Integrative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra has joined the UCF College of Medicine as a volunteer faculty member to provide electives and other programs on the mind/body connection for health and well-being.
Chopra has been a regular visitor to Lake Nona, taking part in the annual Lake Nona Impact Forum, which draws worldwide experts on health innovation, wellness and technology. More recently Chopra has made Lake Nona a more permanent home and will be spending time working with the medical school, his Chopra Foundation and the new Lake Nona Performance Club, a medically supervised fitness facility.
“One of the things that drew me to the medical city is the diversity of talent, and diversity of education and diversity, training in very disparate fields of information technologies, and also the biological sciences,” Chopra says.
His focus is how medicine and technology can come together to provide better health monitoring, disease prevention and mental and physical health. His research with the Chopra Foundation is looking at technology and artificial intelligence to support mental health, particularly using chatbots to reduce suicide by making counseling more accessible.
“Every event that happens in the mind is registered in the body and vice versa,” he says. “And so we can look at a more holistic, integrative way of understanding what we call the healing process. I think as we understand more about that, the future of well-being becomes very precise, very personalized, preventable, predictable, participatory and process oriented.”
Chopra first studied medicine in India before coming to the U.S. and has taught at Tufts, Harvard and Boston University. Trained as an endocrinologist, Chopra currently also serves as adjunct professor of urology at Mount Sinai, clinical professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, and as a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization. He has also collaborated with researchers at Duke University and Scripps Health.
Sharon Wasserstrom, a lifestyle medicine specialist at UCF Health and medical director at the Lake Nona Performance Club, is working with Chopra on developing programs on making healthier lifestyle choices. Medical students have the opportunity to conduct research with club members on how the performance programs can help better manage chronic diseases such as diabetes.
“We can help both our future health professionals, our community, and hopefully build a hub for both integrative medicine and lifestyle medicine, to grow and learn ways to implement this, that can be achievable for everybody,” says Wasserstrom.
Jeffrey LaRochelle, associate dean for Academic Affairs, says Chopra’s courses will help students better connect with patients to help motivate them to make healthy choices and will complement the traditional curriculum. “It brings is another pathway for people to understand why it is important to change their lifestyles and the impact it can have to control of their own health,” he says.
Chopra says the College of Medicine partnership offers an opportunity to create programs that will impact multiple learners.
“We’re looking forward to creating some programs here for medical students, residents, certification association with other integrative platforms across the country, a telemedicine integrated platform,” he says.