Four women smile in front of foliage

Seven physicians at Loma Linda University Health received the first-ever board certification in lifestyle medicine, making it the organization with the largest number of newly-certified practitioners in the country. The certification was introduced by the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine (ABLM) at the Lifestyle Medicine 2017 conference in October.

The certified physicians include Camille Clarke, Ingrid Edshteyn, Margarete Ezinwa, Cheryl Green, Brenda Rea, Karen Studer, and April Wilson. They were among 200 physicians and over 40 health clinicians who sat for the exam and passed. The certification designates them as diplomates of the ABLM.

To qualify for the exam, applicants were required to:

  • Be board certified in another specialty area
  • Complete 30 hours of approved training in an online program
  • Complete 10 hours of in-person CME courses
  • Complete a case study.

Loma Linda University Health has been at the forefront of lifestyle medicine and it “has been a part of our heritage and roots since the first Sanitarium opened in 1905,” said Brenda Rea, MD, DrPH, PT, RD, family and preventive medicine physician.

According to Rea, lifestyle medicine is about finding and treating the underlying cause of a disease. The goal is to change behaviors, such as nutrition, sleep habits, spiritual well-being and physical activity. Currently, chronic disease accounts for 70 to 80 percent of all health care expenditures according to the ABLM.

“As we learn more about medicine, we’re starting to appreciate that a lot of the diseases we see are reversible with lifestyle medicine,” said April Wilson, MD, MPH, chair of the Preventive Medicine Department. “We can reverse hypertension, diabetes, metabolic conditions and some autoimmune diseases.”

It’s common for many patients to see a physician primarily for sick care, says Rea, but the goal at Loma Linda University Health is to flip this paradigm and offer a resource to help individuals become healthier or maintain good health. “We give them the support to make the change if they want to,” Rea said.

In 2017, Loma Linda University Health opened a Lifestyle Medicine Consultation Service Line that offers lifestyle coaching to patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Soon after, the first lifestyle medicine fellowship was created. The program is designed to prepare the fellows to complete their lifestyle medicine board exam next year.

According to Wilson, chronic disease is occurring at increasingly younger ages. “The generation that has been born in the last 10 years is predicted to have a shorter life span than their parents due to increasing rates of obesity,” Wilson said. “The urgency to solve these problems and other disabilities is critical.”

The team at Loma Linda University Health is currently developing tools, in partnership with other entities, to assess the presence or absence of healthy behaviors in environmental and social factors. Rea says the Graduate Medical Education at Loma Linda University offers a lifestyle medicine component in family and preventive medicine. She hopes an increasing cohort of physicians will focus on lifestyle coaching in the future.

In addition, Wilson serves as director for a required longitudinal course devoted to helping medical students learn how to make lifestyle recommendations throughout their entire third year clerkships.

Rea and Wilson would love for all of Loma Linda University Health’s primary care and preventive medicine physicians to train for the lifestyle medicine board certification.

“We continue to be leaders in this space,” says Wilson, full-time faculty at Loma Linda University. “The certification validates lifestyle medicine as a legitimate field and that we are qualified as practitioners to do the work we have been doing for more than 100 years at this institution.”

The next U.S. exam will take place on Oct. 25 at the 2018 ACLM Lifestyle Medicine Conference in Indianapolis.