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Family Physician's Running Leads by Example


Talking the talk - it's something physicians do routinely when doling out advice to their patients on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Walking the walk, however, is another matter.

Talking the talk — it’s something physicians do routinely when doling out advice to their patients on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Walking the walk, however, is another matter; but it’s an area that Tasha Wallace, MD, a board-certified family physician, has well covered. In fact, Wallace doesn’t just walk, she runs.

Challenged to lose weight after the birth of her second child, Wallace sought out Medi-Weight Loss Clinics, a doctor-supervised program of diet, exercise and lifestyle change, based in Ft. Myers, Fla. She lost 20 pounds in six weeks, became a franchise owner of a Medi-Weight Loss Clinic in her Lehigh Acres, Fla.-based practice, and now she routinely wakes at 5 a.m. to train for the marathons in which she competes. She recently qualified for the April 14, 2012 Boston Marathon and believes that leading by example has had a positive impact on her patients.

“I think my patients believe me when I tell them [about the importance of a healthy lifestyle] because they saw the change,” says Wallace, who has now lost a total of 30 pounds. “I’m not just telling them, I’m also doing it. I think it’s important to have that credibility.”

Wallace doesn’t necessarily advocate that her patients run eight miles every day. She tells them there’s nothing wrong with being a weekend warrior. They don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to be consistent.

“People ask what drives me,” Wallace says. “How do I wake up every day at 5 a.m. to do my training session? I explain that when you sign up for something and you write it down on a chalkboard — and I really do have a chalkboard that I put my goals on — you know that you have to meet that goal, so you do what’s necessary to achieve it. Just be consistent and you’ll reach your goals of having a healthy lifestyle.”

At the Medi-Weight Loss Clinic such, she counsels patients through their first visit, which includes a complete physical. Patients have blood work done, their blood pressure is monitored and a specialized scale allows Wallace and her staff to assess patients’ body fat percentage and analyze their BMI during weekly visits. A counselor helps review patients’ diets.

“It’s a comprehensive program that allows me to help them reach their weight loss goals through nutrition,” Wallace says. “If you can walk 30 minutes a day you can lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of diabetes, and combat fatigue. My hope is that my enthusiasm for an active lifestyle will spill over to them.”

Wallace doesn’t just build relationships with her patients in Florida. Through medical mission trips to Guatemala, and a stint at a makeshift children’s hospital after the earthquake in Haiti, she’s also devoted to helping patients abroad to lead healthier lives.

“Seeing the pictures of the devastation in Haiti and traveling somewhere during a crisis like that was so rewarding, because you’re able to get your hands dirty immediately and start helping right away,” she says. “And the patients, the people you’re here working with, are so grateful. They extend such gratitude. They’re so thankful that someone’s taking the time to look in their eyes, check their blood pressure, to heal their wounds, and to give them a hug. I was honored to be part of the crew to do that.”

Wallace acknowledges that it’s difficult, almost impossible, to draw a line between being compassionate yet remaining emotionally removed from patients when traveling to locations experiencing a state of crisis.

When she first arrived in Haiti, the team that she and her colleagues were replacing was packing to leave, heading on to another country to continue their work. Two female pediatricians who had spent the previous two weeks helping victims of the earthquake began to cry.

“They were leaving their patients,” Wallace explains. “I saw them cry, and I started to cry too, because I thought, in seven days, I’m going to be leaving also. It was an extremely emotional experience, but it was also very rewarding.”

Despite a hectic schedule, Wallace allows ample time to spend with her family. On Fridays she takes her daughter to ballet, and she visits the public library with her son to check out books and videos for the weekend. She also volunteers time at her children’s school, and is currently the room parent in her daughter’s classroom.

“I’m involved with other parents helping to organize activities, like holiday programs and baked goods sales,” Wallace says. “It allows me to have some direct contact with other parents at the school, and keeps me abreast of what programs the school is running. I like that a lot.”

This past year Wallace served as a mentor for an eighth grade student as part of Take Stock in Children, a non-profit organization that provides educational opportunities for low-income and at-risk students. She spent an hour every Friday helping the student with her grades, and talking about her goals and aspirations. When the student successfully graduated middle school last June, Wallace recalls that, “It was extremely fulfilling.”

Does she ever slow down? Wallace laughs and recalls that her aunt once asked her if she runs while she’s sleeping.

She replied, “No, I run when you’re sleeping.”

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