By April M. Wilson ’06, Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine, LLUSM
“We want to elevate preventive medicine on this campus and nationally!” A group of enthusiastic Loma Linda University Health (LLUH) preventive medicine residents shared this message with me as a brand-new program director in the fall of 2016. But how could I help them accomplish this? As a new program director, I gratefully received guidance and mentoring from the interim chair, Richard H. Hart, DrPH, ’70, and the 2003-2014 chair, Wayne S. Dysinger ’86. Then in December 2017, I was honored to be appointed as chair of the department, working alongside faculty who have been strategically advancing preventive medicine for over 40 years.
The Occupational Medicine Center, staffed by Amy J. Reese ’10, Haitham Juma, MD, and Akbar Sharip, MD, provides high quality care for Inland Empire employers (including LLUH). Due to their intensive efforts to establish our clinic as the provider of choice, we see ongoing growth in our market share as employers shift their contracts to LLUH.
The Center for Health Promotion (CHP), with Warren R. Peters ’69 serving as medical director, focuses on prevention-driven primary care and student health. New patient volume records were set this spring in the travel medicine clinic led by T. Allan Darnell ’95 and Peter Bastian, MD.
We have a strong presence at SACHS, where our primary care preventive medicine faculty Kenneth W. Hart ’69 and Alma Palisoc, MD, received awards for the quality of care provided and where Bonnie I. Chi-Lum ’91 was promoted to chief medical officer in 2018.
Michael Orlich, MD, has taken on leadership in the Adventist Health Study (AHS) and recently secured grant funding through Ardmore Institute of Health (AIH) to continue advancing this research. Dr. Peters is leading his class to raise funds for an endowed chair of obesity research. There are currently seven different studies either underway or in the planning stages.
Lifestyle medicine (LM) has always been important to LLUH and to the preventive medicine department, yet it is a relatively new approach to care within the traditional medical model (AAMC recently highlighted LM as an emerging specialty). For the past four years, we have been strategically engaged in positioning ourselves as leaders in this field. We are weaving our Adventist health message, which has now been confirmed as an evidence-based approach to care, into our teaching, healing, and research missions.
In 2015, I piloted a new inpatient LM service line, which is now led by Tonya Cramer, MD, and growing quickly. Brenda L. Rea ’11, who splits her time between family medicine and preventive medicine, spearheaded the outpatient LM clinic development. These clinical venues allowed us to start an LM fellowship program in 2017, and we have successfully retained the first two graduates as faculty. Support from the School of Medicine has been strong, and we are in the midst of developing a comprehensive LM curriculum for the medical students. In the residency arena, Dr. Rea and Dr. Cramer are leaders in the development of an AIH grant-funded lifestyle medicine residency curriculum (LMRC), which will be available to residencies nationwide. LLUH is currently a pilot site for this curriculum (in the family medicine, preventive medicine, and family/preventive medicine residencies).
Looking back, I see that the residents’ desire to elevate preventive medicine has been substantially realized. I am extremely proud of all that our small team has accomplished over the past few years. We have grown our clinical footprint, developed educational opportunities, graduated highly qualified residents, and led our field nationally. Looking forward, I have confidence that this is just the beginning of what we will accomplish.
Dr. Wilson enjoys education and administration and is board certified in both preventive and lifestyle medicine.
PREVENTIVE MEDICINE FACULTY SPOTLIGHTS:
Akbar Sharip, MD
Dr. Akbar Sharip joined the LLUH family as a preventive medicine resident in 2009 and then continued with an occupational medicine residency in 2011. He became the occupational medicine residency program director in 2013 and has grown and elevated the program tremendously. Across campus, the occupational medicine residency is known for having some of the most satisfied and healthiest residents, based on internal and external survey scores. In informal interviews with residents and faculty, there are frequent and consistent comments on the positive, collegial working environment at our occupational medicine clinic.
Networking and collaborative connections are some of Dr. Sharip’s strengths. He has intentionally volunteered with his national and regional professional college and has risen to prominent roles in the past few years. He was president of the occupational and environmental medicine residency program directors committee in 2017-18 and is currently serving as chair for the Western Occupational Health Conference (San Diego, August 2019). In addition to all these leadership roles, he has been active academically, publishing four articles in the past three years. All of these efforts have resulted in a high level of respect for our LLUH occupational medicine residents; they are highly sought-after due to the rigor of the training program and our national reputation. Recent graduates have gone on to work for Exxon-Mobil and American Airlines.
Dr. Sharip is devoted to his four children and his wife, Mihray, who also works at LLUH as an environmental health specialist. In his free time he enjoys gardening (has 40 fruit trees) and traveling to new destinations.
Karen R. Studer ’10
“LLUH has dominated the ACPM (American College of Preventive Medicine) meetings this year!” assistant professor Tonya Cramer, MD, exclaimed. Thanks to Dr. Karen R. Studer’s strategic involvement in her professional college, five faculty members were speakers, three residents were moderators, and two posters were presented at the annual meeting in May 2019. Dr. Studer also writes questions for the American Board of Preventive Medicine, extending our national presence.
Joining our department as faculty in 2014, Dr. Studer began work at the Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinics, where she treats conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and tobacco dependence. That same year, she was recognized as teacher of the year by the preventive medicine residency program. Serving the underserved is one of her passions, and she is both a member of the board of directors as well as a regular volunteer physician at the Cornerstone Free Clinic in San Bernardino.
In July 2015, as an associate program director, she advocated for and then secured funding for the MPH component of the residency program. (Previously residents had to pay for this additional degree personally.) This benefit allows us to recruit stronger, more competitive applicants. At the same time, she launched a new didactic curriculum called “Livin’ It,” where residents spent part of their weekly teaching conference directly engaging in healthy behaviors (exercise, nutrition, gratitude, etc.). This initial program grew to become a key component of the current grant-funded lifestyle medicine residency curriculum (LMRC). Dr. Studer advanced to become the program director of the preventive medicine residency in July 2019.