Dr. Laura Buchanan and Dr. Matthew Calkins Plan to Implement Nutrition Curriculums at Medical Schools and in Residencies
The Society of Metabolic Health Practitioners recently announced its April 2, 2022 Grand Rounds presentation will be delivered by Laura Buchanan, MD, MHP, and Matthew Calkins, MD, a married couple who are both family medicine residents at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Their presentation is entitled CGM’s in Clinical Practice.
Dr. Buchanan, who is a third-year resident, was recently named to the SMHP Board of Directors, and she will serve as board secretary. She will also serve on the SMHP’s newly formed Resources Committee.
Dr. Calkins, a second-year resident, has been named chair of the Resources Committee.
By the time they had completed medical school at the University of Florida College of Medicine, Buchanan and Calkins had both developed a strong interest in nutrition and metabolic health, with an emphasis on the benefits of therapeutic carbohydrate restriction (TCR).
Much of what they had learned about TCR was the result of their discovery of the LowCarbMD podcast during their time in medical school.
“I just happened to come across the LowCarbMD podcast in medical school,” said Buchanan, referring to the podcast launched in 2019 by Dr. Brian Lenzkes, a San Diego-based internal medicine doctor, and Dr. Tro Kalayjian, a board-certified Internal Medicine & Obesity Medicine physician based in New York.
“As a result of the podcast, I really became fascinated and interested in the topic, and I saw and heard about the power that diet had to change people’s lives, and reverse medical conditions. I started watching the low carb conferences and started watching obesity medicine lectures, and I really started diving into it.”
Calkins also had an interest in the LowCarbMD podcast, and became a regular listener as well. He took notice of the fact that during his years of medical school, only two weeks were devoted to nutrition, and virtually no mention was made of TCR.
“They didn’t really go into low carb at all,” he said, “and we were taught that diabetes was a chronic and progressive disease.”
The more Buchanan and Calkins learned about TCR, the more enthusiastic they became in making it a part of their future practice.
And they are enthusiastic to be working with the SMHP to provide resources for future medical students and residents, whose careers could be shaped by having more formal education about how TCR can be used to treat obesity, reverse type 2 diabetes, and improve metabolic health.
“Since my first year of residency, I have been prescribing TCR for patients with diabetes and obesity,” said Buchanan. “I have seen incredible results. I’ve had a patient whose A1Ca was 14, come down to an A1C of 6.0 within two months. And I’ve had patients lose over 50 pounds with it while feeling amazing, normalized liver enzymes, and fatty liver disease reversed entirely. The number of examples I’ve seen like that are just so numerous.”
Calkins had initially started his residency in emergency medicine, but once he realized the impact he could have on patients struggling with insulin resistance and diabetes, he switched to a family medicine residency.
“When you realize the scope of how bad insulin resistance and diabetes are for a person’s health and how many of our patients are facing those challenges, it becomes clear that it’s the biggest emergency you can have in an outpatient setting in the clinic,” said Calkins. “The science is really fascinating, and it’s really satisfying knowing that you’re doing the most good for patients, putting their diabetes into remission and improving their health.”
Why the resistance to low carb?
“I think there still is a lot of concern about high fat diets from the old paradigm that was taught with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines,” said Buchanan. “There are still people scared of cholesterol, and of saturated fat raising cholesterol. I think that’s probably one of the biggest barriers.”
“There’s been a lot of emphasis on cardiovascular disease, which is fine and appropriate,” said Calkins, “But I think when you look at the totality of the data with the relative risks of things like diabetes and metabolic syndrome, low-carb dieting has a great deal of evidence behind it. And now that we have the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the Obesity Medicine Association saying that therapeutic carbohydrate restriction is a valid option, I hope it’s going to permeate more into medical schools to teach aspiring physicians that this is indeed an option. They need to know you don’t have to rely on medications, and diabetes doesn’t have to be a chronic and progressive disease.”
Spreading the Word About TCR and Providing Resources
During her residency Buchanan was able to spend a week with two different well-known physicians in the world of metabolic health and TCR. Buchanan spent a week shadowing Dr. Mark Cucuzzella in West Virginia, and another week with Dr. Eric Westman in North Carolina.
