Friedman named director of lifestyle medicine at Highland

Susan M. Friedman, a Highland Hospital geriatrician, internist and University of Rochester professor of medicine, has been named founding director of lifestyle medicine at Highland.

The American College of Lifestyle Medicine defines the specialty as the use of a whole food, plant-predominant dietary lifestyle, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances and positive social connection as a primary therapeutic modality for treatment and reversal of chronic disease.

Friedman developed an interest in lifestyle medicine about eight years ago. “When I started my career as a geriatrician 25 years ago, I was basically seeing patients in their 80s and 90s with multiple health and cognitive issues,” she said. “But as time went on, I noticed that more and more younger people were presenting with chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. I came to the realization that lifestyle made a big difference in health and well-being.”

Susan Friedman
Susan Friedman

Friedman took a sabbatical in 2016 to study lifestyle medicine and became board-certified in 2017. “It’s been estimated that three quarters of chronic illness could be eliminated with better lifestyle habits,” she said. “And the pandemic has been a particular time of stress for everyone. It’s important for us to take the time to think about our health and make plans for positive changes that we can make to improve our health.”

The goal is to maximize healthy aging. “Working toward healthy aging starts the day you are born,” she said. “It’s never too early or too late to make adjustments in your lifestyle to make a positive impact on your health.”

Friedman has been working closely with the Rochester Lifestyle Medicine Institute (RLMI) where she has served as director of clinical studies and board vice chairwoman for several years to make services and programs available for the community. As the former medical director of Rochester Lifestyle Medicine Group, she has worked with patients to help them address root causes of chronic illness. Several widely known researchers and practitioners in lifestyle medicine are based in Rochester and lifestyle medicine is now a two-week elective for medical students at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry.