My Path to Lifestyle Medicine

Mark A. Berman, MD
Director of Lifestyle Medicine, One Medical Group


Reflecting on the past, my path to lifestyle medicine began over 20 years ago when I was afforded the same passionate realization that many of us have had – that our dietary patterns and the way we live have had a profound and far-reaching impact. I was introduced to John Robbins’ work while training to be a tennis instructor and this set me on the path to medical school.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to learn from many great mentors. As an over eager high school student, David Jenkins inspired me with his work on the glycemic index and hominid diets. Later on, as a Yale medical student, David Katz helped me hone my broad preventive medicine and nutrition interest to a focus on obesity prevention and treatment and introduced me to the science of behavior change. As a clinical research fellow at UCSF, I was able to see firsthand the power of comprehensive lifestyle changes to reverse chronic disease through Dean Ornish’s work. Later, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation introduced me to the importance of policy and public health in shaping collective lifestyles.

While I ended up electing broad clinical training in internal medicine, primary care and population medicine (at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital), dietary choices remained my main passion because of their central role in chronic disease and their environmental and humane implications resulting from farming practices and scale. As such, I’m predominantly interested in plant-based dietary patterns such as a whole foods vegan diet.

Clinically, partly out of necessity, I’ve become extremely interested in the process of behavior change and habit formation. I’ve focused my clinical career on the lifestyle management of obesity and its metabolic complications. Entering medicine in this new information age, I’ve explored the use of health information technology to foster change. I’m particularly fascinated by the growing use of portable devices and external sensors to foster change and incorporate these into my practice. Currently, I split my time between a clinical practice in lifestyle medicine and systems innovations geared at fostering lifestyle change in our patient population.

I became involved in ACLM shortly after attending their annual conference in 2012. It was easily one of the best conferences I’ve attended. It was lovely to meet so many like-minded colleagues. And when I returned to SF, I found myself incorporating a large handful of clinical pearls from the conference into my practice.

As I see it, lifestyle medicine is a young field, but it holds the greatest promise to radically improve the health of all Americans. It’s an honor to be a part of this budding field. As such, I’m extremely excited about LM13, as it will be a wonderful opportunity to advance my clinical and practice operations knowledge and a chance to reconnect with a community of talented, passionate and caring practitioners. This year’s speaker line up is stellar and I know I can count on a thoughtfully planned and fun experience that will help recharge those clinical batteries for the year to come.