Enabling practitioners to have access to the world's most advanced health tests has always been our core mission.
And from the start, a key way we wanted to deliver this is to provide excellent clinical support. Advanced health tests are complex, and we recognise that selecting the most appropriate test and understanding their results can be a barrier for the busy practicing practitioner.
In light of this, we interviewed Robyn Puglia - VP of Education for Cyrex Labs (UK, IRE, EU) - to showcase what she does in her role, how she works to ensure she keeps at the very forefront of advanced health testing, and how this adds value for our practitioner community.
What is your role?
VP of Education for Cyrex Labs (UK, IRE, EU).
Name an instance where you feel that you really provided value to a practitioner in this role. Why?
I teach M.D.s, nutritional therapists and other licensed allied health professionals how to understand, and have confidence, investigating autoimmune and autoinflammatory illness. One of my very favourite things to do is to take someone who is newly registered with Cyrex and walk them through the panels, and then support them over a series of weeks and months as they start to receive test results back, interpreting the results they are seeing and becoming confident in all the different aspects of the tests and all the different permutations of the results that come in.
What motivates you in your role?
People with autoimmune disease are woefully underserved by the conventional system. Autoimmune disease can take a long time to diagnose, even with serious symptoms. People who are suffering and seeking answers can be dismissed, told they are hypochondriacs or just stressed. And then if or when a diagnosis happens, the narrative is bleak - there’s nothing that can be done, you have to learn how to live with this and you can just take stronger doses of medicine as the disease progresses, to help manage your symptoms and pain.
But the reality is there is a lot that can be changed and modulated to support people with autoimmunity, that can have a big impact on the way the body works, and quality of life. Cyrex tests really change and inform our understanding of what is affecting the body and how to support the body of someone who has or is developing autoimmunity, which allows us to make personalised, specific interventions and that can be really profound in clinical practice.
Whats the most enjoyable or satisfying part of your role?
I am endlessly interested in the immune system and in autoimmunity specifically. I absolutely love thinking about it, reading about it, talking about it, and I love to watch the practitioners I interact with light up with interest and understanding and be able to support their patients in a completely different way using these tests.
What does a typical day look like in your role?
I work one day per week for Cyrex and Regenerus, so my day looks like this:
First I do 3 hours of technical support calls. The calls are 15 - 20 minutes long and I take them back to back. My diary is usually fully booked with calls each week. In these calls I help people choose the right test for their cases, or interpret the results they are receiving.
Once my calls are done, I spend the rest of the day doing a rotation of different things. I do in-depth training for individual practitioners, groups of practitioners, or clinics. This training is usually around 3 hours long and it’s a deeper dive in to the tests and how to think about the cases and answering any and every question the practitioners have. I research various topics in autoimmunity and prepare presentations to help educate the Regenerus clients around autoimmunity.
I run round table discussions and workshops and also host webinars to help support and educate around various topics as well.
Once a month I meet with the Cyrex USA team to discuss what is new in the US, what we are working on in the UK and to brainstorm ideas.
How does your career background and experience make you suited to for this role?
My whole story is this: I have coeliac disease, which was undiagnosed for 19 years. When I went gluten free, it was a big miracle and a lot of things changed in my life and health as a result.
I started studying Nutrition because I was working in Medical Aesthetics and wanted a better tool for helping people with acne, eczema, rosacea etc, but in my final year of studies I got glutened very badly at work and I had a massive health crash that wasn't addressed by all my normal tools. And I discovered then that I didn’t really understand my own coeliac disease very well, but also that my doctors didn’t understand it very well either. That led me to studying functional medicine with The Institute for Functional Medicine, and specialising in Gluten-Related Disorders, Autoimmunity and Complex Cases. That was 2011, so when Cyrex launched in the UK in 2013, it felt like they were created just for my practice.
As I worked with the tests, they changed my understanding of the environmental influence on autoimmunity and how to support people in real life clinical practice, and then coming full circle, I started teaching other practitioners what I learned.
Lastly, alongside my clinical practice, I also run a clinical mentoring program, so supporting other professionals in clinical practice is a big passion of mine, and working with Cyrex and Regenerus is one of the ways I am able to do that. Understanding how to think about the person sitting in front of you, instead of trying to ‘treat the disease’ is a powerful tool and I like to bring that to Cyrex also. Understanding when NOT to test, or when to choose another test not a Cyrex test is really important for accurate clinical outcomes and good clinician-patient relationships.
What area of testing are you particularly interested and skilled in? Why?
Actually, as I am in active clinical practice, I utilise and have a good knowledge of a very broad range of tests. So I can talk about stool testing, SIBO testing, comprehensive blood chemistry, hormones, food reactivity, immune panels, viral and lyme testing, mould and mycotoxins, organic and amino acids and my beloved Hepatic Detox Profile as well as, of course, Cyrex testing.
How do you ensure that you keep up-to-date with the latest advances in functional and diagnostic testing? How do you continue to grow your testing skills, as well as broader nutritional therapy skills?
I am addicted to eduction. I attend as many conferences as I can, and I also love to talk to other clinicians to see what they are doing, what’s working for them and then learn more about it myself.
But I am also really committed to making sure I have the best tools in my tool kit for my clinical practice and this means needing to strike a balance between keeping up with what is new as the industry moves forwards and not staying loyal to a test that is becoming outdated, but also not falling for every single new thing that is being hailed as the second coming of functional testing.
Does your career as a practicing nutritional therapist helps inform your role as a clinical support specialist? If so, how?
All my most important learning comes from my clinic. My patients help me to know what I need to know, what I need to learn and what tools I need to have in my tool kit.
I dont think you can be as effective as a practitioner if you are working from a formula: “I use X test for everyone” Or “I use X Protocol in Y Situation” When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. You have to be able to see the terrain and understand what tools you need to do the work, not the other way around.
How long have you been working in Regenerus’ clinical support team, and what have your learnt having been in this role?
I’ve been an external educator and consultant for Regenerus since December 2013, when Cyrex launched in the UK.
I have learned two very important things during this time.
- You cannot guess what someone’s immune system is doing in any given case, or someone’s immune relationship with food. It’s not possible to fully understand from diagnosis, from symptoms what is going on below the surface. For example, if someone is having a couple of obvious food reactions vs if someone has really broken oral tolerance, or if someone has a big immune reaction to BPA or formaldehyde.
- Clinicians being able to talk about our cases and ask for advice or input from a different angles is extremely helpful. We are often practicing in quite an isolated way, alone in our offices with our clients/patients and our thoughts. So interacting with other clinicians and having honest conversations about whats going right and whats going wrong can be quite a game changer.
The joke is that the reason I have this job in first place talked about tests so much the just eventually started paying me for it.
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More about Robyn
Robyn is a Clinical Nutritional Therapist with a specialised interest in the Functional Medicine approach to health. Robyn is very involved with the field of Coeliac Disease, Gluten-Reactive Disorders and Autoimmune Disease. Her passion for the healing power of food, has led her to work with complex cases, involving multiple diagnoses, and chronic health issues such as ME, auto-immune diseases and fibromyalgia.
She also has a passion for working with the growing tide of chronic, lifestyle mediated illness, and runs a lifestyle intervention clinic for these issues. Robyn works with patients to nutritionally support their bodies, so that they can heal. She has successfully helped many people around the world improve their health and increase their quality of life.