The TLM Story
Dr. James – In 2009 I attended my first Institute for Functional Medicine meeting with my dad, also a physician. It was there I was blessed to meet (practically for the first time) a Woodland Park colleague, Denver Hager, PA-C. Both of us knew we would forever be practicing medicine with a functional influence, but we were both in medical settings that did not allow for easy transition to this different medical philosophy. We began to meet often, discussing Functional Medicine topics, bouncing ideas off each other, and dreaming of a way to offer FM to our patients. As time went on our friendship solidified, our ideas grew, and our vision for the future coalesced.
In the summer of 2010, the vision became a reality and True Life Medicine was started. Denver and I went into the process of creating a business with full awareness that “providers make terrible businessmen”, and we were resolved to prove that dictum wrong. Now, five years later, we both have a profound respect for ANY business person running ANY business successfully. What a monumental task it has been to start and run a clinic while also continuing to dedicate a large amount of time and money to earning a Functional Medicine certification, not to mention providing functional care to an expanding amount of patients.
We complemented one another well in our leadership styles, and we created and grew a partnership that thrived. Of course, there was tension and creative discussions, but Denver and I can stand together today, talk about the past, dream about the future, and genuinely enjoy one another’s company. We walked through the valleys and heights of running a business and learning Medicine together… and we thrived.
In the summer of 2012 Denver was in a life threatening automobile wreck. Most of him was bruised, but his left foot was crushed. He gave his best time and attention to the healing process, but, looking back, there was always something just not right with the foot. He had to go back for revisions multiple times. In 2014, it was clear, the foot and much of his whole-life context was not healing and he was not where he should be. The best thing for him to do was go to another level of “practicing what we preach” and give the necessary time, rest, care, and attention to a healing process that was different than what he had already been doing. For Denver and his family, this meant retiring from TLM. After investing so much of his life and heart into TLM, the decision was hard. And good. He is doing the hard work of walking out his healing pathway.
2014 was big in another way for both of us – we finally realized we had to change the way we were delivering Functional Medicine care. We had successfully started a practice, created stability, and demonstrated growth (albeit through lots of ups and downs). The transition from “I hope we will have enough patients”, to “How are we going to handle all the new patients?” was a powerful time for us. There was the initial struggle to grow, and now there was struggle to manage the growth. We would end many exhausting clinic days with frustration at the “busy-work” and exclaim, “This is untenable! We cannot keep going like this!” So, at the start of 2014, we resolved to find a better way to deliver excellent Functional Medicine Care. We knew we could not stay in a traditional Western medical model, but how to change? Change to what? There is no established business model regarding the delivery of Functional Medicine care.
Over the course of 2013 and 2014 we clearly decided that we did not want to do a “concierge practice”, simply providing easy access and customer service. This did not fit our personality at all. After much time, research, and heart stretching conversations, we finally landed on the concept of the Membership Model This model is designed to help provide services that are not covered by insurance. Our heart is to provide something far beyond access and excellent customer service. Delivering Functional Medicine with this new model will be an adjustment for everyone, because we have been trying to force it into the traditional insurance model. The Membership fee allows us to work with each patient as an individual, crafting an exceptional and individually tailored plan of action. Functional Medicine, delivered through an innovative and affordable model…the fruition of the seeds of our vision from 5 years ago.