News » Virtual Sung Symposium Centers on Wellness, Longevity

Virtual Sung Symposium Centers on Wellness, Longevity

A group of leading experts in the fields of wellness and longevity discussed topics including nutrition, precision medicine, lifestyle medicine, and health data during the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) third annual Patrick & Marguerite Sung Symposium.

The symposium, sponsored by the SMHS Office of Integrative Medicine and Health, was held for the first time completely online, with speakers sharing slides and information through the digital WebEx platform.

Speakers included Valter Longo, PhD, Edna M. Jones Professor of Gerontology and Biological Sciences and director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California; Joel Dudley, PhD, director of the Institute for Next Generation Healthcare at Mount Sinai Health System; Kaylan Baban, MD, MPH, chief wellness officer at SMHS, The GW Medical Faculty Associates, and GW Hospital; and Nick Patel, adjunct instructor of clinical research and leadership at SMHS and founder and CEO of Wellable, a digital platform for employee wellness.

Patrick Sung, PhD, JD `77, welcomed attendees to the symposium, sitting alongside his wife, Marguerite. He said they were excited to learn from all four experts about living a long and healthy life, topics that anyone can find interest in. “We’re looking forward to an exciting and informative symposium,” he said.

The Office of Integrative Medicine and Health was made possible with a generous donation of $500,000 from the Sungs in 2017.
Longo, the event’s Theodore and Cynthia Birnbaum Memorial speaker, focused his talk on longevity and the mechanisms of aging in mice, and how those mechanisms can be translated to humans. He spoke at length about how diet can greatly impact the process of aging. 

He is known for his studies on the role of fasting and nutrient response genes on cellular protection in aging and diseases, and for proposing that longevity is regulated by similar genes and mechanisms in many eukaryotes, which are organisms whose cells have a nucleus enclosed within membranes. His lab recently published its findings from a study on the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD).

“If we start this Fasting Mimicking Diet for only four days every two weeks, by 21 months or so, the mice see a renewal and rejuvenating effect,” Longo explained.

The diet for humans includes five days of fasting a month, where intake would be 1,090 calories the first day, and 725 calories for days two through five. The diet is low in carbs and high in healthy fat and fiber. 

In addition to longevity, attendees also heard from Baban about wellness and lifestyle medicine. 

The lifestyle medicine framework, she explained, can be defined through six pillars: a focus on dietary habits, physical activity, improving sleep, stress management through helpful coping mechanisms, social connections and spiritual practices, and cessation of any unhealthy habits.

Health care workers as a whole are less healthy and less engaged in wellness than the general population, she added, and they also are often subject to burnout.

Wellness programs for these workers are key, and Baban said there are certain factors that can make these programs more successful, including leadership buy-in, addressing culture, having broad definitions of wellness, flexibility, and having a data-driven approach.

“At GW we’re really investigating this idea of using lifestyle medicine as an explicit framework for our wellness initiative. This is something that we are, to my knowledge, first in doing at an academic medical center,” she noted.

Provider education on wellness, she said, is beneficial for both them and their patients. When health care workers give patients recommendations it can make a difference in healthy behaviors.

“If I don’t practice healthful behaviors, I’m much less likely to counsel my patients on them,” Baban said.

She added that, according to research, health care providers who regularly practice self-care and mindfulness experience less stress and burnout, while patients who are counseled by providers who they perceive as more mindful are more adherent to their management plans and have better health outcomes.

“We can’t extricate provider wellness from patient wellness, these are deeply entwined,” Baban said.

Technology and its connection to longevity and wellness also was an important topic during the event. Both Dudley and Patel spoke to new innovations, including enhanced health data collection through electronic health records and wearables, and how that information can help increase understanding of wellness and the impact of healthy behaviors.

Following the lectures, the experts also addressed numerous audience questions on lifestyle medicine and nutrition, big data, and more. 

Watch videos of the speakers here