A Plug for Healthy Living On A Healthy Budget

I got this interesting brochure in the mail a few days ago from Mayo Clinic, “Healthy Living Program for Physicians: An immersive experience that will benefit you and your patients.” There are several sessions a year at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center in Rochester, Minnesota.

I am not minimizing the importance of the center by any means in the remarks that follow. Mr. Dan Abraham is the founder of Slimfast and gave a generous gift to establish the center because Mayo Clinic saved his life many times. The Healthy Living Center is a wellness facility for Mayo Clinic staff. In Mr. Abraham’s own words,

“Now we are embarked on an even greater course — healthy living programs for all patients who come to Mayo Clinic and, eventually, for all Americans,” he says. “Our goal is to help improve the quality of life and reduce health care costs in the United States. This innovative center will help make America stronger and more competitive by helping people enjoy greater health and longer life expectancy.”

The program addresses physician burnout and sounds like a practical way to implement the goals of the Collaborative for Health and Renewal in Medicine (CHARM)—Arnold P. Gold Foundation Charter on Physician Well-Being, outlined recently in JAMA (Thomas LR, Ripp JA, West CP. Charter on Physician Well-being. JAMA. Published online March 29, 2018. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.1331):

Thomas, L. R., et al. (2018). “Charter on physician well-being.” JAMA. Dedication to serving the interest of the patient is at the heart of medicine’s contract with society. When physicians are well, they are best able to meaningfully connect with and care for patients. However, challenges to physician well-being are widespread, with problems such as dissatisfaction, symptoms of burnout, relatively high rates of depression, and increased suicide risk affecting physicians from premedical training through their professional careers. These problems are associated with suboptimal patient care, lower patient satisfaction, decreased access to care, and increased health care costs.

I got a sticker shock, though. The organizers charge $3900 per person.

OK, I admit I have a hang-up about such a high-priced event that sounds a little like a classy spa for doctors. However, I definitely get it that physician burnout is on the rise and less-stressed physicians are good for patients. However, Sena and I had a nice time as the Sundara Spa in Wisconsin Dells years ago. The music was very relaxing. I think the best selection was the Mozart Tuba Concerto in B flat moderate opus 47 K9bowwow with free range okra deslimed performed by Sam’s Club Band. I know just as much about classical and New Age music as I do about healthy living.

Getting back to the Minnesota program, the 3-day course sounds terrific and targets internal medicine specialists “and any health care professional interested in health and wellness.”

I guess that means psychiatrists could show up—as long as our bank accounts are healthy enough.

I think part of the cost seems to be for the cardiovascular stress test and a physician-led assessment. Would my health insurance cover at least part of that?

In all fairness, the program offers a lot of education about neat stuff, including N.E.A.T. or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. I learned a bit about this from an on-line article which the author supported using a paper by a Mayo Clinic Endocrine Unit researcher, James A. Levine. (Levine, J. (2003). Non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 62(3), 667-679. doi:10.1079/PNS2003281).

According to Levine, “Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended that is not from sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting…. NEAT may be a carefully-regulated ‘tank’ of physical activity that is crucial for weight control.”

The message for physicians and patients is to get up and move around more since we tend to be sedentary. There’s also guidance about nutrition called “Cooking Well.”

Also, there is a session on Stress Management and Resiliency Training or SMART which, according to Dr. Amit Sood, MD at the Mayo Clinic, is a structured program which helps decrease stress and anxiety while building sustainable resilience and mindfulness. He mentions the Default Mode Network of the human brain which can lead to our getting stuck in negative ruminations, which you can learn more about at the National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative (NNCI) web site in the Self Study section under “Brief Accessible Reviews.” The title is “Default Mode Network: The Basics for Psychiatrists.”

You can also learn about SMART by checking out the LIVEWELL site at The University of Iowa. We may not use that exact name, but the principles are very similar.

There is a session on Pilates, which I learned is pronounced puh-lah-teez, not pie-lates. It’s like yoga but it’s more about your body’s core. If I had been doing Pilates before I climbed up on my roof a couple of days ago to do some tree trimming, I might be less sore today. I’m pretty sure the Minnesota program won’t teach yoga the way I learned it–and you can be glad.

There are a few places to learn Pilates in Iowa City, I noticed from a little google search–possibly for less money.

If you’re a physician in phased retirement or retired, anticipating personal budget cuts, and trying to save up money for other fun things that don’t typically break the bank, you could look at another handy web page on the University of Iowa LIVEWELL site which also encourages you to keep your financial well-being in mind as well as mindfulness in general.

By all means, if you can afford it, check out the Healthy Living Program for Physicians. We’ll be waiting for you in Iowa whenever you’re ready. While you’re up in Minnesota, there are other immersive ways to live well, if not healthy. You’re welcome.

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