I’m not mistaken, this is my final ACLM newsletter column as President, and the
last before our conference in
Naples, Florida, in October. These
opportunities to address you, and the role overall, have been my great honor.
like to encourage all who see this to join us in Naples if not already
committed to doing so. Those who have
been before don’t need me to tell them that ACLM conferences are truly
extraordinary. The content, of course,
is terrific. But there is so much
more. The passion on continuous, vivid
display, and the several days of swimming in a veritable sea of expertise,
devotion, innovation, and professional solidarity is inspiring, and energizing
beyond words. Join us if you can; you
will not be disappointed.
can say that with confidence, in part because our conference is where the
action is. That, in turn, is because our
field is where the action is. And that,
in turn, is why I’m here.
medical school, I was at first uncertain about where to go next, as I trust
many of us are. I settled on Internal
Medicine as much to keep my options open and broad as for any other reason. While mired in the ardors of that residency,
working over 100 hours a week in the hospital, and surrounded at all times by
the desperately sick- I chose the road less traveled. Predictably, it has made all the difference.
went on to a second residency in Preventive Medicine, wanting to do more about
those desperately sick people in hospital beds than delaying their death a
bit. I wanted those waiting in line
behind them to choose a different medical destiny altogether. I wanted them to use lifestyle to stay vital
in the first place. My various efforts
and contributions, such as they are, in this area are largely a matter of
public record, so no reason to belabor them here.
will simply say that I chose my path because it’s where the action was. I completed my Preventive Medicine training
just as McGinnis and Foege
told us that lifestyle practices were the “actual” causes of premature
death in the United States. I was caught
up in the rising tsunami of an obesity pandemic, pulling a rising tide of
global chronic disease in its wake- as it does to this day. Lifestyle in
medicine was the lifeboat that would enable individuals to ride this out. Lifestyle as
medicine in the form of culture change could turn this menacing tide
altogether. My choice was made.
was very content with it for quite some time.
I felt validated when I heard Dr.
Jim Marks, now at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, then Director of the
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC,
tell an audience that any clinician not addressing the impact of lifestyle
factors on health was at the margins of what truly matters. I was quite sure I was in the right place.
a lifelong friend, and now esteemed colleague and fellow member of the True
Health Initiative Council of Directors, Dr.
Steve Osofsky, recently with the Wildlife Conservation Society and now
newly appointed to the faculty at Cornell University- gave me pause. Steve and I are very close friends, so we
tease one another as only close friends do, and we speak plain. Steve was doing a bit of both as he
challenged my career choice ever more frequently, and ever more
emphatically. His case? Quite simply, I was doing all I could to
extend the lives of the very creatures busily destroying the planet!
had a point, obviously. We Homo sapiens
have been making quite a mess of things down here. Steve’s particular field, wildlife conservation,
was in some ways a direct casualty of any successes in mine. Ever more people, living ever longer,
consuming ever more resources, was all highly correlated with ever accelerating
rates of extinction.
argument, to the extent it wasn’t tongue-in-cheek in the first place, took on
ever greater validity as the evidence for climate change went from academic to
all around us; as water access went from being “their” concern to being our
concern, too; and as the sustainability of our food supply became a topic of
almost daily concern.
was having doubts. I was beginning to
think I had actually missed rather than chosen the big issue of my time.
these particular roads that diverged long ago in some wood –one leading to
lifestyle medicine, the other to environmental conservation- take a highly
fortuitous turn. It need not have been
so, but it is: they intersect, and run on together.
diet, activity, and lifestyle pattern most conducive to the addition of years
to human life, and life to human years, need not have been beneficial to the
planet- but it is. A
diet of minimally processed, predominantly plant foods redounds to the
benefit of everything from the land’s fresh water supplies, to the seas’
supplies of fish. When we use lifestyle
to take better care of ourselves, we are doing some of the most potent and
immediately actionable things there are to be done- to take better care of this
gem of a planet, too.
are where the great action of our time is, after all. Lifestyle is the focus for those devoted to
healthy people on a healthy planet. Lifestyle is the focus for those looking
for health to bequeath the generations that follow us.
Osofsky and I, and for that matter a whole roster of luminaries in conservation
and related endeavors, including Dr. Samuel Myers
of Harvard who will address us in Naples, now collaborate ever more
routinely. The One Health concept- the
confluence of human and planet health promotion efforts- is evolving into the
only valid approach. The Council of
Directors of the True Health
Initiative is home to ever more experts in sustainability and environmental
scientists, along with “health care” professionals of the traditional variety.
are in this together, and we are where the action is.
applications of lifestyle medicine have the potential to foster the health of
people and planet alike. Those of us
here have long known the profound implications of our field for the well being
of our own species. It is time, just as
we are doing in Naples at Lifestyle
Medicine 2016, with the theme of Healthy
People, Healthy Planet, to take in an even greater vista than that. We are very much a part of where the world
needs to be for there to be a viable and vital and biodiverse world to bequeath
our children, and theirs, and theirs.
the moment, we may say the action is in Naples- and I hope to see you
there. But we may also say with
conviction that our field is where the great action and issues of our day
reside. We are where that action
is. I write to say exactly that,
reassured that it is so. I write to say
that, in solidarity with you, proud to have chosen a road those years ago that
does indeed lead to all the right and urgent differences. It lies before us.