- College of Medicine Faculty News
Recent studies show that lifestyle medicine – managing nutrition, stress, and physical activity – is an effective first-line treatment for multiple diseases like diabetes and heart disease. However, research also suggests that more than half of primary care physicians are uncomfortable prescribing lifestyle medicine for treating diseases such as obesity.
“It’s mostly for a lack of knowledge,” explains associate professor of medicine Dr. Magdalena Pasarica. “Lifestyle medicine has not been taught in medical schools for a long time as it was not considered very effective. Also, medical students have a lot to learn during their studies, and so lifestyle medicine has always taken a back seat in previous years. But this is changing.”
To that end, Dr. Pasarica and Dr. David Harris, associate professor of physiology, have designed and published an interactive lifestyle medicine learning module that was recently accepted by MedEdPORTAL Publications, the official journal for the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). A poster presentation of the learning module has also been accepted for the 2016 AAMC Annual Meeting in Seattle this November.
“I was looking for an active learning resource for my class and there was nothing, so I went ahead and developed this,” Dr. Pasarica said. “It’s quite flattering that we are getting this published, but more importantly, other colleges will be able to use this resource with their students.”
She used the “Collaborative learning activity utilizing evidence based medicine to improve medical student learning of the lifestyle management of obesity” module with second-year students in her endocrinology class last fall. The module not only teaches students about nutrition and weight loss programs, but facilitates critical thinking, clinical decision making, personalized patient care and collaborative learning.
Students read an evidence-based article about commercial weight loss programs and their effectiveness. Then they worked in groups to determine which program would be most effective with the particular obese patient they have been assigned. Each team presented their recommendation to the class and led discussions on their recommendation.
An evaluation of the module showed that it effectively developed students’ interpretation and knowledge integration skills, which faculty hope will increase their confidence in discussing lifestyle management with patients.
“I want to have this available for our students and residents so that when they become practicing physicians they will actually be comfortable with prescribing lifestyle medicine,” Dr. Pasarica noted. “Especially for us family medicine physicians, prevention is very important. Yes, lifestyle management is more difficult and time consuming to prescribe than drugs. But the reality is, the gain for the patient is much better if you prevent the disease.”
Three residency programs have already connected with Dr. Pasarica about using the module, which is also being used in Florida Hospital’s Family Medicine residency program.