It’s only fitting that a medical student and a doctor would have a conversation about nutrition education while pumping iron in a local gym.

A casual chat would quickly turn to shop talk between then first-year med student Aric Sudicky and Dr. Kevin Busche, assistant professor and assistant dean of pre-clerkship in the Department of Undergraduate Medical Education with the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.

Sudicky, a former fitness trainer and model, wanted to see more nutrition and exercise education incorporated into the undergrad medical curriculum.

“I was in the middle of a lecture on epidemiology learning about obesity and diabetes and noticed there wasn’t much teaching around nutrition or exercise or any information on how to counsel patients with specific lifestyle advice,” says Sudicky.  “So I suggested changes to the curriculum. Dr. Busche was very supportive. He said the school had always considered it and welcomed someone to spearhead it.”

Sudicky got the job.

After countless hours of research and meetings, reviewing all lectures, and strong support from the faculty, a three-year-pilot project kicked off in 2015 involving 280 students.

“To our knowledge, we have the first three-year longitudinal, integrated curriculum in lifestyle medicine in Canada,” says Sudicky. “It teaches specific clinical skills in exercise and nutrition prescription … such as knowing what a healthy breakfast looks like, what a strength training program looks like.”

Key to the project’s launch was the adoption of a comprehensive, online program called WellnessRx. Designed for health-care professionals, the five modules on nutrition and lifestyle were researched and developed by a team led by Dr. Leah Gramlich, a gastroenterologist and professor at the University of Alberta who has been involved with nutrition education development for the past 20 years. It’s the first time the comprehensive program has been piloted in its entirety.

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