Practice Spotlight: Edward Phillips, MDExercise is fundamental to good health.“I care for patients with trouble walking, sports injuries, or muscular-skeletal problems,” said Dr. Edward Phillips, assistant professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. “We prescribe exercise for everything.”A physician who treats patients at several Boston area hospitals including Spaulding Rehabilitation, Massachusetts General and McLean, Phillips also dedicates a significant amount of time to building the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine (www.instituteoflifestylemedicine.org ) and supporting the growing field of Lifestyle Medicine. The ILM is focused on providing educational programs to all health professionals, conducting outcome and field research on the efficacy of Lifestyle Medicine education and programs as well as advocacy to promote physical activity on a national and global level. Phillips is the director of outpatient medical services of the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Network in Boston, assistant physiatrist in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department at Massachusetts General Hospital, and consultant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He has consulted on the physical complaints of psychiatric patients at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. for the past 15 years, and is an adjunct scientist at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. He also serves as a member of the health sector committee of the National Physical Activity Plan and on the Executive Council of the Exercise is Medicine™ global initiative. Dr. Phillip’s interest in exercise physiology and mental health propelled him to found the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine (ILM) at Harvard in 2007. ILM’s mission is to reduce the prevalence of lifestyle-related disease and mortality in society through physician-directed interventions with patients.“The majority of illnesses result from lifestyle choices, yet there is lack of education in this critical area in medical and other health professional schools,” he said. “We established the Institute to fill this gap.”ILM provides physicians and other medical health professionals with seminars, programs, and online disks and videos, among other resources. To date over 2,000 clinicians from 83 countries have completed one or more of these educational programs. “We provide physicians with the tools to promote healthy lifestyle change, from pen and paper step logs to the latest wearable technology, such as accelerometers which automatically upload physical activity data for a patient to share with their physician,” Phillips said. At ILM, Phillips and his coworkers also address the direct relationship between what a clinician does personally and what they counsel their patients to do. “We should and could become better role models,” Phillips said. “Pointing fingers at patients and telling them to exercise or die is not the motivational measure to get them to do what they need to do. Clinicians need to model the health behavior and deliver the message in an appropriate way.” “We train doctors to champion lifestyle changes in their practices and in their personal lives,” he said of the courses ILM offers. “Simply asking patients about their level of physical activity will broach the subject, opening doors for future conversations and providing an opportunity for doctors to be an effective motivator in their patients’ lifestyle changes.”To spread the message, Phillips and other Institute members consult with hospitals, health plan and employer groups, physicians’ practices and other places where Lifestyle Medicine is critical for patient care and recovery.“Behavior change is the breakthrough medicine of the 21st century,” Phillips said. “Because of everything going on in health reform, it’s extremely timely.”Phillips believes shared medical appointments, a topic addressed at the last ILM conference, may be a major part of how doctors will get reimbursed for practicing Lifestyle Medicine.“There is an evolving fundamental change in how we are being reimbursed,” he said, pointing to changes in the country’s health care system as a vehicle for LM funding.“The system is shifting,” Phillips said. “Still, there is a fundamental education doctors need to get, which is not that complicated compared to other things in medicine. This includes: weight management, nutrition, smoking cessation, physical activity and stress resiliency.”Phillips added, “Lifestyle Medicine is more than just taking someone’s blood pressure and giving them a pill.” But getting health professionals to recognize Lifestyle Medicine as a regular avenue of treatment and getting patients to make lasting lifestyle changes can be challenging, he added.“In pushing any new concept through, there is some resistance,” he said. “The opportunities are many, but the challenges are also endless.“The field of Lifestyle Medicine is still too new yet to provide a proven financial model to groups,” he gave as an example. “Also, people are skeptical about individuals making appropriate changes to their health. The whole process will become more viable in the next few years as more literature backs it up.”Meanwhile, Phillips enjoys working with “bright, LM-oriented people who are intent on fixing the system.”“To participate in the health reform that needs to happen is remarkably motivating and rewarding, both personally and professionally,” he said. Phillips encourages healthcare professionals to work together to direct the future of Lifestyle Medicine.“When folks turn to us to ask for a solution, we need to point out that they are part of the solution,” he said. “We need to learn from each other what’s working in our communities. It is imperative to stay focused on this.”To further this directive, the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine will offer a highly interactive, exercise-centered course, Active Doctors, Active Patients, on Nov. 12-14 in Boston. Faculty from Harvard Medical School and world-class fitness and wellness practitioners will provide physicians with the necessary tools to assess and recommend changes in patients’ levels of physical activity. For more information on this or other courses run through Harvard Medical School’s Department of Continuing Education, visit www.HarvardLifestyleMedicine.org.“This course is transforming,” Phillips said, adding participants become “personally involved in the change and carry back to patients how good they feel.”Dr. Phillips is co-author with Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, of ACSM’s “Exercise is Medicine: A Clinician’s Guide to Exercise Prescription.” The book teaches practitioners how to motivate and instruct patients on the importance of exercise and how to design practical exercise programs for patients of all ages and fitness levels, as well as those with special conditions such as pregnancy, obesity and cancer.Last year, Phillips earned the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Community Leadership Award, given out annually to individuals who provide or enhance opportunities to engage in sports, physical activities, or fitness-related programs in their community.To get involved with or for more information about ILM, visit www.instituteoflifestylemedicine.org.