“It was so incredible to see what these doctors have been able to do for their patients and the amount of success they’ve had. I am hoping that through my work at the SMHP we can do the same for future medical students and residents to help continue teaching and spreading TCR. Through the experiences I had with those doctors, I was able to bring that back to my residency, and that had an influence and an impact on other residents within my department and faculty.”
Buchanan and Calkins have already begun working with one of their other fellows, Dr. Erin Saner, at Wake Forest to develop a nutrition curriculum they are hoping to implement and bring to both medical schools and residencies.
“Our goal is to provide this curriculum so that people are not leaving medical school or residency without this critical knowledge on how to adequately provide lifestyle education as a treatment option for medical conditions,” said Buchanan. “That’s the first big thing, and the other thing that we’re hoping to do is start a medical school interest group for the SMHP.”
Buchanan hopes that one day in the near future, medical students won’t have to stumble upon a podcast in order to start getting exposure to TCR and seeing the benefits that lifestyle can have on medical conditions.
“And so hopefully by catching them earlier, that might motivate more people to go into primary care specialties seeing the power that you can have on patients’ lives.”
When asked about his new role within the SMHP, Calkins says he is enthusiastic to begin developing resources targeted at clinicians, residents, and medical students.
“For clinicians, I’d really like to get a core packet of information that they can take and almost immediately implement in their clinic,” he said.
Calkins also spent a week with Dr. Eric Westman, and said the experience provided him with incredible insights about resources that could help other clinicians.
“That was probably the most valuable week of the entirety of my medical school and residency so far,” said Calkins. “If I could take that experience and share some of that information with handouts or a video, that would be extremely helpful for other clinicians.
He sees value in a nutrition curriculum for residents and medical students, and would like to package information about TCR in a way that future doctors don’t have to spend as much time “spinning their wheels” as he did when he was first trying to get up to speed.
Looking at Medicine “With a Fresh Set of Eyes”
“When asked why TCR and lifestyle are not better taught in medical schools,” Calkins replied “That’s a really hard question to answer. But I think that Laura and I come into this entire space with essentially different eyes. We have no biases from whatever was published in the 60s and 70s, and 80s and 90s, because we’re just starting practicing now.”
2022 Low Carb Boca Conference
Buchanan and Calkins attended their first in-person low carb event this past January, LowCarbUSA‘s 2022 Low Carb Boca Conference, and it provided them with the opportunity to connect with a long list of practitioners, and led to them getting involved with the SMHP.
“That was our first event,” said Buchanan. “I have been wanting to go for years, but with medical school and residency, there’s just never a time I could go. But after listening to the LowCarbMD podcast and hearing what Brian and Tro would say, I had to go and meet this group of people.”
“Low Carb Boca allowed us to meet the giants in the field,” said Calkins. We had listened to these people for three or four years, and the impact they have had on my trajectory as a physician cannot be overstated.”
Grand Rounds – CGMs in Clinical Practice
SMHP members can watch the Grand Rounds presentation, entitled CGMs in Clinical Practice, live on Saturday, April 2, 2022, beginning at 1:00 pm PT. Members also get access to the recorded presentation for future viewing. Those interested in joining the SMHP can learn more here.
Dr. Laura Buchanan graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences from the University of South Florida and was a valedictorian of her class at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
Dr. Buchanan has been passionate about fitness and health since she was a young child. That passion, initially derived from a love of sports, has evolved and expanded to include a passion for healthy living generally, including the importance of nutrition, exercise, and mental wellness.
Dr. Buchanan is a certified Metabolic Health Practitioner (MHP) and a founding member of the Society of Metabolic Health Practitioners. She is a member of the Obesity Medicine Association and will be taking her board examination in the fall of 2022. She is also a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, AOA and the Gold Humanism Society.
Dr. Matthew Calkins graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in physics from the University of Florida. He subsequently matriculated and graduated from the University of Florida College of Medicine. He is working toward his SMHP certification and plans to become board certified in Obesity Medicine soon after finishing training.
Dr. Calkins is passionate about helping patients improve their health and performance. His initial interest in optimizing performance came from competing in weightlifting competitions and long-distance hiking, including a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2014. He has a particular interest in the processes around making changes accessible to his patients – including improving communication and education between clinicians and patients.
As the Chair of the Resources Committee for the Society of Metabolic Health Practitioners, Matt’s role is to curate resources on nutrition and metabolic health, and then work with medical students, residencies, and clinicians to integrate them into their educational programs and daily practices.