Dr. Emily Sheahan has joined a group of 204 physicians and 43 other health clinicians who became the first medical professionals in the world to be certified as Diplomates of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine.
The group members received their certifications at the American College of Lifestyle Medicine’s conference in Tuscon, Ariz., in October.
“I’ve always been interested in getting my patients to improve their health by increasing physical activity, making better food choices and making positive changes in their social environment,” said Sheahan, who helped lead the Complete Health Improvement Plan, or CHIP, over the last few years with general surgeon Dr. Kenneth Rose.
“With CHIP, I saw how much you can reverse chronic disease by changing your daily lifestyle habits, and this motivated me to learn more through this certification program,” Sheahan said.
According to American College of Lifestyle Medicine director Stephan Herzog, the way physicians work with patients needs to change.
“Gone are the days of diagnosing the ill, prescribing the pill, and sending the bill,” said Herzog. “That approach worked so well in combating communicable disease, but it is hopelessly inadequate in the fight against chronic disease.”
Chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are increasingly believed to be the result of lifestyle factors.
“Nourishment, movement, resilience and social connectedness will become the focal point of physicians in addressing the underlying causes of chronic disease, with increasing numbers of medical schools training their student in the principles of lifestyle medicine,” said Herzog.
To gain certification, Sheahan passed an extensive exam after completing the 30-hour class and attending the conference. Lifestyle medicine, as defined by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, is focused on evidence-based therapeutic approaches, with a focus on a whole food, plant-based diet, physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, tobacco cessation and other healthy habits to prevent, treat and often reverse chronic disease.
Dr. Sheahan has already been a local pioneer in lifestyle medicine, inaugurating the “Diabetes Undone” program to help those suffering from diabetes meet regularly to provide support for lifestyle changes.
“Several patients have lost weight and reduced or even eliminated their diabetes medications,” said Sheahan. “They are feeling so much better, and it just motivates me to encourage more lifestyle medicine approaches.”
The International Board of Lifestyle Medicine was formed in November 2015 in Nashville, Tenn., by a group of visionary physicians who saw the need to educate physicians and other health professionals about Lifestyle Medicine; set standards and a common language for Lifestyle Medicine protocols globally; set a global Lifestyle Medicine benchmark; and attract health insurance funding for evidence-based Lifestyle Medicine by requiring that fund receivers be formally certified.
“The more we can address the underlying causes of chronic disease, rather than just bandage symptoms, the more we can reduce the costs of health care, and lead people to live their best and most productive lives,” said Dr. Sheahan.