If you are doctor contemplating certification in Lifestyle Medicine, this post is for you. I will lay out a step by step guide on how to become a Lifestyle Medicine Doctor in a time efficient and cost conscious way.
The whole process of certifying to become a diplomate of Lifestyle Medicine took me a about a year but honestly it can be done in a shorter period of time. If you go on the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine (ABLM) website, there are several options in each category that fulfill the requirements. I will review here the specific steps that I took.
Physicians already board certified for at least 2 years in a specialty recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) will follow the experiential pathway that I have detailed below. There are other pathways for residents and non-physicians for certification detailed here.
Guide to Lifestyle Medicine Board Certification
Step 1: Become a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM). It costs $249.00 for 1 year for a physician plus a $25 registration fee for new members. To become a member you need to complete an application form and send in a copy of your medical license. Membership benefits are detailed here. The discounts alone members receive on the cost of certification make the membership worth it, not to mention all the other benefits of being a member including access to ACLM handouts and webinars.
The specific discounts that can be applied to certification are:
- $200 off the Lifestyle Medicine Core Competencies Online program
- $224.75 off the Foundations of Lifestyle Medicine Board Review Course, 2nd edition
- $150 off certification by American Board of Lifestyle Medicine (ABLM)
- $150 off Lifestyle Medicine Annual Conference
Step 2: Complete 30 hours of online/non-live CME. There are 5 different online courses that qualify for this. You only need to do one of these to complete the 30 hours. I did the two courses offered by the ACLM and will give my review of them both below.
- ACLM/ACPM Lifestyle Medicine Core Competencies ($799 members, $999 non-members)
- ACLM Lifestyle Medicine Board Review Course ($674.25 members, $899 non-members)
- Cornell certificate in plant-based nutrition ($1260)
- Doane University Lifestyle Medicine Professional Certificate Program ($706)
- Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar, Certificate in Lifestyle Medicine ($1230)
ACLM course review
Option 1 – ACLM/ACPM Lifestyle Medicine Core Competencies – there are a total of 32 credits for this course presented in a webinar style with slides and lectures and if self-paced. The modules are:
- Core Competency Skills
- Physical Activity
- Health and Wellness Coaching
- Sleep Health
- Emotional Wellness
- Tobacco Cessation
- Alcohol Use
- Weight Management
You will need to complete a pre-test and a post-test for each section to get credit. Don’t worry, if you don’t pass the post-test you can retake it.
- More detailed than the board review course
- More engaging given format is lecture style
- It takes the full 32 hours to complete
- You have to click at the end of each slide – won’t auto play
Option 2 – ACLM Lifestyle Medicine Board Review Course
2nd edition(edited 5/7/21 3rd edition now avail. I have not confirmed the chapters are the same. Info below is for the 2nd edition) -You will receive an actual printed book and an e-book so you can use either based on your preference.
There are 10 chapters:
- Introduction to Lifestyle Medicine
- Fundamentals of Health Behavior Change
- Key Clinic Processes in Lifestyle Medicine
- The Role of Physician Health and the Physician’s Personal Health
- Nutrition Science, Assessment and Prescription
- Physical Activity Science and Prescription
- Emotional and Mental Well-Being, Assessment and Interventions
- Sleep Health Science and Interventions
- Fundamentals of Tobacco Cessation and Managing Risky Alcohol Use
- The Role of Connectedness and Positive Psychology
There are also 13 key Lifestyle Medicine key research study summaries and 6 online review lectures. You will need to answer questions after each section.
- If you are on a time crunch, you may be able complete this course faster.
- It’s a physical book you can read anytime and anywhere without worrying about blue light exposure at night
- Helpful for a quick review before taking the test
- The least costly of all the options if you are an ACLM member
- Format makes it more dry. It’s like reading someone’s notes they took at a lecture.
- It is written in outline form which is great for review but less engaging to read.
- Less information than the core competencies course
I ended up not having enough time to complete both courses before I took the test. I still work full time, have 2 kids and was doing this at night after the kids went to bed. However, I was able to get through the sections of the core competencies that were most applicable to Pediatrics and I completed the board review course to fulfill the 30 hour requirement and prepare for the exam.
Write a Case Report
Step 3: Write a case report This sounds harder than it is. They give you a template to fill out on a patient for who you performed a Lifestyle Medicine intervention. You can preview the template here.
Step 4: Attend an in person CME for 10 hours. It must be no older than 36 months by the time you take the exam. There are quite a few options and you can see the list in the FAQ on this page under the section “What are the approved in-person CME’s?”
NOTE: For 2020 only, they are accepting virtual attendance to these conferences. (Edited 5/7/21 – ABLM will only accept virtual attendance from 2020 events and require in-person for 2021 events and beyond.)
I went to two in person conferences on the list. I would highly recommend both as they were both engaging and extremely informative. The first I went to was the International Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference. This year it will be held virtually on September 11-14, 2020.
However, if you want to attend a conference that is more broadly focused on Lifestyle Medicine, I would suggest going to the annual ACLM Lifestyle Medicine 2020 Conference being held virtually October 22-25, 2020.
If you do attend a conference virtually this year, I would strongly recommend trying to attend one in person in the future. It’s not often you are surrounded by so many like-minded people and fed such delicious plant-based meals at a conference. One thing I have noticed with the Lifestyle Medicine community is their high level of energy, enthusiasm and desire to collaborate. It is honestly one of the best parts of going to these conferences.
Step 5: Take the board exam.
It is being held virtually for the first time (and maybe only time) November 7th and 8th, 2020. You must register by September 30th. The next exam will be in Boston June 13, 2021. (Edited 5/7/21 – The next test will be held at Prometric Centers 11/27/21-12/11/21. Click here for future exam dates.)
This is a good year to get certified as you can potentially save a good amount of money on air travel since everything can be done virtually. Here is a cost breakdown of the most cost effective way to get certified.
- $249 + $25 ACLM membership and new member fee
- $674.25 ACLM Board Review course
- $599.00 ACLM Lifestyle Medicine 2020 conference
- $1648 ABLM board certification fees
All in your investment is $3195.25, well worth the cost in my opinion. My return on investment has been huge personally. Because part of this process is applying the lifestyle changes to your own life, just this alone would have made it worthwhile even if I never applied it to my career. That being said, if you work with patients directly, you will find you can’t hold yourself back from talking about lifestyle no matter what field of medicine you are in.
Benefits of Lifestyle Medicine Certification
In terms of how certification has benefitted my career, I now have an additional level of credibility when discussing wellness both at a patient and organizational level. I have been asked to take a leadership role in my medical group to promote wellness in our group that may not have happened otherwise. Additionally, I have been able to network with other like-minded physicians which has served to expand my knowledge in the field which is fulfilling both personally and professionally.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you would like to know more about my journey. Good luck!