Marketplace: Vibrant Health’s functional medicine aims to keep Park City residents in top condition
The clinic treatment seeks to find root causes of symptoms
September 1, 2017
Fatima Vilich was beginning to lose hope.
She was the director of pediatric cardiac anesthesia at Loyola University Medical Center near Chicago, treating babies that needed heart repair. For weeks at a time, she practically lived at the hospital, catching a few hours of sleep when she could and eating whatever food was available.
The lifestyle eventually took a toll. Vilich said she developed severe back pain. She turned to her colleagues, pain specialists, who gave her epidurals and steroids, but nothing worked. Resignation set in that the discomfort could be something she'd deal with the rest of her life.
But then she found functional medicine, a form of treatment that aims to determine and alleviate the causes of symptoms rather than the symptoms themselves. Vilich said she underwent sophisticated testing and discovered a number of problems: Her thyroid was not functioning properly, she had food allergies and her body was not undergoing its natural detoxifying process due to a lack of sleep.
"All of this, when I fixed it, my pain disappeared," she said. "And I still have the same structure in my back. So that hasn't changed. That's how I learned that pain is just a symptom. It was a combination of things and my whole body was really out of balance."
The treatment changed Vilich's life and her career. She said was so blown away that she stopped practicing anesthesia and began studying functional medicine, eventually starting her own practice, Vibrant Health, in Chicago. Earlier this year, she moved the clinic to Park City, opening at 1910 Prospector Ave., treating former patients via video conference and welcoming new ones from Summit County.
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"I was getting these answers that I previously couldn't resolve," she said. "Previously, a patient gets medication, but why are they not feeling better? The difference between functional medicine and conventional medicine is that, by addressing the underlying cause, patients will get better."
For Vilich, who said she's eager to help people in Park City, practicing functional medicine fulfills her in a way she wasn't before.
"When I got feeling better, I realized, 'Oh my God, there are so many other patients who have chronic diseases and they are losing hope,'" she said. "My patients are people who have been to many doctors. They've been to the Mayo Clinic, to Stanford, you name it, and they didn't get better so they come to me."
Vilich describes her approach with functional medicine as "super generalist." She said that, whereas traditional doctors focus on the ailing part of the body, she digs deeper to find underlying issues. Often, she said, there's something wrong that's causing the body to react in a certain way, manifesting itself in painful and unpleasant symptoms.
"I look at the whole body, all the systems, because it's all connected," she said. "I feel like I'm a detective who sits and looks at the genetics of my patients, then I look at environment and the whole health history."
Following treatment, Vilich also encourages patients to pursue an overall healthy lifestyle, which can go a long way toward preventing problems before they start. In fact, her own desire to become more active is what brought her to Park City. She developed an interest in skiing when her hometown of Sarajevo, Bosnia, hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, then once she moved to the United States, she began taking frequent ski trips to Park City to experience its world-class slopes.
After years of visiting, she decided the time was right to move to town full time in order to spend her leisure time on the mountains and hiking trails. She said she's hopeful her new lifestyle will help keep her in top shape for years to come.
And in Park City, she's discovered a population that shares her passion for health and being active — and also one that's open to non-traditional kinds of treatment like functional medicine, especially once they've pursued other options to poor results.
"There are people who have been sick and looking for help and haven't found it," she said. "And they've had to learn about functional medicine because if they don't know, they'll still be sick."
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