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Culinary medicine guides rural GI doctor’s career


Someone once told Christina Tennyson, MD, that clinical medicine was a grind. Instead of veering away from the profession, she dove in. Medicine will always have its frustrations, she acknowledged.

However, “finding areas that interest me and incorporating those into clinical practice has really helped me enjoy the practice of medicine,” said Dr. Tennyson, who works at Augusta Health in Fishersville, Va.

Dr. Christina Tennyson, Augusta Health, Fishersville, Va. Firefly Photography

Dr. Christina Tennyson

It has also inspired her to think outside the box in her gastroenterology practice. What her patients eat and the lifestyle choices they make is a central focus of her work. In an interview, she talked about the rewards and challenges of practicing medicine in a rural area and embracing lifestyle medicine to improve the health of patients with digestive diseases.

Q: Why did you choose GI?
Dr. Tennyson: I always had an interest in nutrition. During training at medical school at NYU [New York University], I also really loved learning all I could about internal medicine. I worked with a great surgical team as a student and enjoyed being in the operating room. Although I knew I didn’t want to enter surgery, the experience encouraged me to pursue gastroenterology as it involved nutrition, internal medicine, and procedures as well as my favorite organ, the small bowel. I worked with some great mentors in gastroenterology, such as Dr. David Metz and Dr. Dave Katzka, at the University of Pennsylvania as a resident. I enjoyed taking care of patients with both acute and chronic conditions as well as the mix of doing procedures and seeing patients in the office. It also provided me the opportunity to incorporate nutrition into my clinical practice.

Q: What gives you the most joy in your day-to-day practice?
Dr. Tennyson:
I enjoy helping my patients make meaningful lifestyle changes that can positively impact digestive health and well-being. I try to address topics related to lifestyle medicine in most of my clinical visits including eating more fiber/plants, exercise, positive relationships, and stress management. Many of the conditions we treat as gastroenterologists can benefit from addressing aspects of lifestyle along with our conventional medical therapies. I reinforce that attention to these areas can make a difference. I enjoy sharing recipes, books, and websites that I have found helpful.

Q: How has your job changed since you first began your career?
Dr. Tennyson: After fellowship, I joined the faculty at Columbia University and worked at the Celiac Disease Center seeing patients, teaching, and performing clinical research under the mentorship of Peter Green, MD, and Suzanne Lewis, MD. It was a great opportunity to learn and practice in a tertiary center. I later switched roles and joined a general multispecialty community practice in Brooklyn [N.Y.] affiliated with an academic medical center. After practicing in New York for 10 years, I left my clinical practice and performed locums work for several years in underserved rural areas. I enjoyed working in rural areas and took a permanent position at a community hospital in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.


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