Hospitalist Mary Brittain Blankenship, MD, describes how the AIHM Interprofessional Fellowship in Integrative Health & Medicine is already improving her practice
AIHM Fellow Mary Brittain Blankenship, MD received her medical degree from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. She completed her residency in internal medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Dr. Blankenship is board certified in internal medicine and has worked as a cardiovascular hospitalist at Intermountain Medical Center in Utah and currently as a medical hospitalist at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. She is a member of the American College of Physicians and Society of Hospitalist Medicine.
Dr. Blankenship approaches treatment in partnership with her patients. Through the AIHM Interprofessional Fellowship, which she describes as an eye-opening and practice-altering experience, her approach to medicine is becoming even more holistic.
“I no longer see conventional medicine as the sole therapy available in a physician’s armamentarium.”
My Journey to Becoming an AIHM Fellow
Black and white. That was my perception of medicine as an undergraduate student. A patient has a disease, medicine is administered and there is improvement. However, following medical school, an internal medicine residency and working four years as a hospitalist, my understanding of medicine has changed. I no longer see conventional medicine as the sole therapy available in a physician’s armamentarium. I now recognize how conventional medicine is complemented by nutrition, preventive health measures and homeopathic treatments.
As a busy hospitalist, I routinely treat very sick patients. Patients are ill for a multitude of reasons, many of which are caused by lifestyle choices. Many of my patients have a limited understanding of their diseases, particularly regarding nutrition and sedentation and how these choices affect their bodies. Some of the blame for this lack of knowledge falls with physicians. Healthcare has become “reactive.” As physicians, we treat endpoints. Too little time in clinic and at hospital discharge is spent on preventive health education with patients. This is partially because there is limited time with patients for these discussions, but also because many physicians do not have this knowledge to impart to patients. Wellness, nutrition and exercise science were not part of my medical school curriculum or residency training. During my time as a physician, I have become increasingly interested in how these subjects can be used to treat and prevent illnesses, ultimately improving patient care. That is why I pursued the AIHM Interprofessional Fellowship.
Some of the most rewarding parts of my day occur when I have time to sit down with patients and discuss various risk factors associated with new diagnoses. With the knowledge I have already gleaned from this Fellowship, I can help patients formulate a plan to tackle each modifiable risk factor. I often find that middle-aged patients are just learning that what one puts into her or his body affects how it performs. Our health system has failed patients in this regard. Patients should be advised of these risks long before admission to a hospital. As a hospitalist, I am using this Fellowship to provide education and integrative practices in the inpatient setting so that patients are educated and motivated to make changes when they are discharged. Hospitalizations are often habit-altering and life-changing for patients. As a result, I think this is an impactful time for these discussions.
As an avid cook, marathoner and mother, I am constantly researching ways to incorporate healthier practices into my life as well as my patients’ lives. The knowledge I am obtaining through the AIHM Fellowship is allowing me to provide a more holistic approach to treating my patients in the inpatient setting. I am currently in my second quarter, and it has already been an eye-opening and practice-transforming experience.