Leah Hughes Video Interview with A4M: Redefining Medicine

Leah Hughes is a Functional Nurse Practitioner at Colorado Recovery Infusion Center / Ballen Medical & Wellness. Leah graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and from the University of Kentucky, where she obtained a B.S. & MSN in Nursing. Leah has also completed her A4M Fellowship. Leah joined Colorado Recovery Infusion Center so she could use all her education and past professional experience in one place. Leah believes that the future starts now. This helps her in her career by realizing there is always something to learn & to grow.

-Video Transcript- 

Video Intro:

Welcome to Redefining Medicine. An intimate and personalized program that illustrates a different side of the practice of medicine. Our in-depth conversations will focus on the physicians and practitioners who are redefining medicine through their integrative, functional, and holistic approach to health and well-being.

Interviewer:

Welcome, and thank you for tuning into our weekly podcast “Redefining Medicine”. We are pleased to welcome Leah Hughes. A board-certified acute care nurse practitioner, with 17 years of experience and an A4M Anti-Aging Metabolic & Regenerative Medicine Fellow centered on functional medicine. Thank you so much for being with us, Leah.

Leah:

Thank you for having me.

Interviewer:

Leah, can you tell us about when you were first drawn to the practice of medicine and when did you know this was something you wanted to dedicate your career to?

Leah:

In college, I was actually a social work major, and I thought I was going to get my master’s in social work. Until I discovered that I actually like science and biology. I do have a bachelor’s in psychology, but I ended up going back to nursing school. You know, I thought that I was going to be a critical care nurse practitioner and, you know, I ended up in functional medicine. I am very happy that this is where I am because I actually get to see people and help them get better. Versus, in the hospital, one of the struggles is that people are just so sick, and you are fighting a battle that, you know, really did not take place even that admission. Usually, you are fighting a battle of chronic medical conditions that have piled on top of each other that ultimately led to the patient being admitted to the hospital setting. I enjoy also having more time to spend with my patients so that I can really understand what is going on with them and look at them from all levels. Because sometimes it is not the obvious thing, sometimes you have to dig a little bit deeper, and the truth is often in the story. Not just in one, you know, snip bit or moment of time for the patient. A lot of times, the truth of what is really going on with them is in the full story and you have to take a moment to listen to that for them.

Interviewer:

When in your journey were you first introduced to A4M? An integrative whole-person care in general.

Leah:

So, I actually worked in an IV clinic in Austin, Texas for quite a bit. It really was meant to be kind of a temporary position: just to buy some time and kind of decide where I wanted to go. But ultimately, it led me into learning more about micronutrients and how they affect the body, and how we as humans deplete those for various different mechanisms via our diet. The foods we eat are also the medicines that we take. The place I worked for, although provided some education, [but] not a whole lot. So, I was on a search for some more education for IV therapy and came across A4M’s IV therapy course. That was kind of one of my first introductions. Luckily at the time I was living in Texas and it was an easy drive to Dallas to come see that and do that and I was just so impressed that it ultimately led me to decide that I wanted to do a fellowship or some kind of program. I felt also as a nurse practitioner, and maybe many people feel like this in medicine, that moving forward with the fellowship gave me a certification and legitimacy to what I was doing, as well. So, that first course was just, you know, was the hook. That education that A4M provides is very in-depth and I like how it’s modeled in evidence, so you know what you’re doing, and you know where it’s coming from. The instructors are skilled not only in their own practices but in their knowledge and education that they share with you so that you have that to kind of back you up and what you’re doing. I think the patients appreciate that and when you’re working with other people and other colleagues it’s very good to have that information kind of in your back pocket of the evidence that comes along with what we do.

Interview:

Can you tell us about your journey as an A4M fellow, what the process was like, and what particular insight you have found the most valuable to your approach to patient care today?

Leah:

My journey’s been kind of interesting. I started online and then ended up changing all of those to in-person courses and then ultimately, because a covid, went back to online. What I can say is that I enjoy the in-person coursework more and one of the main reasons is the colleagues and the people that you meet in the coursework. I’ve developed relationships and it’s really nice to have a variety of people, because it’s nurse practitioners, it’s physicians, its pharmacists, it’s nurses, it’s natural paths, it’s a lot of different um doctrines that come to A4M. I think that hearing different people’s perspectives on their education and where they came from before they got there, brings them different insight than my personal education. So, you know my fellowship journey, one of my best things that I can say is to develop relationships with your colleagues because those are the people that I reach out to when I have a challenging case, or I am not quite sure which direction to go with the patient, or even if I am just looking for validity in what I am doing with the patient. I also learn about new techniques and new products from my colleagues, as well. So, I would say if you can do the live courses, that would be one of my bigger insights, but you also get a lot of information and the benefit of the recorded versions. Watching it online is that, you can go back and rewind and hear those lectures when you need to and when you need a refresher and when you want to go back to them.

