Expert Profile - Elizabeth Corcoran
Dr. Elizabeth Corcoran
MD, Integrative Psychiatrist and Functional Medicine Doctor
Completed Training via the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM)
Member of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research
Chair of the Down Syndrome Research Foundation UK
Dr. Elizabeth Corcorans’ Bio:
Dr Corcoran (Dr Liz to her patients) MB BS iBsc Psychology MRCPsych, has a passion for empowering people to restore their health through changing how they interact with their world. Through her own and family members’ struggles with health she was led to Functional Medicine. She graduated Royal Free University College London in 2005 and has membership of the Royal College of Psychiatry. She has pursued further education with the Institute of Functional Medicine as a means to ‘come alongside’ her patients to help them make changes and improve their health. Returning to her medical foundations she is utilizing the powerful tools of Functional Medicine to help people get well and reduce the risk of chronic disease in their future.
She also runs the only UK charity focused on medical research helping people with Down syndrome (DS). She published “Can I tell you about Down Syndrome?” in 2015 for carers, siblings and teachers. As well as heading up the Foundation she has represented the views of people with DS and their families at a number of governmental (e.g. Public Health England) and voluntary sector meetings. She is a steering group member of the the Embracing Complexity charity coalition, formed of leading UK neurodevelopmental condition and mental health charities.
What life events or challenges that you’ve experienced (could be minor, could be major) – whether you’ve experienced them directly or via someone close to you, have had any type of impact on your desire to pursue a career in psychiatry?
Probably one the biggest reasons I went into medicine and then psychiatry was my younger brother David, who has Down syndrome. Having a sibling with special needs made me more sensitive to the needs of the other, spoken and unspoken. This can be a double edged sword I’ve come to learn. Later when I was working as a doctor I could feel the compassion being drained out of me by an over-stretched, broken health system, and I hated it. I struggled to balance the needs of the system, my birth family and the family I had made- feeling pulled in every direction. Every day I woke feeling nauseous at the idea of going to work. Compounding this was a sinking feeling that the time and resource poor system meant I was not able to practice medicine in a way that respected all aspects of the person.
How did those events impact you emotionally/morally? How, if at all did those events impact the way you view how our current system teaches us to treat patients with mental health challenges?
A wise friend suggested psychotherapy and I’m so grateful I listened. There is still a lot of stigma around doctors admitting they need help and being made to feel ashamed they’re not ‘strong enough’ and they don’t fit into this machine. Therapy, along with a period receiving mentoring, helped me unpack what I was going through and name my passions and purposes for how I wanted to practice psychiatry. It didn’t make me ‘bullet proof’, I still have struggles, as we all do, but I feel more resilient and open to learn from my experiences.
I hope all this has made me more compassionate with my patients and families and that we all need someone to listen to us, hear our story. Sometimes there isn’t an answer to the suffering but to bear witness to it. That every person is someone to be treated with dignity and respect.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on practicing Integrative Psychiatry, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
As I discovered the trailblazers who have shown it is possible to see the whole person and not just a diagnostic code I began to see a way forward for myself as a whole doctor. When I returned after the birth of my daughter I had to make a distinct choice, to go back to the style I’d practiced in before or step out into a new frontier- accompanying patients with mental health issues into other approaches to their health. I felt I had to make the step and be true myself and everything I’ve learned from the past.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
I use the principles of Functional Medicine to help my patients improve their health. The Functional Medicine model is an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. It requires a detailed understanding of each patient’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors and leverages that data to direct personalized treatment plans that lead to improved patient outcomes. At the heart of this I am still a psychiatrist, listening and helping my patients to make sense of their world and experiences (inside and out).
By addressing root cause, rather than naming and listing symptoms, practitioners become oriented to identifying the complexity of disease. They may find one condition has many different causes and, likewise, one cause may result in many different conditions. As a result, Functional Medicine treatment targets the specific manifestations of disease in each individual.
I am embedded within a multi-disciplinary team and have a wealth of professionals I can refer to to deliver excellent care.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
Sometimes they are curious to how I started out and how medicine can ‘work’ in this way. Others, truthfully, are not supportive and feel that this is at odds to ‘traditional medicine’ but I believe this is untrue. Some people will always need some approaches to stay safe or well. I think the heart of a doctor should always to ‘do no harm’ and to show compassion – that we should rigorously examine our practices against evidence base and risk profiles- and present our patients with options fitting with their values, culture and beliefs.
Organization: Starjumpz Children’s Center
Location: United Kingdom
Address: The Old Saw Mill, Ashdown Business Park, Crowborough, East Sussex, TN6 1UP, UK
Tel: +441892 660085