Lifestyle Medicine at the USC School of Medicine Greenville

Every medical school is different in terms of values, missions, goals, expectations of their students, and learning environment, as well as the unique elements or traditions that define the school. Jeanne Petrizzo, academic communications coordinator for the University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine Greenville, discusses the school’s emphasis on integrating health and wellness, also known as lifestyle medicine, into all four years of their curriculum, becoming the first in the country to do so. In 2018, lifestyle medicine will become a track of distinction at the medical school.

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Photo Credit: USC School of Medicine Greenville
It’s 5:15 p.m. on a Wednesday, and since it’s sunny out, students are trickling out to the Youkey Education Plaza. Mats begin to dot the courtyard for weekly yoga. Around the corner sits the Medical Roots Garden, full of flowers and fresh produce such as squash, basil, tomatoes and cabbage, which students, faculty, and staff can harvest and enjoy.

These are just some of the signs of health and wellness at the University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine Greenville. But really, it’s the integration of lifestyle medicine (exercise, nutrition, health behavior change, and self-care) in the classroom that is most important. The USC School of Medicine Greenville was the first in the country to fully incorporate exercise and lifestyle medicine into all four years of its medical school curriculum. The purpose of this integration is two-fold: to promote self-care and resiliency to students as they persevere through school, and to equip them with knowledge they can impart to future patients.

“I think [lifestyle medicine] is important in a clinical perspective, as it can help patients stay healthy and avoid the onset of chronic diseases,” said first-year medical student Natalie Bikulege. “On a personal level, I have noticed that staying active and eating healthy while trying to deal with the stress of medical school has been extremely helpful. Even if it is the day before a test, I find time to work out and I think it helps me study more efficiently and let off some steam.”

In 2018, lifestyle medicine will also be offered as a track of distinction at the medical school, and will feature core graduating goals beyond the already existing education of self and patients. The objectives will include being able to evaluate and implement lifestyle medicine-related research, to develop wellness plans for patients that incorporate lifestyle medicine, and to capitalize on other lifestyle medicine-related resources in the community. Jennifer Trilk, PhD, FACSM, is the school’s resident champion of lifestyle medicine and has been instrumental in the core track creation and implementation, as well as fostering lifestyle medicine student interest groups and running the school’s Human Performance Lab, a research arm of lifestyle medicine. Beyond the USC School of Medicine Greenville, she co-founded and currently co-directs the Lifestyle Medicine Education Collaborative, an initiative that provides resources and guidance to other schools that want to incorporate lifestyle medicine into their curricula.

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Photo Credit: USC School of Medicine Greenville
The medical school’s location in Greenville affords students an array of outlets for activity, including hiking and biking trails, farmer’s markets, and locally-sourced grocers. Leah Cooper, a second-year medical student, said she frequently heads to the local state parks or runs and bikes on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. She also said that the USC School of Medicine Greenville’s lifestyle medicine curriculum was a huge draw for her as a pre-med.

 

 


“I knew that learning more about lifestyle medicine in medical school would better equip me to take care of my future patients,” she said. “The most affordable health care is to prevent or reverse lifestyle-related illnesses and diseases through diet, exercise, and stress management.”

The USC School of Medicine Greenville is a four-year medical school located on the main campus of Greenville Health System in Greenville, S.C. For more information, visit greenvillemed.sc.edu.

 

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Article contributed by Jeanne Petrizzo, Academics Communications Coordinator, Greenville Health System, USC School of Medicine Greenville

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