HEAL Scholarship Helps Heal Communities One Physician at a TimeBy Dr. Jamal Lawrence, MD, DipABLM
“The HEAL scholarship was created to provide an avenue for BIPOC healthcare professionals to explore lifestyle medicine as a specialty and help diversify the lifestyle medicine workforce.” – Dr. Jamal Lawrence, MD, DipABLM
If you asked me in college what I would be if I didn’t become a doctor, I would have said a social activist. As I pursued medicine, bridging the gap between the two was not clear to me until learning about the terms “health equity” and “social determinants of health” during training. It was then that my desire to serve my community crystallized into the desire to combine my passion for serving marginalized and underserved patients with my clinical skills into a fulfilling career as a physician. The more I learned about health and wellness, the more I integrated it into my patient conversations. After discovering the field of lifestyle medicine and its effectiveness in treating common chronic medical conditions, I began integrating the foundational concepts into my direct primary care medical practice, Harvest Health MD. Capitalizing on the time I was able to spend with my patients while focusing on education, empowerment, and accountability, I was able to drive discussions around behavioral change – thus leading to improved patient quality of life and reduced disease burden. Despite this, I desired more in-depth study to further my knowledge and increase the value I could provide to patients within my practice and in the broader community. HEAL Scholarship: A bridge between health equity and lifestyle medicine As treatable and preventable chronic diseases continue to disproportionally affect BIPOC patients, it is obvious that lifestyle/behavior changes can be a tool used to combat the health inequities that so many minorities incur. As a black male physician, making up only 3% of US doctors, it was of utmost importance that I served my community in a meaningful way and focused on shifting perspectives toward a culture of health and wellness to bring about long-term change. After learning about the Health Equity Achieved through Lifestyle Medicine (HEAL) Scholarship through the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM), a new pathway emerged that would allow me to bridge the gap between health and wellness, health equity, and my professional development all while driving equitable change for my community. The generous package put together by the sponsors, donors, and ACLM would alleviate a significant portion of the financial burden of obtaining my board certification as a new physician. Thus, I was ecstatic to be selected as a HEAL scholarship recipient and excited to begin my journey.
Benefits of the HEAL Scholarship Becoming a scholarship recipient allowed me to meet like-minded colleagues with a shared value system and desire to improve patient outcomes by focusing on methods shown to have significant impacts on improving overall health and all-cause morbidity and mortality. Attending monthly webinars allowed for networking, and keeping abreast of new lifestyle medicine developments as well as key insights at the interface of lifestyle medicine and health equity. Not only that, but included in the scholarship was the opportunity to attend the annual ACLM conference and gain CME needed for certification. Beyond the networking and education, the scholarship not only covered the cost of the conference and provided a travel stipend, but it even covered the review course and exam cost for certification. The HEAL scholarship was created to provide an avenue for BIPOC healthcare professionals to explore lifestyle medicine as a specialty and help diversify the lifestyle medicine workforce. Through it, I have gained invaluable knowledge that I have taken back to my community to improve care equity and health literacy. I can say without a doubt that this experience was both personally and professionally transformative. If you are a BIPOC healthcare professional who believes in the power of a healthy lifestyle to arrest, prevent, and in some cases reverse disease, applying to be a HEAL Scholar is an opportunity you should not pass up! Dr. Jamal Lawrence, MD is a double board-certified Family Medicine/Lifestyle Medicine physician, the Founder of Harvest Health MD – a Savannah, GA, Direct Primary Care medical practice, and the President of his local medical society. Dr. Jamal Lawrence, MD, DipABLM Family Medicine | Lifestyle Medicine Founder | CEO – Harvest Health MD