David Scott Jones, MD

headshot of david jones

Home Institution: Institute for Functional Medicine

Field: Functional Medicine

Current Positions:

My Driving Question

How can health care providers more effectively assess, treat and prevent chronic, complex diseases?

Scholar Project 

The practice of medicine in the 21st century needs a comprehensive and coherent approach for assessing, preventing, and treating complex, chronic diseases in the context of an effective therapeutic patient-caregiver partnership. 

In support of this, Dr. Jones’ project addressed three parallel activities:

  • Content Development and Organization: Dr. Jones devised a useful meta-system for organizing and integrating knowledge about the physiological functions of organ systems and cells into a coherent structure with practical clinical applications.
  • Achieving Therapeutic Partnerships and Healing Relationships: Dr. Jones investigated the underlying processes involved in establishing a healing relationship in the physician-patient partnership.
  • Improving Teaching and Learning: Dr. Jones investigated innovative teaching/learning methodologies appropriate to today’s continuing medical education environment to improve mastery of new clinical practices.

Dr. Jones’ three years with Nova Institute’s Scholars Program had a significant effect on all educational activities at The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), where Jones is president emeritus. The changes in content development and organization of IFM’s training programs now have the evidence-based underpinning that supports the importance of the healing partnership as a cornerstone in IFM’s educational programs. More than 100,000 practitioners from 75 countries have now been introduced to the principles and practice of functional medicine through the educational programs at IFM.

The Institute for Functional Medicine’s Functional Medicine Matrix Model™ of comprehensive care and primary prevention for complex, chronic illnesses is grounded in science (evidence about common underlying mechanisms and pathways of disease; evidence about effective approaches to the environmental and lifestyle sources of disease). On an equal footing, the IFM’s educational programs now teach the science of the art of medicine: the therapeutic partnership and the search for insight within the healing relationship. These two cornerstones of clinical medicine—science and art—have now been integrated into IFM’s teaching and clinical practice in order to achieve a more effective response to patients’ needs, rooted in ethical concerns for dignity, respect, and healing.

Without the support of Nova Institute’s Scholar program, Dr. Jones says it is doubtful that both the theoretical and research basis for these breakthroughs in understanding or the actual operationalization of these concepts into translational clinical applications would have occurred.


David Scott Jones, MD, is president emeritus and a member of the board of directors of The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), where he served as president and director of medical education from 2000 to 2013. 

His area of expertise within the IFM is the focus on the therapeutic partnership between the patient and the practitioner, and the importance of the transition within primary care to the development of healing relationships.

Dr. Jones, a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, is a recognized expert in the areas of functional medicine, the science of nutrition and lifestyle changes for optimal health, and managed care, as well as the daily professional functions consistent with the modern specialty of family practice. He is the recipient of the 1997 Linus Pauling Award in Functional Medicine, and over the last two decades, has helped guide the ongoing development of the educational and clinical applications of functional medicine.

IFM provides continuing medical education for physicians and other healthcare professionals. Educational activities focus on assessment and treatment of underlying causes of illness in order to maintain and restore health and improve function using a personalized approach. Dr. Jones has presided over a continuous quality improvement process that has made IFM’s educational programs the most sought after in the field of functional integrative medicine.

He is the past president of PrimeCare, the Independent Physician Association of Southern Oregon, where he served for seven years representing the majority of the 500+ physicians in the Southern Oregon area. He also served as chief of staff at the Ashland Community Hospital and president of the Southern Oregon Society of Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Jones is editor-in-chief and co-author of the Textbook of Functional Medicine, published in 2005 and 2010, and authored Healthy Changes, a patient-centered 16-week workbook that focuses on healthy habits. He was lead author of 21st CENTURY MEDICINE: A New Model for Medical Education and Practice.

Education and Training
  • Post-graduate, University Medical Center, Sacramento, CA
  • MD, University of California at Davis, Medical School
  • Pre-med, California State University at Hayward
  • BS, English literature/linguistics, California State University at San Francisco
Selected Honors
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Family Practice 
  • Oregon Collaborative for Integrative Medicine, 9th Annual Integrative Medicine
  • Distinguished Lectureship: “Personalized Medicine: Creating a Healing Partnership” (2011)
  • Program chair of the annual International Symposia on Functional Medicine
  • Recipient of The Linus Pauling Award for Pioneering Work in Functional Medicine (1997)
Selected Publications

Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. 

When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) 

“When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” 

Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. “…they gradually found relief from suffering and began to exhibit emergent characteristics: a sense of hope, self-acceptance, and a desire to help others—the immediate precursors to healing.”

 In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” 

  • Helping Others: We find meaning in helping others. “Understanding that suffering gives the strength and experience to help others in similar situations.”
  • Hope: We begin to have hope that we will not always feel this bad. A Crohn’s patient said, “I think gradually I realized that I was going to feel better. I did have days when I actually didn’t vomit, when I did feel better. And I think gradually I came to believe that maybe I could have a normal life again.”
  • Self-Acceptance: We see our inherent value and understand that we are not to blame for our suffering. A participant living with HIV said, “I’m really proud of myself. I think that now I still want to live. I don’t want to die, and I really love myself a lot. I have a lot of comfort in myself.”

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. 

There is some debate about whether people always experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. 

“The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”

Characteristics: How predisposed someone may be to wounding/how many tools and resources someone may have to deal with trauma/illness.

Lifestages: Developmental timing plays an important role in the impact of trauma — young children often do not have the same resources as older adults.

Relationships: Relationships can provide solace and support for those suffering, while lack of healthy relationships can prolong suffering.