The emerging field, Lifestyle Medicine (LM), is the evidence-based practice of assisting individuals and families to adopt and sustain behaviors that can improve health. While competencies for LM education have been defined, and undergraduate curricula have been published, there are no published reports that address graduate level fellowship in LM. This paper describes the process of planning a LM fellowship curriculum at a major, academic teaching institution.
In September 2012 Harvard Medical School Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation approved a “Research Fellowship in Lifestyle Medicine”. A Likert scale questionnaire was created and disseminated to forty LM stakeholders worldwide, which measured perceived relative importance of six domains and eight educational experiences to include in a one-year LM fellowship. Statistical procedures included analysis of variance and the Wilcoxon signed-rank test.
Thirty-five stakeholders (87.5%) completed the survey. All domains except smoking cessation were graded at 4 or 5 by at least 85% of the respondents. After excluding smoking cessation, nutrition, physical activity, behavioral change techniques, stress resiliency, and personal health behaviors were rated as equally important components of a LM fellowship curriculum (average M = 4.69, SD = 0.15, p = 0.12). All educational experiences, with the exception of completing certification programs, research experience and fund raising, were graded at 4 or 5 by at least 82% of the responders. The remaining educational experiences, i.e. clinical practice, teaching physicians and medical students, teaching other health care providers, developing lifestyle interventions and developing health promotion programs were ranked as equally important in a LM fellowship program (average M = 4.23, SD = 0.11, p = 0.07).
Lifestyle fellowship curricula components were defined based on LM stakeholders’ input. These domains and educational experiences represent the range of competencies previously noted as important in the practice of LM. As the foundation of an inaugural physician fellowship, they inform the educational objectives and future evaluation of this fellowship.