Yoga, acupuncture, and dance help her patients feel better.
Mariah Stump RES’15, MD, MPH, grew up watching her parents—both chiropractors and acupuncturists—help people get better. But when she wanted to follow in their footsteps, they urged her to become an allopathic physician, “because they’d had such a hard time being accepted in the [medical]field,” she says. Nonetheless, Stump was surprised integrative and lifestyle medicine wasn’t in the curriculum, and “that a lot of this had to be done afterwards on my own.”
The primary care physician earned certification in acupuncture, yoga, and dance therapy, as well as a fellowship in integrative medicine. Now, as an assistant professor of medicine at Brown, she’s making it easier for today’s medical students to follow in her footsteps, with offerings like culinary medicine and a scholarly concentration in which students can study topics like mindfulness, nutrition, or stress management. Her lifestyle medicine clinical elective attracted 10 percent of the fourth-year class last year. “There’s a real call for it,” she says, not only from trainees but patients: “The medical community really has to step forward and investigate these approaches.”
Because evidence-based integrative therapies prioritize lifestyle changes and prevention, they often yield better long-term health and reduce health care costs, she says. “Educating patients that changes in the foods they eat and how much movement they have can have profound changes in their lives,” Stump says. “It’s just that simple.”
Stump leads a virtual yoga class for women physicians as part of a program to fight burnout. “I miss teaching in person so much, but it is very convenient,” she says.
Stump teaches movement therapy and lifestyle changes to fibromyalgia patients. Some have told her, “This is the first time I’ve heard anything other than just, ‘take a medicine.’”
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A lifelong dancer, Stump extols the benefits of dance for chronic conditions like Parkinson’s—and anyone who needs a mood booster. “It’s just so fun!” she says.
Even with mindfulness and yoga, life is stressful for this busy physician mom. “I need to clone myself,” Stump says. “There’s just not enough hours in the week.”
“We are in a ‘sick care’ system, not a health care system,” Stump says. “But chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes are not only preventable but in many cases reversible through lifestyle changes.”