Why is it important for Physician Associates to learn more about nutrition and lifestyle medicine?

Who am I?


My name is Mobashar and I’m a Registered Physician Associate (PA-R). My undergraduate degree was in Audiology, and I worked as an Audiologist in the NHS and private sector,  diagnosing and treating patients with hearing and balance disorders. I was born and raised in Bradford, and my parents hail from the foothills of the Himalayas, from a place called Mirpur, in Kashmir. Having grown up in a “Pahari” family that followed “Unani”  and “Ayurvedic” principles for general wellbeing, and which performed “Muraqabah” (Islamic Sufi meditation), the idea that food, lifestyle and environment influenced our health, wasn’t a foreign concept


How lifestyle medicine motivated me to become a Physician Associate


As an Audiologist I found myself reading about the potential role nutrition and lifestyle played in Audiology. I was interested in learning about how I could take a more holistic approach as an Audiologist, this is when I came across the term lifestyle medicine.

I eventually stumbled upon articles and podcasts by nutrition and lifestyle medicine advocates like Dr Rupy Aujla  and Dr Rangan Chatterjee.

Their advocacy of nutrition + lifestyle medicine and understanding of the term holistic, really resonated with me, it helped put together all the jigsaw pieces. Reading about their work and achievements made me realise that medicine was transforming, this inspired me to study my postgraduate degree in Physician Associate studies…and so began my adventure.

Whilst studying I had a moment of panic, having now experienced first-hand that nutrition + lifestyle medicine wasn’t well understood, and after reading a post on the Doctors’ kitchen website I reached out to Dr Rupy Aujla. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that he kindly emailed me back some words of wisdom- and I powered on. I went onto being awarded a First-class Honours in Physician Associate studies at the University of Bradford and receiving an award for having scored the highest mark in the cohort. I was also offered a job at the G.P practice I did my placement at and I have been working here since.

I also came across Nutritank and the inspiring, work of medical students Ally Jaffee, Ian Broadley and their team. They have highlighted the importance of teaching nutrition + lifestyle medicine in medical schools and raised the profile on the role of nutrition in health, as a student this had motivated me even more. Also, a big congratulations to Dr Ian Broadly the co-founder of Nutritank on his graduation!

I have been following Nutritank’s achievements since, and its been fantastic to see it grow from strength to strength. Nutritank’s collaboration with NNEdPro (Need for Nutrition Education Programme) and Culinary medicine UK, and their commitment to nutrition and lifestyle medicine make them a much needed and key driving force. Nutritank actually have a toolbox on their website which has really useful evidence-based resources for both students and clinicians. Their podcasts are engaging, and informative and its so useful to hear guest speakersimpart their wisdom on all things Nutrition + lifestyle medicine.


Why is it important for Physician Associates to learn about nutrition + lifestyle medicine?

I believe the Physician Associate profession has a lot to offer in the field of lifestyle medicine and nutrition. The Physician Associate role is growing and more and more of us will be working very closely with doctors and other healthcare professionals. As generalists we support doctors in providing excellent patient care.

Learning more about Lifestyle medicine as Physician Associates just like for any other healthcare professional will give us the appropriate skills set to improve patient care and outcomes. It will help us work synergistically with doctors and other healthcare professionals who understand lifestyle medicine, but equally it will help us become advocates of lifestyle medicine allowing us to introduce it to our peers and colleagues. I really believe lifestyle medicine is the answer to many of our patient’s health conditions, and it’s important we all work together to raise this awareness.

The depth of teaching on nutrition + lifestyle medicine is nowhere near what it should be, and this means we can all lack confidence in giving our patients this advice. Doctors training can be steeped in years of orthodoxy and in many ways that’s good, however it has made introducing lifestyle medicine and nutrition challenging. The Masters in Physician Associate studies faces similar challenges, but if we can introduce nutrition + lifestyle medicine to Physician Associates as well, we have another group of medically qualified professionals on board. This means more advocates, more awareness and more change! We can work together and help make a huge difference to our patients.


Are there any examples of when you have used Lifestyle Medicine in GP Land?

Yes! So many! As a Physician Associate I see patients with a variety of conditions, and so I have had many opportunities to provide lifestyle advise. For example, for a patient who had known depression, we discussed triggers, current lifestyle choices, and using a patient centred approach we worked together to formulate a plan. We addressed sleep hygiene including the role of blue light in disrupting sleep. We discussed the importance of nutrition, exercise and vitamin D, as well as self-help apps like headspace.

Motivational interviewing is always key, and its fundamental to these consultations. The consultation was a two-way conversation and dictating change was avoided. Instead the patient chose to make the changes they wanted based on our conversation and certain motivational interviewing techniques, it really is a powerful tool.  I had arranged follow-up appointments with this patient, and they had made significant progress throughout this entire process.


What do we need to do as Physician Associates? 

As Physician Associates we need to play an active role in understanding why lifestyle medicine and nutrition is important. We need to make efforts to supplement our training, so we too are equipped with the appropriate tools to help our patients. I believe we are at an important time in our profession, our role as Physician Associates is still relatively new and flexible making it the most appropriate time for us to makes changes. However, we need to reach out to our fellow lifestyle medicine advocates in order to do this. I am therefore using this blog to reach out to you…


What can you do to help?

I want to work towards a future where we as Physician Associates are working with other healthcare professionals with the shared knowledge and understanding that nutrition and lifestyle medicine is paramount in-patient care. A future where we can help improve patient health outcomes using nutrition and lifestyle medicine. Physician Associates like all healthcare professional need to be involved in lifestyle medicine and nutrition.

But in order to do this I need your help, I need you to reach out and have those discussions about how we as Physician Associates can get involved.  How we can work with you and help. How together we can raise the profile on nutrition and lifestyle medicine and make a difference.


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