ACLM - Beginnings, Challenges, Growth, and the Future
Wayne Dysinger, MD, MPH
In March, 2004 John Kelly, MD, MPH conceptualized the need for a health care provider professional society whose members were dedicated to using lifestyle based interventions as the foundation of disease treatment and management. Based on the initial response, both from professionals as well as the media, this was clearly an idea whose time had come. Through Dr. Kelly’s efforts ACLM moved beyond conception into a vigorous birth and on to an exciting infancy. During his four years as ACLM President John developed a strong set of professional society bylaws, created membership and leadership systems, nurtured a strong advisory board, and worked hard to develop annual meetings and communication that brought and held us together. Although it had a promising start, in some ways in those early days it felt as if ACLM was growing up in a foreign country where resources were scarce and infant mortality was high. Although ACLM continued to grow and expand into a national and even international professional society, there were still times it seemed the organization wouldn’t survive.
But the concept was clear, the need was real, and the foundation was strong. ACLM did survive. In February, 2008 Marc Braman, MD, MPH took over ACLM leadership. Through his efforts ACLM moved on to toddlerhood and the pre-school phase. Membership and financial tracking systems were solidified, a monthly newsletter was developed, and the legal and organizational tools needed to grow and expand were put in place. Dr. Braman’s dedication to ACLM progressed to the point that in late 2009 he was hired as ACLM’s first Executive Director. He continued in this role through February, 2013. During his ED tenure Dr. Braman was able to create a Lifestyle Medicine Foundation which allowed tax deductible donations, and finally established a successful format for a stand alone annual meeting as a professional home for LM practitioners.
In early 2013 ACLM again faced significant financial challenges. A team of ACLM board members including George Guthrie, MD, MPH, Liana Lianov, MD, MPH, Mark Berman, MD, MPH, Wayne Dysinger, MD, MPH and others stepped up to the plate and pulled the organization through to an extremely successful annual meeting in October, 2013. Credit for this success also needs to go to Lisa Gregory and Grace Stillar, the ACLM meeting leadership and support team. The successful 2013 meeting allowed ACLM to hire Susan Benigas as their second Executive Director in March, 2014, adding another important key for future development.
2014, the tenth anniversary year of ACLM, has been a banner year for our organization. Under the leadership of Ms. Benigas, as well as that of David Katz, MD, MPH, the current ACLM President, ACLM has continued to solidify its’ finances, membership and board structures, evolved its’ strategic plan, and pursued valuable relationships with other likeminded national organizations. We have also moved forward with two significant projects designed for our practicing members. The first is the LM curriculum developed in association with the American College of Preventive Medicine, headed by Liana Lianov, MD, MPH and funded thanks to the generous support of Dexter Shurney, MD, MPH and Cummins Engines. We are now using the curriculum to rapidly move towards a LM certification process. The second project is a clinical practice support and development system created in partnership with N1 Health. Helping members actually practice differently because of LM is key to our goals of changing the healthcare system. Thanks to the leadership of Mark Faries, PhD, we also again had an amazing annual meeting, doubling our size yet again.
The future of ACLM is extremely bright! Our biggest asset has always been our vision – our recognition that the health care system desperately needs an overhaul – and that treating the causes of chronic disease using LM approaches is a key foundation to that revamp. Our growth is being driven by a demand for something different by patients and providers, by a recognition that LM is an important tool for decreasing spiraling health care costs, and by ongoing science that is continually adding to the evidence base around Lifestyle Medicine being the best medicine. This year we are more than ever seeing businesses and venture capitalists bringing money to the table around LM. It is up to us to seize the opportunities that are evolving from this and move forward in an agile and entrepreneurial way. Our time is now! ACLM is overflowing with potential. Let’s each work together to make 2015 an amazing year for Lifestyle Medicine, and our second decade transformational!