A New Generation of Lifestyle Medicine Pioneers

Ingrid Edshteyn, DO
Chair, Professionals in Training



"Treating the Cause" increasingly resonates with healthcare professionals in training and a strong call is audible for change in clinical education. Students and residents nationwide, from California to Massachusetts, are taking action by bridging the gap from treating consequences to focusing on upstream determinants of health. They look toward Lifestyle Medicine as a guide on this pioneering journey.

Loma Linda University School of Medicine:
The Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group was developed from the school's long-standing commitment to education and its promotion of healthy lifestyle choices for the prevention and treatment of disease. The group draws its origins back to the late 90's, after several visionary residents, including Dr. John Kelly, Dr. Marc Braman and Dr. Doug Plata, organized a campus-wide, interdisciplinary club. The programs included a GoVege (Vegan) Week, Journal Club, Community Health Talks, and a Lifestyle Focus Newsletter. The Interest Group continues to organize discussion forums, show stirring documentaries, encourage healthy behaviors for the community, and highlight professional opportunities in Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine.

David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA:
A dedicated group of students created the Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group, with the mission of "serving as a source of innovative, evidence-guided health knowledge for medical students to use for the promotion of improved patient health through lifestyle choices". Their goals include exploring lifestyle medicine as a philosophy, an approach to medical practice, and a way to achieve better patient health. Their events, spearheaded by the energetic duo of Katherine Chen and Erika Tukiainen, include the Annual Lifestyle Medicine Week, with activities involving a student pedometer challenge, a "Weight of the Nation" screening, exercise breaks between lectures in "Instant Recess", teaching about cardiovascular health at a middle school, and hosting a lifestyle medicine career panel.

Harvard Medical School:
This Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group has been closely linked with the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine in sponsoring events and a Lunchtime Lecture series. The purpose, as envisioned by student leader Derek Stenquist, is to "empower the next generation of physicians to tackle lifestyle-related illness in an effort to reduce morbidity and mortality" from preventable disease. Topics include Motivating Patients to Move through Motivational Interviewing, Patient-Doctor Physical Activity Partnership, Positive Psychology and Wellness Coaching, Nutrition and Exercise Basics, and The Importance of Physician Health. One student commented on how the lectures provide "information not previously encountered in medical school curriculum…which is incredibly useful, not just for lifestyle change but for any medical treatment". They hosted a healthy cooking dinner with the Nutrition Interest Group, put on a demonstration of safe weight-training techniques, and donated inflatable fitness balls for student common areas. They walk the walk themselves by using pedometers and exercise trackers, setting the standard as role models for patients.

Stanford University School of Medicine:
Stanford students facilitate an interactive lifestyle medicine lecture series, with the vision of aspiring physicians to promote a culture of health and wellness in patients; the invited leading experts discuss the diversity of what comprises "lifestyle": motivational interviewing, meditation, nutrition, exercise, sleep and mindfulness. The course gives students "exposure to topics that are rarely mentioned during medical education but integral to a patient's health". They take an interdisciplinary approach, that is "vital to health care in general", by inviting Stanford undergraduates as well as business, engineering and law students to participate. In addition, students this year will start experimenting, tracking and assessing their own health behaviors by partnering with startups in the wellness industry. In the words of the Interest Group President, Rich Joseph, "students have really enjoyed the diversity of topics and the passion of the speakers; they are clamoring for lifestyle medicine to be integrated into medical education and patient care".

Western University of Health Sciences COMP-Northwest:
Students here have taken an inventive and proactive approach to Clinical Lifestyle Medicine. Tyler Earley and Jonathan Wright, the Co-Presidents, have combined medical student counseling with patient care in a diabetes education class at an affiliated hospital. They coordinate a program that links students with patients, providing weekly lifestyle counseling over phone for three months. They even have a full research proposal under way to create this into a clinical study. Additionally, they're involved with the Nutrition in Medicine series, and are organizing a program that integrates principles of behavior change into the curriculum. "Students' recognition of the need for training in lifestyle medicine is ahead of our curriculum, but it is nonetheless vital to become physicians who can treat the cause of the majority of diseases."

Griffin Hospital Preventive Medicine Residency:
The Preventive Medicine residents at Griffin Hospital had the opportunity over the past three years, from an HRSA grant, to complete a rotation at the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine. The curriculum was based on the Lifestyle Medicine Competencies published in JAMA 2010 and focused on four key health behaviors: healthy diet, physical activity, smoking cessation and stress reduction. Web-based training modules, conference participation, and a two-week practicum rotation offered residents an in-depth experience of the clinician and patient perspective in health coaching and individualized health prescriptions. Residents returned with a shift in their prescribing approaches and continued the LM movement by organizing a 5K for house staff, with the motto of "Healthier Doctors, Healthier Patients". In addition, Activity Bursts Everywhere are now a regular practice during Preventive Medicine lectures.

The Professionals in Training group is proud to have such enthusiastic and visionary young clinicians "thinking globally and acting locally". This year, three members were awarded the first Lifestyle Medicine Leadership Grant to attend the 2013 conference. Our expanding ranks compelled us to create ACLM's first Professionals in Training Executive Board: six Vice Presidents have been newly elected to represent ACLM's trainees. We can now begin to realize the many hopes of a starry-eyed youth yearning for a new vision of our medical world. We welcome your comments, membership and further dialogue: trainees@lifestylemedicine.org.