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Lifestyle Medicine on the Move

By Rich Joseph

All major movements start with a groundswell. I can confidently and enthusiastically report that a groundswell is afoot in the field of Lifestyle Medicine. Defined formally, Lifestyle Medicine is the application of environmental, behavioral, medical and motivational principles to the management of lifestyle-related health problems in a clinical setting. Basically, this is how clinicians work in tandem with their patients in a joint partnership to change health behaviors and embrace healthy living. The ultimate goal is to empower patients as arbiters of their own health care with the tools, know-how, and motivation to keep themselves out of the acute medical setting and maximize their vitality. Just in this last month, I have been a part of three events that show the emergence of Lifestyle Medicine as not only an interest, but an eventual pillar of standard medical education. I enthusiastically recount and reflect on these experiences with you…

Earlier this month I had the privilege of representing the voice of medical students nationwide at a Lifestyle Medicine Think Tank held at the beautiful and forward thinking University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Greenville. The goal of this 2-day brainstorming session was to discuss and develop strategies for integrating the fundamental elements of Lifestyle Medicine into the standard preclinical medical education.  But this was not simply a powwow with the zealots marching to the beat of the same drum. Rather, it was a meeting of both the believers and the dubious representing all relevant viewpoints and all with skin in the game. The guest list included: deans from different medical schools, respresentatives of the NBME, LCME, AMA, renowned exercise and nutrition scientists, department chairs from various medical specialties, leaders in health policy, and patients themselves. Together, we identified the opportunities, but also the major hurdles and barriers to curriculum change. Despite seemingly insurmountable odds and complexities from all different angles, we successfully identified five avenues to pursue moving forward. It was not necessarily the outcome of the meeting itself that was the major success—it is the fact that such a meeting with such diverse stakeholders took place that should be celebrated. Acknowledgement of current shortcomings is the first step towards change.

Then, two days after returning to Stanford, we hosted nearly 120 medical students for an evening showing of Escape Fire. The screening was followed by an outstanding panel of Stanford physicians who are addressing many of the themes in the film and creating their own escape fires in their practices. The scene was lively with dozens of first and second year students passionately discussing the film and sharing their thoughts, surprises, and hopefulness. For many, it was an escape from the day-to-day grind of preclinical memorization and a reconnection with the idealisms and aspirations that drew them to medical school originally. It helped to trigger a renewed sense of purpose and recommitment to a cause larger than their own career development. Numerous emails and discussions ensued, and as I write this I am waiting to attend a meeting to discuss how we as students can organize to address some of these systemic issues in medical practice.

And finally, just this past Friday marked the culmination of Docs Run 2.0—90+ students, residents, and attending physicians teamed up to run the Palo Alto Moonlight Run as part of DFA’s larger Race for Coverage initiative. For those have not heard about Docs Run at Stanford, it is a fundraising effort on behalf of DFA and our Cardinal Free Clinics at Stanford that culminates in group participation in a local run, allowing us to simultaneously support preventive health care on a personal, community, and national level. For more information, check out this year’s overview and FAQ sheet. As a team we raised nearly $8,000. The deans came out to run with us and we even managed to pull some weary residents out for some Friday night exercise. And most importantly, we had an absolute blast getting out there in the community, being active, and being part of a cause larger than ourselves. We look forward to continuing this tradition here at Stanford and hope that others will replicate this model around the country.

I think this picture tells the story:

Stanford Docs Run Group Picture

And with that, I give an enthusiastic cheer to Lifestyle Medicine and the future of health care in America!

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