University of South Carolina

USC School of Medicine Greenville, Harvard host Lifestyle Medicine Think Tank

By Jeff Stensland, stenslan@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-3686

Two U.S. medical schools are meeting in the buckle of the nation’s obesity belt to kick-off an effort to transform medical education, placing a much greater responsibility on future doctors in convincing patients to eat better and exercise more.

The University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville and the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine based at Harvard Medical School’s Joslin Diabetes Center are hosting the two-day Lifestyle Medicine Think Tank, Sept. 9-10 in Greenville, S.C., at the Greenville Health System’s (GHS) Health Science Education Building. The goal is to challenge participants—who include top national academic and policy experts—to overhaul medical education to not simply focus on treating existing diseases, but making exercise, nutrition and other lifestyle choices a central theme in medical school curriculum and future patient interactions.

South Carolina, which currently ranks 46th in terms of overall health according to the UnitedHealth Foundation, is garnering national attention for a series of homegrown policy innovations designed to stem the rising tide of preventable chronic diseases prevalent among its residents, particularly those in rural areas. These include allowing doctors to write prescriptions to overweight patients to get free admission to state parks and providing residents on food stamps incentives to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from farmers markets.

The Lifestyle Think Tank, which is sponsored by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, will examine the central role physicians can play in changing cultural attitudes toward exercise, nutrition, and tobacco and alcohol use. The group will provide a preliminary strategy and action plan to the Bipartisan Policy Center Public Meeting on Medical Education in Nutrition and Physical Activity on Oct. 17 in Washington, D.C.

By 2020, the World Health Organization predicts that two-thirds of all disease worldwide will be the result of lifestyle choices. Despite the public health and financial challenges of unhealthy populations, getting medical schools to adopt lifestyle medicine into their curricula will be a challenge, said Jennifer Trilk, co-leader of the Think Tank and a clinical assistant professor at the USC School of Medicine Greenville.

“The challenges related to national implementation range from lack of available time in the classroom, interest of the school in integrating lifestyle medicine as a formal curriculum, and acceptance by medical societies and educators,” Trilk said. “We also must consider the effort required to modify National Medical Board exams and accrediting agency standards. It won’t be easy, but it can and should be done. Wellness works and physicians must be the ones to model this for themselves as well as promote wellness in their patients.”

USC School of Medicine Greenville, which opened last fall, is the first medical school in the country to fully incorporate exercise physiology into all four years of its undergraduate medical school curriculum. Through its clinical partnership with GHS, the school is dedicated to introducing students to the latest in real-world patient care. 

Edward Phillips, founder and director of Harvard Medical School’s Institute of Lifestyle Medicine and co-leader of the Think Tank, believes that despite the difficulty, integrating new curriculum that focuses on disease prevention into medical schools is imperative.

“The medical community and medical educators must transform the delivery of health care by shifting clinical care toward improving health behaviors rather than merely treating illness,” Phillips said. “Physicians are open to change—Harvard’s Institute of Lifestyle Medicine has already reached more than 6,080 clinicians in 115 countries through our continuing medical education online classes.”

The Lifestyle Medicine Think Tank will include participants from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bipartisan Policy Center, National Board of Medical Examiners, Association of American Medical Colleges, American Medical Association , NextGenU.org,  Harvard  University, USC School of Medicine Greenville, Stanford University, West Virginia University School of Medicine and the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health.

About the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville

The USC School of Medicine Greenville is the result of a visionary partnership between the state’s largest university, the University of South Carolina (USC), and one of the largest health systems in the Southeast, the Greenville Health System (GHS). Located on the Greenville Memorial Medical Campus, the medical school welcomed its charter class of 53 medical students in fall 2012. The state’s third medical school, the USC School of Medicine Greenville is committed to transforming medical education and preparing the next generation of physicians prepared to lead and practice in a rapidly changing health care environment. Learn more at www.greenvillemed.sc.edu.

 About the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine (ILM)

The ILM was founded in 2007 within the Harvard Medical School Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation to reduce lifestyle-related death and disease in society through clinician-directed interventions with patients. The ILM is at the forefront of a broad-based collaborative effort to transform the practice of medicine to facilitate behavior change and stimulate a culture of health and wellness for patients. A non-profit education, research, and advocacy organization, the ILM is now based at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Learn more

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 09/04/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 09/04/13 @ 1:49 PM | Permalink