Dr. Sharlin’s rapid rise as a writer and thought leader in the circle of holistic health, especially in areas pertaining to the brain and neurological illness, has its roots in his Princeton, New Jersey, childhood. His father, a pediatrician with a passion for the craft of magic and illusion. His mother was a special needs teacher who exposed him to the arts. Dr. Sharlin was influenced by both sides. He was a writer from a young age whose education was cultivated by a combination of science and literature.
Dr. Sharlin attended Kenyon College where he got his B.A. in English. Kenyon, famous for the authors and poets that have graced it halls, and the esteemed literary journal, The Kenyon Review, was an ideal place for Dr. Sharlin to further his own development. He read Dr. Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat and knew immediately there was a place in medicine for those who were driven to explore the big questions about life. By chance, he learned of John Stone, M.D., poet, essayist, and cardiologist. The brave decision to send Dr. Stone a letter containing some of his own poetry lead to a relationship that would take him from Kenyon to Emory University School of Medicine where Dr. Stone was Dean and attending physician. Following in the footsteps of Dr. Oliver Sacks, Dr. Sharlin went on to study neurology at The University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University, where he completed his residency in 1998.
He began his career as a neurologist whose training through prestigious research-oriented medical centers took him down a traditional path. Dr. Sharlin worked as a neurologist in private practice, in large hospital-affiliated practices, emergency rooms, intensive care units, and inpatient wards. His diverse experience has allowed him to sharpen his skills in the management of complex neurological conditions, from multiple sclerosis, to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, migraine, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and fibromyalgia, among others. In whatever direction his interests took him, he has always maintained one hand in clinical research as principle investigator in large, multi-center trials to help bring new treatments to market and broaden our understanding of medicines already approved. His work has been published in peer-reviewed journals (Ethnicity & Disease, 1993 vol 3(4): 337-43; Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease, 1999;8:271). He has been a guest speaker on many occasions over the years, and is often asked to share his knowledge and expertise with his peers and the public.
Dr. Sharlin’s personal and professional life took an important turn when, as a cycling enthusiast, he completed rides over 100 miles in one day, the MS 150 Bike Ride, and RAGBRAI, the ride across Iowa in one week. This lead to the sport of triathlon, and because of his competitive spirit, Dr. Sharlin trained to compete in the pinnacle of multi-sport races, the Ironman Triathlon, to become not once, but three times a finisher. As his fitness and his awareness of the impact of lifestyle on health was changing his own body and brain, Dr. Sharlin became increasingly conscious of problems within his field of neurology, and with medicine in general. He realized that available treatments either focused on symptoms exclusively, or controlled the disease process only if prescribed drugs remained in continuous use. He learned that medicines designed to prevent premature death, heart attack, or stroke, were often more likely to fail an individual. He came to understand that even surgery, with its “to cut is to cure” motto, does not address why the illness occurs in the first place. Unwittingly, he had learned to accept the notion that we don’t know why we get sick and there’s nothing we can do about it except follow the conventional path. And he was beginning to question this notion.
Then, he found functional medicine. “Functional medicine,” to quote Dr. Mark Hyman, “is medicine that just makes sense.” It is medicine that connects mind, body, and spirit. It helps each of us find the imbalances that have directed the trajectory of our lives down the road towards illness, and shines a light that guides each one of personally, by helping to re-map and re-route the course back toward health and vitality. Functional medicine is based firmly in science. It embraces food as medicine, as well as sleep, movement, stress, gut and immune health, hormones, and our mitochondria, the energy-producing engines of the cell. It recognizes the relationship between our genetic blueprint and the environments both within and outside of our bodies that can promote either the expression of health or disease-causing genes, even across generations.
Just as he shaped his body and his mind through his rigorous training in endurance sports, Dr. Sharlin has shared his message of healing the brain through functional medicine. He has been a guest on radio shows and podcasts. He has been featured on local television. He has a regular column, “Growing Your Health,” in Ozarks Living Magazine, and has been asked to guest write for other magazines and newsletters. Frequently, he presents his talk on brain health through functional medicine entitled, The Brain Tune Up! Build Your Healthy Brain Toolbox. Yet he gets his greatest satisfaction as a neurologist by helping individuals change their lives, and alter the course of devastating brain illnesses in a manner most physicians think is not possible.
“Functional medicine embraces all that I believe in. It gives shape and definition to a previously poorly articulated reason that I went to medical school to become a doctor. With functional medicine I have found my purpose. It is not only “medicine that makes sense,” according to Dr. Mark Hyman, it is medicine that connects mind, body, and spirit. It helps each of us find the imbalances that have tipped the trajectory of our lives down the road of chronic disease, and guides each one of us individually, personally, by helping to re-map and re-route our course back toward health and vitality.”