We’re proud of our team of dedicated healthcare professionals at AAPRI. In this staff spotlight, we’re talking to Briana Lackman, a Physician Assistant who enjoys finding holistic solutions to patient health issues. A Penn State and Johnson & Wales graduate, Briana relishes reviewing the latest research and treatment options and believes in always going “above and beyond” to provide a high standard of care.
Q: What’s it like working at AAPRI and what is your role as a Physician Assistant?
BL: I’ve been with Asthma & Allergy Physicians for three years now and I mainly diagnose, prescribe, and treat patients to try to find the underlying cause of their symptoms. This field of medicine is always changing, there’s no black and white. Sometimes it feels a lot like detective work and I really like that aspect of it. It’s very rewarding to be able to help a patient who’s been suffering for years. It’s like finally cracking the code.
Q: What are your thoughts about functional medicine?
BL: I’m a big fan of the functional medicine approach and I have had some training in it. Typically, it’s not something that is taught in traditional medical school, where it’s more about looking at what the symptoms are, what the lab work shows, what the diagnosis is, and prescribing treatment. It’s almost always medication-based.
Here we try to take the functional approach as far as exploring what we can do lifestyle-wise to address the underlying problem before we jump to giving the patient a medication. Sometimes it’s necessary to use medication to get things under control in the short-term, but at the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to try to find the underlying cause, and get rid of it permanently.
Q: How do your patients respond to this functional approach to care?
BL: Each year it seems like more and more patients are open to a functional medicine approach. They’re realizing that prescribing medication for every problem isn’t really making them get any better. Sometimes patients come to us after they’ve tried everything, they’re at their wits’ end, and they’re ready to try something else. Functional medicine is that something else. Certainly, there are patients who just want a medication, but more and more there’s an open-minded approach to exploring what we can do outside of prescribing medications.
Q: Are there any particular allergy problems you’re seeing right now?
BL: Right now, especially with the high stress of the pandemic with people losing their jobs, being locked up, all of the politics and media stress, people are living more sedentary lifestyles that are furthering a lot of health problems. In our practice specifically we’re seeing a lot of people with chronic hives—patients who are breaking out with hives for months on end with no known reason. Often these cases are not necessarily an allergy, but a response of the immune function or just underlying inflammation and stress. Lack of activity, eating fried fatty foods, and stress contribute to the underlying inflammation and that leads to other inflammatory responses. Every day I see two or three new patients and the chief complaint is chronic hives.
Q: How do you approach patients with chronic hives?
BL: First of all, we look at their diet. Most patients will admit to eating out a lot. Their dietary choices may not be the best. We may start by recommending an elimination, anti-inflammatory-based diet. We cut out the processed foods. We encourage them to take more walks—all of these things can play a role. For stress, we recommend some mindfulness apps on your phone that can help people set aside time each day to de-stress. With chronic hives, we may need to get them under control with some anti-histamines or if need be, steroids. But we try to resolve the underlying issue. For some patients, that may mean talking with a therapist to work some things out.
Q: Do you have any interesting examples of how functional medicine has helped patients?
BL: We had a patient who was having chronic hives. We did a full work-up including a thyroid panel, which showed that her thyroid levels were off. We also screened her for celiac and did other food sensitivity testing. Her test came back positive for celiac so we had her come off gluten. That alone normalized her thyroid and she no longer needed her thyroid medication. She hasn’t had hives for over a year now. That dietary change alone helped improve her quality of life.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation with Briana or any of our other dedicated team members at the office location of your choice.