There are many instances in which physicians-in-training put the health of others over their own well-being. Though this is our Public Health issue for 2013, several articles look at how the difficulty and culture of medical training impact the individual med student’s health. In a way, these are types of health illiteracy even among medical trainees.
For me, this issue is a milestone. I have been moderately overweight for much of my adult life. My job, like most office work, is fairly sedentary, but the real problem for me is what— and how—I eat. (As you’ll read in Dr. Shilin Patel’s piece on page 15, it’s diet—more so than lack of exercise—that’s a stumbling block for physicians, too.) One afternoon last May, sitting at my desk regretfully digesting another indulgent Extra Value Meal, I pulled up an article in last year’s Public Health issue to see what app then-fourth-year Steven Chan had used to lose weight despite the stress of medical school. Within a few minutes, I’d downloaded MyFitnessPal and added the day’s meals, marveling at my caloric intake. Almost immediately I began to make different choices. Most were obvious, but it was much easier to resist temptation when the numbers were right in my face. And within a week I could see the physical results, which closely followed the road map I’d calculated in the app. It was gratifying. Really, I’ve only lost 23 pounds since then. It’s not a lot by many measures, but I’m now (barely) inside the range for “normal” BMI, and more importantly, it reinforced the idea for me that I could control my fitness.
Patel’s piece goes on to discuss how physicians’ own fitness affects their ability to counsel patients, and how medical school makes it tough to get started on a healthy path. Likewise, Janice Neumann’s feature story examines how the culture of medicine and medical education results in a reluctance to report self-injuries. Her story, which begins on page 24, also explains how some schools are addressing this danger. But before you put on another pair of gloves, be sure to read Avery Hurt’s quick advice on page 13 about needlesticks and other injuries.
On the broader health literacy front, this issue’s cover story, by JoAnna Haugen, examines how health literacy can be spread among the patient population through entertainment media. You’ll find her feature on page 18.
Finally, we’d love to hear about how med school has affected your health. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.