What role does your primary care physician play in managing your longterm wellness?
According to Dr. Michael Hulin, family medicine physician at East Jefferson General Hospital, the answer is likely to be more and more in the coming years.
“Our population is getting older and our healthcare system is very good at treating illness,” he says. “Because of that, we’re living longer. But family medicine continues to shine a brighter light on taking good care of ourselves so we can enjoy all this longevity.”
Dr. Hulin’s interests in nutrition, exercise and even sports medicine inform all his patient visits, and he takes the time at least once per year to assess diet and fitness goals. He has special handouts on exercise and food guidelines. He’s also an advocate for self-care since mental health is as much a part of wellness as physical wellbeing. Word has spread that he’s “that” kind of doctor, so more patients interested in wellness are seeking him out. “I’m much more enthusiastic talking about [wellness] than yet another prescription medication,” he says.
But for those not yet onboard, he enjoys the challenge of helping the patient become equally invested in their health as he is.
Dr. Hulin feels it’s time to accept that we’re less active than even a generation ago. Our grandparents didn’t focus on diet and exercise; their busy lives on farms, in yards and in active jobs kept them fit. We’re outside less, eating more and eating more processed foods. It takes diligence now to keep our bodies healthy, he says.
That’s just one reason he is a big advocate for the Exercise as Medicine program at East Jefferson’s Wellness Center, where patients are given diet and exercise tailored to their lifestyles and chronic conditions. He says his patients using the service are making strides in their health and reducing their need for medicine.
“Every medicine you take is going to have beneficial measures, but it’s also a foreign substance that you’re putting in your body,” he says. “So my No. 1 goal is always: Have we reduced your medication burden?”
Family medicine’s broad spectrum of knowledge: “It’s really the only specialty that forces you to retain as much of what you learned in medical school as possible,” he says. While he feels quite comfortable with anything that walks in the door and can start patients on the path to what they need, he admits, “I’ll be first to tell a patient ‘I need to send you to a specialist.’”
Best part of the job: “I get really excited about good lab values,” Dr. Hulin says. “A lot of times patients look at me and are taken aback when I want to give them a high five in clinic.” Recently a patient with hypertension and cholesterol was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Instead of medicine, Dr. Hulin encouraged him to seize the opportunity to really change how he was living and advised exercise, food and a hospital-sponsored diabetes program. Three months later, the patient had lost 20 pounds and his labs were normal. “It’s like hitting that one good shot in golf,” Dr. Hulin says. “That’s why I’m out here.”
Simplest advice on wellness: “Any time you eat, half your plate should be veggies,” he says. “You’re not worried about calories, or portions. If you’re eating plants, you’re eating better. You’re not making yourself diet, you’re not punishing yourself.” And on exercise: “The challenge isn’t exercise, it’s finding what you like to do,” he says. “Running is boring; it’s terrible; almost no one likes to do it. But there are a lot of fun things we can do with our bodies: dancing; going for a walk and listening to music … once you find it, it isn’t even an issue anymore.”
So many mentors: Though he was always more interested in literature than science, the path for healing and helping people was laid by his Cajun folk healer grandmother and all the home remedies his family from Breaux Bridge employed for comforting illness: honey; hot tea with lemon; eucalyptus chest rub; even prayers.
In his residency at East Jefferson, he met his mentors who he says he feels fortunate to work shoulder to shoulder with today caring for patients and training the next generation of family medicine physicians through EJ’s residency. Finally, his closest mentor is his wife, who he met over a cadaver at medical school (“over our dead body,” he jokes). She’s finishing pediatric residency at Children’s (after giving birth to two beautiful sons, Felix, 2, and Henry, 2 months), and they hope to someday collaborate to offer full spectrum medical care for families.
Medical School: Louisiana State University
Residency: East Jefferson General Hospital, Family Medicine
East Jefferson Family Practice Center
4228 Houma Blvd., Ste. 200
Metairie, LA 70006