Practice Spotlight: James Rippe, MD
Pioneer in Lifestyle Medicine
"I've often thought that people are too shy when they come to the doctor. They don't say: "Here's what I would like to do." I don't know why that is. Doctors are human beings too! Why don't people say: 'How should I start a walking program?', or 'I'd like to lose 15 or 20 pounds; what do you think?'
Doctors love having those kinds of conversations."
from Dr. Rippe's video presentation: Can I Reverse Years of Neglect? on WebMD
Dr. Rippe clearly loves having those kinds of conversations. He looks directly into the camera, and his upbeat energy is infectious; just the kind of powerful enthusiasm needed to start a whole new movement in medicine.
James Rippe graduated from Harvard College (cum laude) and Harvard Medical School (also cum laude) and had his post graduate training at Massachusetts General Hospital. Early in his career as an academic cardiologist, he began to feel unfulfilled by traditional methods and wished to contribute something unique to the field. Frustrated that patients failed to regain healthy lives through standard treatment, what started to resonate with Dr. Rippe was how greatly lifestyle habits were contributing to the health of his patients.
As he became increasingly interested in the relationship between health habits and cardiovascular disease, he noted that every academic field had a large textbook, but there were no scholarly textbooks on the relevance of lifestyle to health. This crucial observation inspired Dr. Rippe to create not only a ground-breaking textbook, but a new movement in medical practice and research: Lifestyle Medicine.
In the preface to the upcoming 2nd edition, Dr. Rippe writes:
"I was proud to serve as the editor of the first edition of Lifestyle Medicine which was published in 1999. With this initial comprehensive volume, we coined the term “lifestyle medicine,” summarized key findings across multiple disciplines as they existed in the late 1990’s and launched a new emphasis in medicine related to the links between daily behaviors and outcomes. Subsequently, the field of lifestyle medicine has grown dramatically and significantly matured."
Much of this growth is the result of Dr. Rippe's research efforts:
"Over the past 20 years Dr. Rippe has established and run the largest research organization in the world exploring how daily habits and actions impact short and long-term health and quality of life. This organization, Rippe Lifestyle Institute (RLI), has published hundreds of studies that form the scientific basis for the fields of lifestyle medicine and high performance health. Rippe Lifestyle Institute also conducts numerous studies every year on nutrition and healthy weight management."
"Dr. Rippe also serves as the Chairman of the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at the University of Central Florida (CLM at UCF). The CLM at UCF is the first University based organization to conduct basic research and teach students at all levels in the area of lifestyle medicine."
from the website: RippeHealth.com
To promote the Lifestyle Medicine message, Dr. Rippe and his editorial team have been responsible for the production of 43 books: about half are written for the general public, and half are academic texts. Dr. Rippe also edits the only peer reviewed medical journal in lifestyle medicine, the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, published by Sage Publications. (Most ACLM members receive this journal as part of their membership benefits by an arrangement with Sage Publications) He is also Editor in Chief of a two volume Encyclopedia of Lifestyle Medicine and Health (Sage Publications) which was published in February, 2012.
To reach the public with his message, Dr. Rippe has made numerous appearances on television, and has been featured in many print publications. His audience-friendly video presentations on WebMD deliver the Lifestyle Medicine message in easily remembered soundbites: "4 Things to Remember about Weight Loss", "5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease".
In a magazine interview Dr. Rippe stated:
"My goal is to help people understand that what they do on a daily basis profoundly impacts their long-term health and quality of life. Even more than that, I would like to see a paradigm shift in how we view health. Most people, I've found, view good health as the absence of disease. That’s a very limited way of thinking about health. I want people to think about health as a performance tool. Good health is not just ‘not being sick.’ It’s about feeling vital and happy and energetic. Then we can start getting people to say, ‘I want a part of that.’" (issuu.com/orlandoedc/docs/texture_vol_6_issue_2)
Dr. Rippe is also the founder and director of "Rippe Health Evaluation", an executive health program which has been called “the finest high-touch, high-tech executive health assessment in the world.” He also serves as Associate Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) at Tufts University School of Medicine, and Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida.
How does he do it?
Dr. Rippe admits to a 60-70 hour work week, with about 40 hours devoted to research, 30 to writing, 25 speaking and consulting, and 5 hours a week to clinical consultation. Despite this schedule, he follows his own advice and rarely misses his daily run, unless he is walking, swimming, weight training, wind surfing, skiing or playing tennis. He holds a black belt in karate. He promotes exercise as a family pastime, and playfully calls his wife and daughters "The Swimmin' Women". All four daughters are active on their swimming teams.
Looking to the future
Dr. Rippe believes it is crucial that Lifestyle Medicine should continue to distinguish itself from other movements by maintaining a strong scientific evidence base. For now, he sees that most physicians, and particularly residents, do not know the basics of lifestyle science. Lifestyle Medicine must become an established discipline, but the healthcare system makes changes very slowly: it will take time
From the preface to the upcoming 2nd edition of the textbook, "Lifestyle Medicine", Dr. Rippe writes:
"A key consideration for incorporating information and counseling concerning lifestyle and health will be broad acceptance of this imperative in the physician community. While most physicians and other health care professionals support the general concept that physical activity, proper nutrition, weight management, not smoking, and other behaviors profoundly impact on health, incorporation of counseling and information in these areas into the daily of medicine has lagged. This is extremely unfortunate since multiple surveys have demonstrated that physician recommendation is the leading reason why individuals change actions and habits. Moreover, 75% of the adult population in the United States sees a primary care physician at least once a year. The opportunity to underscore the links between lifestyle habits and practices and health outcomes is, therefore, extremely large."
ACLM members have been offered a discount on the new edition of Lifestyle Medicine.
ACLM is grateful to Dr. Rippe for his foundational work and continued dedication to research and development of the field of Lifestyle Medicine.
Pearls from Dr. Rippe's book: "High Performance Health"
Passion: Passion is the fuel that drives performance. It's what allows some people to get more out of life than others. If you're passionate about your health, you'll be passionate about your life and then suddenly, you'll start seeing good things happening everywhere.
Trust: Trust is fundamental to both high performance thinking and high performance health. There are three equally important components: trust in yourself, trust in others and trust in God.
Courage: Change takes courage. Set your goals up in small steps and give yourself credit for having the courage to try to make changes. Change can and will happen.
Discipline: Appropriate structure enables people to move forward progress every day. Discipline frees up space, time and resources - not just for work on goals, but for other important activities, people and interests you value.
Focus: Focus describes the ability to prioritize tasks and devote single-minded attention to each task in order of importance.
Consistency: Continuing to treat health as the passive absence of disease is a foolish consistency. But aiming every day toward your best health now is a wise consistency.
Happiness. Many of us spend a considerable energy trying to figure out what will make us happy. Those things which bring me joy also bring me good health and that kind of joy and happiness is essential to good health.
Prayer. Prayer is empowering. It's also individual. I encourage you to explore prayer as a way of enhancing high performance thinking.