About Beth Claxton, MD

My Journey to Functional Medicine

From an early age I was a caretaker. Sensitive to others’ emotions and sensations, I wanted everyone to feel better. If I could help make that happen, I had a sense of value, a shot of worth.


My mother taught deaf children. My father, a metallurgical engineer, PhD, and entrepreneur, worked hard. I didn’t see him a lot. Their marriage lasted until I was seven.

From this moment, at age seven, I knew I needed to take care of myself. Many types of careers appealed to me: archaeology, anthropology, dancing, acting, commercial art, and when it became apparent that I had an aptitude for science and math, medicine. With a career in medicine, I knew at age 13 that I could survive on my own. Unfortunately, when one’s nose is in books, not much singing, dancing, acting, or art happens.


High School, driven. College, driven and focused. Medical School, driven and ungrounded. Residency, driven and holding my breath. Board certification, check. Then I came up for air.

My education had been peppered with third world and abroad medical experiences in the jungle of Nayarit, Mexico; Auckland, New Zealand; Suva, Fiji; and Karoi, Zimbabwe. These were the places where I felt humanity. Exposed to non-traditional medical practices, children with earaches would present with leaves and twigs in their ears. Many would laugh and I knew deep inside that it must have worked before or they wouldn’t be doing it now.

The midwives in New Zealand infused love and deep caring into every single delivery they did. Being able to hold so much space for a woman in labor and postpartum was, to me, in and of itself a wonder.


And in Africa, the medicine man would come into the compound at night after the staff had left and make his rounds. In the morning, some patients were better. Some were dead. And yet, these practices which did not always result in healing or a natural delivery, persevered … for thousands of years.

Being able to hold so much space for a woman in labor and postpartum was, to me, in and of itself a wonder.

Love is the Most Important Medicine

As my career in medicine began, I followed guidelines to a tee and recommended interventions that resulted in the fastest route to alleviation of disease. Sometimes that’s what was called for. Sometimes it was not. It became apparent that a space existed where healing occurred. I couldn’t see that many in western medicine knew this. But I did know that loving my patients made the outcomes better. Sometimes, many times, most times, love is the most important medicine.


Circling back. A friend in medical school approached me one day in our fourth year. (This is the year we are given some time to focus on what field we wanted pursue in medicine and apply for residency programs.) He asked if I wanted to join a small group in a Transcendental Meditation Class. Of course I did. As I remember, the teacher gave us a student discount because getting a mantra was an expensive pursuit. Learning to meditate taught me to create space where none presumedly exists and focusing the mind on one thing (the mantra). This allows everything else to fall away. It was helpful and healthy. I kept it in my back pocket for emergency situations. I began meditating more regularly with a self-help group in Taos, New Mexico in 1999. The benefits of a daily practice became apparent. In 2008, I was introduced to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1070’s. I knew this needed to become a part of my daily practice as well as my practice of medicine. I could show people how to create space for healing inside themselves! Through the training I encountered an international group of MD’s, psychologists, and nurses who had similar views.


Alternative methods of healing revealed themselves. One by one I experienced Traditional Chinese Medicine where cupping fixed a running injury I had had for years. Rolfing and fascial release realigned my body. Yoga brought me deep calm and evoked deeply stored emotions within me. Chinese herbs resolved a breast mass. The medicine man helped cure severe cervical dysplasia. Ayurveda resolved chronic back pain. The list goes on… AND I watched interventions of optimal diet and lifestyle align the body to heal itself.

On a morning run in February 2018 when contemplating my position as the local hospital OB/GYN Department chair and senior partner in the clinic practice, I knew there was more. I was miserable, stressed out, and believed I was not healing people the way I knew deep inside they needed to be healed. I was putting bandaids on but not fixing the root cause. Then the idea came to open a multimodality integrative medical clinic. I called someone who had done something similar in Flagstaff five years before, but left and talked with her about her experience. She introduced me to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM). That afternoon I became a member and started learning from their online training.


Now, a year later, all the training is completed. My wealth of knowledge is very different and my approach to disease feels aligned with my inner compass. November 2019 I’m scheduled to sit the boards for IFM and I am presently scheduling patients to put in place all the new approaches I’ve learned. One does not need to be board certified to begin to practice Functional Medicine. They need to know how to connect, ask why, and love.