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Symposium Information

January 8–10, 2024
Embassy Suites Hotel & Convention Center
San Marcos, Texas

No Admission Fee for Texas Emergency Response Personnel.
$150 for out-of-state attendees.

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Hotel Room Reservations

A special symposium room rate is available at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Convention Center.

Book your room now! The blocks typically fill up fast.

If you have any questions about registration or hotels please contact:


Phone: 979-500-6900

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Functional Medicine for Firefighters:
Navigating Metabolic Health, Functional Fitness, and Resilience in the Fire Service

Ashley Watson FF/P, RN
Euless Fire Department
Healthology 4 First Responders

Functional medicine is an approach to healthcare that focuses on treating the root causes of health issues, rather than just addressing the symptoms. As firefighters, we subject ourselves to intense physical and mental stress regularly, which can lead to various health concerns over time. Traditional medicine often treats these concerns individually, but functional medicine seeks to understand the interconnectedness of our body systems and how they respond to these stressors.

USFA Data trends over the last 25 years have shown a substantial shift in the causes of firefighter fatalities. While the hazards of the fireground have traditionally been the primary focus, we have seen an unsettling rise in fatalities attributed to health-related issues. Cardiovascular disease, once overshadowed by traumatic incidents, has become a leading cause of line-of-duty deaths among firefighters. Similarly, strokes and mental health – often triggered by the very stressors inherent in our profession – have caused a troubling increase in their contribution to firefighter deaths.

Our profession demands physical and mental resilience, but it's easy to neglect our health amidst the demanding schedules and unpredictable challenges we face each shift.

Adrenal health is crucial for managing stress. Our adrenal glands play a pivotal role in producing hormones like cortisol, which regulates our stress response. Over time, constant stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, leaving us feeling exhausted and irritable, and even affecting our cognitive functions.

Similarly, thyroid health plays a pivotal role in our vitality. The thyroid gland controls our metabolism and energy production. Exposure to high levels of stress, coupled with erratic schedules and potential exposure to toxins, can disrupt thyroid function, leading to symptoms like fatigue, weight fluctuations, and mood swings.

Our endocrine system, responsible for hormone production, can be thrown off-balance by the rigors of our profession. Hormones impact everything from mood and energy to immune function and sleep patterns.

The paradigm shift proposed by functional medicine, focusing on comprehensive self-care, can empower us to confront these health risks head-on. We must proactively shift our mindset from a reactive mode to a proactive perspective. It's not about forsaking our mission, but rather enhancing our performance through resiliency, minimizing the toll on our bodies, and prolonging our ability to serve our communities.

Notable Quote
Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. - Jack Welch, former GE Chairman and CEO
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