Alumna strives to improve healthcare through functional medicine for optimal health

Alumna strives to improve healthcare through functional medicine for optimal health

D r. Kristin Corbin Oja, ’11, ’14, ’15, always knew there was a better way to treat patients. 

Dr. Kristin Oja at STAT Wellness
Dr. Kristin Oja at STAT Wellness

“When providers prescribe medication without understanding the root cause, we are putting a Band-Aid® on an issue,” Oja said. “The patient may feel better, and medication can prevent diseases from progressing, but we're not addressing the root cause. If we don't understand the root cause, other symptoms and diseases can occur.”

As a result, she practices functional medicine—a quality approach in treating the whole patient with a focus on health optimization and longevity.

In 2014, Oja founded STAT Wellness as a bootcamp held in a school parking lot. Five years later, she opened her brick-and-mortar facility in West Midtown Atlanta with a different business concept of combining functional medicine and movement. In January 2022, she opened the second location in historic Roswell. Now, she’s looking for a third location with hopes of growing nationwide.

When the Atlanta STAT Wellness opened its doors in 2019, Oja taught around 16 fitness classes per week, saw about eight functional medicine patients per day, started IVs, drew patients’ bloodwork, gave B12 shots and checked patients out.

Today, 85% of her time is spent seeing patients one-on-one, writing treatment plans and helping them understand the results of their lab work.

“We're very data driven,” Oja said. “So, I don't want to just tell my patients, ‘We've reduced your inflammation.’ I want to show them, ‘This was your C-reactive protein (CRP) when we first started working together. And a year later, your CRP went from 12 to two—that’s remarkable.’” 

My favorite part of my work is transforming people's lives. My biggest goals are to instill hope in people, and to empower them to make the changes they need to become the best version of themselves.
– Dr. Kristin Oja

Around 15% of her time is spent working with her staff to make STAT Wellness one of the best places to work. 

Her husband, Cameron “Cam” Oja, ’11, recently joined the team of 26 employees as chief operating officer. In that role, he oversees operations, growth and partnerships.

The couple met at the end of their senior year at Georgia College. After dating five years, they got married and have two children—Emery (21 months old) and Letty (five months old). 

Kristin, Cam, Emery (left) and Letty Oja
Kristin, Cam, Emery (left) and Letty Oja

Dr. Sallie Coke, professor of nursing made a significant impression on Oja at Georgia College. She was her biggest cheerleader and chaired Oja’s dissertation. She credits Coke for enabling her to graduate with her DNP.

“Dr. Coke always said to make sure you understand what's going on with your patients,” Oja said. “That’s everything when it comes to functional medicine—understanding what’s happening to patients and discovering the root cause.”

Although the term “functional medicine” wasn’t used in nursing school, Coke wanted to ensure students had a clear goal to discover the origin of patients’ illnesses.

“That's what we do as nurses. We treat the whole person,” Oja said. “Dr. Coke was so good at teaching that.”

She recalls Florence Nightingale, who treated the whole person, recognizing symptoms and signs and how various parts of the body work together.

“Over the years, the more we've learned, the more we’ve become so fragmented and siloed in treating patients and seeing specialists for different ailments,” Oja said. “We need to look at how the body works miraculously as a whole.”

She often draws on what she learned in pathophysiology to find out what’s going on with her patients and how their bodies are connected to health issues.

“If we don't address why they have high blood pressure, that person may develop high cholesterol, blood sugar imbalances and cognitive issues at some point in their life,” Oja said. “It will have a domino effect on them.”

“Prevention is understanding what imbalances there are in your body,” she said. “How can we start working on healing those imbalances?”

Oja believes the standard American diet leads to diseases prevalent in society such as, heart issues, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and more.

“These medications that we're putting people on are Band-Aids®, because we're not addressing why individuals have those health issues,” she said.

The absence of disease is not a facet of optimal health either.

“Being healthy is very different than just being disease free,” Oja said.  “We're trying to optimize your health, quality of life and longevity.”

Every day, she sees patients who are disease free, but they’re exhausted, their hair's falling out and they're gaining weight. They're digestion is irregular. They don't sleep well. But they have no diagnosis; they just don't feel good.

“Prevention is not just preventing disease,” Oja said. “It's about helping you live your best life and be the best version of yourself. Because life is too short to not feel your best.”

She wants her patients to understand why they’re on a health journey. When patients understand this principle, they’re more likely to achieve their goal.

Oja tells patients to strive to be healthy at least 80 percent of the time.

“That's how I live my life,” she said. “And that's how I want to work with my patients, because nobody can do anything 100 percent of the time. If you're striving for perfection, you will fail and then spiral out of control.”

That’s why Oja loves the saying “little by little a little becomes a lot.” She also has a podcast with this name.

Oja is passionate about empowering her patients to make changes so they’ll feel better.

“My favorite part of my work is transforming people's lives,” she said. “My biggest goals are to instill hope in people, and to empower them to make the changes they need to become the best version of themselves.” 

Dr. Kristin Oja at work
Dr. Kristin Oja at work

Oja also serves on Georgia College’s College of Health Sciences (COHS) Leadership Board. Her favorite part of serving is working with board members who’re passionate about transforming people's lives, including the next generation of nursing students.

“In this industry, if we're working to change medicine, I have to think of the students who are graduating after me by investing in their education,” Oja said. “And we make Georgia College the best college ever for everybody. The better Georgia College gets, the better your résumé gets, the better graduates we have, the more they're invested in their career and prevention. But I can't change the future of medicine if I don't look at changing the graduates.”

She feels passionate about nursing and her Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Through her endowed scholarship for Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) students, she hopes the graduates from the MSN program will continue to pursue their DNP.

“The scholarship gives them hope they can help choose their career path,” Oja said.

She feels fortunate to have parents who supported her through college. Now, she wants others to have that same opportunity.

“Education is expensive. And a lot of people aren’t in the same situation I was in,” Oja said. “I feel for a student who’s willing to put in the work. I don't want money to be a barrier.”

She hopes others who were able to get an education view this similarly and will pay it forward.

In the meantime, Oja will continue to help transform healthcare by helping her patients live their best life.

“Having a serving heart is our core principle. I live that out every day with my patients, staff and family,” she said. “It makes the hard days so much better, knowing that we’ve touched one person's life or made one person a little bit healthier.”