Interviewer:

Can you tell us more about your work at the Colorado Recovery Infusion Center and what sort of patients are predominantly coming into your clinic?

Leah:

We are kind of tied together as two businesses. The other business is called Ballen Medical Center, which predominantly is an integrative psychiatry practice. Then, Colorado Recovery is an IV, kind of more of a medical IV section. They asked me to come in and work and kind of power-up more of the functional medicine side. It honestly has been really interesting. I get a lot of referrals from the integrative psych side. It’s interesting because there are so many biological disease states, including you know mold is a big one that we talked about in A4M, that present for patients as psychiatric disorders or mental health problems. They don’t always necessarily have what we would deem physical symptoms and helping those people recognize and see that you know. I think sometimes they just think there, you know that their brain isn’t working and they’re going crazy. To give them the validity that, no you have mold or you have Lyme or you have EBB or something like that, that actually is causing your brain to not function in a normal way and that there’s actually something we can do about it besides, you know, psychiatric medications. It’s just really exciting to see those people. I see all different levels of people: from the nutritionally depleted, we have cancer patients coming in, we use ozone here, NAD, ketamine, and nutritional IVs. So, I incorporate that into my practice when I am seeing patients. A lot of my patients are nutritionally depleted. So, having the nutritional IVs as an option for them, especially when their guts not working to get their micronutrients kind of back up to a normal level, really makes them feel better and it helps them see that they’re they can improve and there are things that they can do to make that work better.

Interviewer:

How do you ensure that you are providing patients with a holistic optimized care plan?

Leah:

Well, I have a pretty in-depth intake form that I have patients fill out that really gives me a lot of information so that I can look at the patient from a holistic perspective and see what is going on. But I think it is important to not just focus on what the body is doing but how the patient is feeling and what their limitations are financially and physically, as well. So, I give patients a lot of information and a lot of choices in what I offer them so that we can find something that is going to work for them at the moment. I let patients know, as well when I very first see them, that what I do is I use medicines, I use supplements, but also lifestyle changes and that those are really important to what I do and their healing. I ask them to tell me if there is something that I have suggested or recommended that they do not feel is within their capacity. Because I think it is kind of pointless and it doesn’t serve any holistic purpose if I recommend, even the greatest treatment from the patient, and when they can’t afford it, or they don’t have the physical or mental capacity to follow through with that and I think it’s really important to make sure that we’re not setting our patients up for failure. Because usually, by the time they get to see me, they have seen multiple doctors. They already feel like they are failing, and they are not succeeding in whatever they are trying to do to improve their health. So, I tell them, you know, if there is something that I recommended or I think is the best thing for you and you do not have the capacity to take that. Then, I need you to tell me because we are in this together and if you do not tell me I cannot find an alternative. You know, speaking of nurses, I think nurses are the mother of invention of the workaround. So, I, you know, I feel like there is a huge portion of things that we can do that there is not always one right answer. That you can usually find a workaround that meets the patient’s needs at the time. I think that is one of the most important things to do: is to meet the patient’s needs at the time, it might not always be what I think their needs are. Sometimes, their agenda is different than what I think it is and then we go from there. If it is something that they say they cannot do, then I try to find something else. Or, if it is the only thing, then I tell them this is the thing I got for you. Then, I also make sure that I let the patients know that I do not have all the answers and that I am willing to look them up or research them or send them to somebody else so, that I can provide them with all the care that they need and that they are seeking for. So, that they can have an optimized health plan and feel the best that they possibly can feel and that they are looking for and that they are seeking.

Interviewer:

Thank you and last question. If you could make one major change in the way that medicine is practiced, what would that be?

Leah:

I think that we need to focus on being healthy and the things that instill health and vitality; instead of always trying to fix things once they are broken. Because that is really more challenging for people and I think, especially in this current state of COVID-19 and other things, that by working on basics such as the foods that we eat, that we exercise, that we have, you know, quality of life. Those things are so important, and those things affect our physical health. So, if I could change medicine, it would be to be more proactive in teaching. You know, children as they grow up and adults, the healthier lifestyle habits so that they can keep those and move them forward in their lifestyle and we are not trying to reteach people later because it was not something that was kind of ever instilled in them or brought to them so that they did not make it a habit.

Interviewer:

Well, thank you so much for sharing your insight with us today, Leah. We truly appreciate you and your time

Leah:

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.