Michigan Tech debuts new Health Science and Medicine Lecture Series to improve rural health

HOUGHTON – Students, educators, clinicians, and community members gathered virtually for the UP Health Science and Medicine Summer Lecture last week. The quarterly lecture series aims to build stronger academic-clinical partnerships needed to improve rural health across the Upper Peninsula. Organized by the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology and the Health Research Institute at Michigan Tech University, the lecture series is free and open to anyone interested in learning more about improving their health, explained Steven Elmer, Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology.

The Summer Lecture titled “Exercise is Medicine: Merging Fitness with Healthcare During COVID-19 and Beyond” was delivered by Dr. Robert Sallis, a renowned family and sports medicine physician from the Kaiser Permanente Health Care System in Southern California. Sallis made a strong case that engaging in regular exercise is one of the most powerful tools for: 1) preventing and treating disease, 2) lowering mortality rates, and 3) reducing risk for severe illness with COVID-19. Sallis, a Past President of the American College of Sports Medicine, described how he has been prescribing exercise as a form of medicine for over a decade.

Dr. J. Bryan Dixon, a sports medicine physician with the Advanced Center for Orthopedics and Plastic Surgery in Marquette, provided the open remarks for the lecture. Dixon stated, “Health disparities in rural areas are striking and people living in such areas suffer a greater burden of disease.” Learning more about physician prescribed exercise is an important step to bringing the health benefits of exercise to rural people.”

Both Elmer and Dixon stressed one of the advantages of the virtual lecture series is that leading experts in health science and medicine can be brought in from anywhere in the country through Zoom video conferencing. Indeed, Sallis recently published a landmark research study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that evaluated the links between physical activity level and COVID-19 severity outcomes in 48,000 patients. This work was highlighted in the New York Times, Forbes, CNN, CNBC, and other media outlets. Additionally, the Zoom-based lectures allow busy students, educators, and clinicians to tune in from home or watch the recorded version afterwards. To date, over 200 individuals from across the country have registered for the Spring and Summer UP Health Science and Medicine Lectures.

The immediate next step is for researchers and clinicians in the Upper Peninsula to work together to establish exercise as a vital sign of health where primary care providers assess patient exercise habits and when appropriate, provide an exercise prescription and referral. The next lecture in the series will take place in late Fall. Finally, recorded versions of the Spring and Summer Lectures can be viewed on the Michigan Tech Health Research Institute You Tube Channel.

UP Health Science and Medicine Lecture Series:

— Summer Lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YFzi1Nb0us&t=25s

— Spring Lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0kovoHCYqY


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