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The CUNY School of Medicine is a seven-year BS/MD program receiving its preliminary LCME accreditation in 2015. The program is based on the success of the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education founded in 1973 specifically to address societal issues related to care of the underserved and the numbers of underrepresented minority physicians. The mission of the CUNY School of Medicine is to produce broadly-educated, highly-skilled medical practitioners to provide quality health services to communities historically underserved by primary care practitioners. The School recruits and educates a diverse, talented pool of students, expanding access to medical education to individuals with limited financial resources from underserved communities, and who are of racial/ethnic backgrounds historically underrepresented in the medical profession.

In 2015 the School launched a new curriculum which includes a year-long lifestyle medicine course taken in the second year of the program. The content of the lifestyle medicine course, known as Practice of Medicine 1 emphasizes the importance of lifestyle factors in health and covers topics such as sleep, healthy eating, physical activity, stress management, social connectedness, spirituality, tobacco and substance abuse avoidance. In lectures and small group sessions, students learn to conduct literature searches, critically assess medical literature, and appreciate the strong body of evidence supporting the associations between lifestyle behaviors and health. The last few sessions of the Practice of Medicine 1 course focus on behavior change methods, including the Stages of Change model and Brief Action Planning.

In a second year-long course, Practice of Medicine 2, students learn health coaching techniques and practice with standardized patients as they use the behavior change skills they have learned on cases with conditions related to smoking cessation, healthy eating, and physical activity. Practice of Medicine 2 continues to provide didactic sessions on health coaching (first semester) and introduces students to health systems science (second semester). The students then begin a longitudinal clinical experience that spans the next three years of their curriculum (final year of college and first two years of medical school).

At the CUNY School of Medicine, we hope to create a culture among the students of health consciousness and repeatedly stress the importance of physicians as role models. For example, we have purposely designed the environment to support healthy lifestyles.  At student gatherings, we strive to provide healthy meals, snacks, and beverages. There are two fitness centers on campus, one adjacent to the School of Medicine and one in the dormitory. Both are free and students are encouraged to use them. The entire College campus is smoke-free.  To increase student’s self-awareness and to manage stress, mindfulness sessions are offered twice a week at various times each day.

To encourage physical activity and to provide our students with an opportunity to interact with people in our community, we have started a Walk with a Future Doc (WWFD) program. One of the first of its kind in U.S. medicine schools, this program is affiliated with the national initiative known as Walk with a Doc. The mission is to encourage healthy physical activity in people of all ages to improve health and well-being across the country. Walk with a Future Doc has a similar mission with a focus on the local Harlem population. Led by the BS/MD students at Sophie Davis, Walk with a Future Doc provides guided walks, informational talks about various health related topics, and social support to encourage healthy lifestyles. Walk with a Future Doc has developed partnerships with the Harlem YMCA, local NYC police department precincts, and our own CCNY community, including staff from Public Safety, Social Media and Communications, and summer high school pipeline programs. Through participation in WWFD students enjoy walking their way to better health, while at the same time discovering how walking and talking can be a valuable opportunity to learn how to offer social support and develop relationships that will serve them well as future physicians.

This seven-year program gives us ample opportunity to introduce and reinforce the concept of lifestyle medicine. By weaving lifestyle medicine throughout the curriculum students develop expertise in health promotion while they are learning about disease and its prevention. We believe that by introducing important components of lifestyle medicine to college sophomores, these students will use the information for their own health benefits and thus learn to embrace the importance of promoting a healthy lifestyle to their patients when they begin to practice medicine. The course topics and curriculum that include motivational interviewing and behavior change strategies, in conjunction with the environmental supports we have in place, gives us optimism that our students will be well-informed and effective change agents developing the confidence required to include lifestyle medicine in their future practices.


Joan M. Dorn, PhD
Professor and Chair
Department of Community Health and Social Medicine
CUNY School of Medicine

Dr. Joan Dorn is a Medical Professor and Chair of the Department of Community Health and Social Medicine at the City University of New York (CUNY), School of Medicine. She received her PhD. in Epidemiology and Community Health from the State University of New York, University at Buffalo in 1993. She completed an American Heart Association postdoctoral fellowship and later joined the faculty in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. Prior to coming to the CUNY School of Medicine, she served as Chief of the Physical Activity and Health Branch in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Darwin Deen, MD, MS
Medical Professor
Department of Academic Affairs and Medical Education
CUNY School of Medicine

Dr. Darwin Deen attended Albert Einstein College of Medicine and has an MS degree in Human Nutrition from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeon’ Institute of Human Nutrition. He completed residency training in Family Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center’s Residency Program in Social Medicine and practiced primary care in community health centers for over 30 years. He has also been teaching nutrition in medical schools, residency programs and faculty development and CME programs throughout his career. He is an editor of Medical Nutrition and Disease, one of the most widely used nutrition texts by medical schools. In 2015, he initiated a course in Lifestyle Medicine for the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.

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