The Woodlands Institute for Health and Wellness celebrates 20 years of functional medicine

By: Sean K. Thompson
| Published 12/27/2023


THE WOODLANDS, TX – Celebrating two solid decades of business, Dr. Mila McManus and her practice, The Woodlands Institute for Health & Wellness, has overcome the odds over the years in her quest to bring functional medicine practices to the mainstream.

McManus is a native Houstonian whose family worked its way up to The Woodlands in time for her to graduate from McCullogh (then-) High School in 1986. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Texas in Austin, then went on to earn her MD at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. She completed her residency – and earned her board certification – in family medicine.

Though she immediately launched into a successful career in traditional medicine, it was her own health struggles that encouraged her to look into ‘functional medicine,’ a systems biology-based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease over treating just the symptoms.

“I was sickly ever since I was born,” she said in a sit-down interview with Woodlands Online. “I was a victim of many allergies, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), eczema, colic, acne, depression, and more. I went to doctor after doctor, and no one was able or willing to help. As a result, I decided to go to medical school to learn.”

McManus observes that “the only thing I learned was to pile on drugs. I was heavy, tired, depressed and nutritionally bankrupt.”

Seeking an alternative treatment plan, and realizing that no one had ever asked her about her diet, McManus looked into the holistic – relating to treating complete systems rather than with the individual parts – style of medicine. “Functional medicine is alternative and complementary. Of course, conventional medicine should be pursued when it’s necessary; but it’s good to keep functional practices in your mind, as they minimize medicines and address the root causes of issues.”

Once she began being treated holistically, she was off all medicines within six months and had overcome most – if not all – of her health issues. Knowing that functional medicine wasn’t taught in medical school and thus not readily known in the outside world, she decided to transfer her attention away from traditional medicine to functional.

“In 2004, I started making house calls, and I hit the ground running. I tried juggling both styles as best as I could,” she said. “Two days a week, I’d practice functional medicine and the other three weekdays I’d practice family medicine, but it was a conflict I couldn’t resolve, and chose to leave traditional medicine.”

By 2010, The Woodlands Institute for Health & Wellness was operating out of a 5,000-square-foot space at its still-current location on Oak Ridge Drive right near Interstate 45 and Woodlands Parkway. Today, she and her colleagues see patients from all over the region, where a majority of them are referral-based.

“We can pretty much handle everything that our patients come to us with,” said McManus. “From mood disorders to cancer, from chronic fatigue or allergies, from gastrointestinal issues to arthritis, we have the staff and experience to address all of them.” McManus also encourages people coming to the clinic to not always see the same provider. “It’s always good to have a fresh set of eyes, especially since many of us have different areas of expertise, so all possibilities are covered.”

McManus’ devotion to alternative medicine extends to its insurance philosophy. “We’re a cash-payer practice because insurance companies don’t like long appointments, and it’s important to us to spend as much time as we need with those who come to us to get to their root issues. Additionally, insurance companies tend to tie doctors’ hands, and I’m not going to let them dictate to me or my patients.” The average first appointment is three hours long.

Today, as the 20th anniversary of the institute looms, McManus is pleased with her place in the medical world and The Woodlands. The new year will see facilities expansions both on the current site and across the street, more treatment modalities, and an increase in virtual-based appointments and sessions. “I’ve always wanted there to be one big center of healing, and we’re definitely getting there.”

From starting out as a literal one-person, home-based business, the institute is filled with professionals including providers Dr. Pam O’Connor and two physician assistants, Sandra Caldwell and Dyvette Warren, plus nutritional consultants, practice administrators, wellness consultants, a complete nursing staff, medical assistants, allergy specialists, and a complete administrative staff.

“I can’t wait to see what the next twenty years will bring to functional medicine and the Institute,” said McManus.

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