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Student launches Physician Assistant Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group

April 2, 2021

Drexel University Physician Assistant Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group graphicKaitlin Kelly, a student in the College of Nursing and Health Professions Physician Assistant program, started a group for Drexel and other students of medicine in the area. The Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group is completely student-run and hosts monthly events to discuss appealing topics in which they want to dive more deeply. “I founded the Drexel Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group as a place where CNHP students and faculty could learn and share about Lifestyle Medicine as the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic intervention, such as the role of a plant-predominant diet, physical activity, sleep health, and mental health to prevent, treat, and often reverse chronic disease. This group serves as a community to explore these topics and how to incorporate them into our training,” Kelly expressed.

Julie Kinzel, MEd, director of the program and interim chair of the Physician Assistant Department, explained that a group like this allows students to tailor content to their curiosities which extends classroom learning. “When relevant information is presented without the pressure of taking notes and exams, it becomes valuable to the participant and a way to engage and learn about a complimentary topic that will benefit them as PAs,” shared Kinzel. “Additionally, having another presenter approach a topic a little differently adds to their overall understanding of more complex medical issues,” she added.

Drexel University Physician Assistant Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group flyer for April 7 event.Kelly secures speakers and collaborates with other groups and institutions to produce well-organized discussions benefitting any student in a healthcare or medical program. Last month, Kelly worked with Rutgers School of Medicine Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group to present “Sleep as Medicine” with Phillip Gehrman, PhD. He is a clinical psychologist at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center and directs the Sleep, Neurobiology and Psychopathology lab at the University of Pennsylvania. “This inter-institutional event covered topics ranging from sleep and immunity and getting good sleep after a night shift to blue light and technology and the differences in sleeping habits now versus the Victorian era,” Kelly described. “An interesting take-away from the discussion on sleep and immunity was that the brain rids itself of waste during sleep. Since there are no lymph nodes in the brain, the space between neurons and glial cells widens so that waste is able to drain and clear. This only occurs during sleep!” furthered Kelly.

The Drexel Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group will continue to host discussions on nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress management, mental health, and more in the upcoming spring quarter. The group’s next event is on April 7, 2021. Kelly lined up a very distinguished presenter—Caldwell Esselstyn, MD. This presentation, again being hosted by the Drexel and Rutgers Lifestyle Medicine Interest Groups, is titled The Arrest and Reversal of Cardiovascular Disease with Nutrition: Fact or Fiction? Esselstyn, long-associated with the Cleveland Clinic, is renowned for benchmark long-term nutritional research preventing and reversing coronary artery disease using plant-based nutrition.

“Ms. Kelly has created a rich space for fueling enthusiasm and learning outside of the traditional medical classroom. Her passion and initiative have made it possible for students and faculty to come together to enjoy medicine in a relaxed way and to look to the future as they train in their disciplines. I’m very proud that Kaitlin chose Drexel for her PA education,” shared Adrian Banning, DHSc, associate clinical professor in the PA Program.

Kelly is planning upcoming talks about stress, exercise and mental health and is also working toward making the Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group and official Drexel University student organization. For more information about the group, email Kelly at or check out the group’s social media page.

Use this link to RSVP for the April 7 event.

-Written by Roberta S. Perry