Pediatrician, however not many people know the story of my own health and my own journey leading me to integrative/Holistic and Functional medicine.
Functional medicine is my story. The story of how a doctor suddenly turned into a patient that no one could figure out the problem with.
I used to be a very healthy person and was very proud of my healthy genes and life style. I worked hard and long hours, did ER calls, stayed up at nights, worked full time practice, rounded at the hospitals and a full time mother. I was enjoying my life to the fullest, until about five years ago when suddenly my health started taking a different turn. I developed new onset Acne, and Fatigue. I went to a Dermatologist and the Dermatologist recommended me to take several weeks of oral antibiotics to get rid of the bacterial infection. To my surprise within the next few weeks, I noticed that my whole system was now breaking down, and every day I was developing one new symptom. I could not eat anything, I couldn’t sleep, I had developed new and strange allergies, had fatigue, and couldn’t focus. I felt as if I had ADD, I lost my interest in everything around me, I had joint swelling and aches. My hair started thinning and I became extremely tired and irritable. I had my Thyroid function testing done and they were all within normal limits. Everything I learnt in my residency training and medical school was of no help to me in figuring out the cause of my symptoms. I went to a Rheumatologist, Gastroenterologist and different Neurologists. I did not get many answers but I did get quite a few diagnoses and matching prescriptions. Every doctor had their own diagnosis and prescription for me, including sleep medicines, strong anti-Rheumatic disease modifying agents, corticosteroids and even a prescription for Prozac for my irritability and fatigue. But I knew it was not the right treatment for me, I could not take all those medications and I could not continue with all the specialists’ recommendations. I was convinced that I did not have a drug deficiency, my body was not suffering from lack of Prozac or strong antirheumatic agents. I had actually developed an imbalance in my biology, a disturbance of my natural hormones and chemicals that caused my body to break down and had those strange symptoms. When I was not satisfied with the conventional medicine answers for my health, I decided to go the route of Functional and Integrative medicine to solve the mystery of my health. My aim was to get the least invasive treatment with the least side effects and to feel better again. It took several months of hard work and looking into various factors and undergoing several tests, but we did eventually figure it out. I was developing an autoimmune disease where my body was forming antibodies against my own tissues. Years of stress, eating unhealthy, and all the environmental toxins I had been exposed to were now in their full action, made only worse with the several rounds of antibiotics that I was prescribed for my cystic acne. These antibiotics had damaged the thin lining of my gut and had destroyed the good bacteria in my gut. This led to a damaged immune system which was acting against my own body. I also discovered that I had strong food allergies to various foods including dairy and gluten which was making my health conditions worse. I studied the healing power of nutritious foods and dietary changes. I made major changes in my diet, eliminated gluten, dairy, chemicals and processed foods, and used some supplements to restore my health and energy and heal the inflammation in my gut.
This was a life changing turn for me, not only for my personal health and the health of my family, but for my career and the way I would practice medicine forever.
I decided to Pursue further training in the field of Integrative and Holistic Medicine. It was a great honor when I was offered a Fellowship Position in the Department of Integrative Medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona. This was an intense 2 years Training Program, teaching me all aspects of Integrative medicine and its clinical application to various illnesses. I learnt the importance of mind, body and spirit in the treatment of a person as a whole. I studied extensively the healing power of foods and natural remedies. This was an amazing and eye opening experience for me. I knew that my knowledge and training is not just to help myself and my family but to help my community and everyone around me.
I have obtained Board Certification in Integrative and Holistic Medicine and have graduated successfully from my Fellowship program. My Integrative Medicine Fellowship training and Board Certification has given me the ability to extend my Integrative and Functional medicine care to Patients of all ages. I am not just a Primary care doctor anymore, I have become an Integrative and Functional medicine expert.
At this time, I am in the best of my health, I eat a healthy balanced and organic diet with regular exercise. I am not suffering from joint pains or fatigue and irritability, I am not taking any medications besides my vitamins.
My illness was a blessing in disguise, it taught me lifelong lessons, it changed my view of medicine and it inspired me to become even a better doctor. A doctor who helps heal the whole body rather than suppressing the symptoms with medications.