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Dr. Pamela M. Peeke





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1951


Medical School

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine


Geography

LOCATION
Maryland


Career Path

Internal medicine
Education: Teaching
Dr. Pamela M. Peeke



Milestones

YEAR
1989
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Pamela Peeke was among the first physicians with formal training in nutrition science to research the connections between chronic stress, nutrition, and weight gain.
YEAR
1994
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Pamela Peeke was the first senior research fellow at the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine.


Inspiration

It was a natural fit. I went to a special high school for gifted kids in San Francisco. There I realized that I loved people and science. Medicine seemed a great way to put it all together. I needed to make sure about my commitment, so I volunteered at the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic in San Francisco as well as the Berkeley Free Clinic and Highland County Hospital in Oakland. What an eye-opener these experiences were! I fell in love with the prerequisite multi-tasking, the quick thinking, and the use of science and technology to save lives and touch pained souls. I realized what an honor it was to have the opportunity to share people's life experiences. I realized with gratitude that as much as I was helping them, they were teaching me priceless lessons about life.



Biography

With her expertise in nutrition science, Pamela M. Peeke, M.D., has combined her medical practice and scientific training to become a nationally recognized expert on healthy lifestyle choices. "While Hippocrates regarded nutrition and lifestyle as inseparable from medicine," Dr. Peeke has written, "the number of physicians who are educated and trained in both medicine and nutrition is minuscule. We physicians who are nutrition specialists are the oddballs at the party because we regard nutrition as integral to health, longevity, and prevention of disease."

Growing up in northern California, Pamela Peeke attended a high school for gifted students in San Francisco. The school nurtured her commitment to helping people and her interest in science, which she later combined in a career in medicine. She volunteered at the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic in San Francisco and the Berkeley Free Clinic and Highland County Hospital in Oakland. "What an eye-opener these experiences were!" she says, "I fell in love with the prerequisite multi-tasking, the quick thinking, and the use of science and technology to save lives and touch pained souls."

Peeke earned her master's degree in public health and medical care policy and administration in 1976 from the University of California, Berkeley. She went on to medical school at Michigan State University College of Medicine, graduating with her doctor of medicine degree in 1980. Following a residency in internal medicine at The George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Dr. Peeke undertook nutritional studies as a Pew Foundation Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of California, Davis. Working in the newly evolving field of integrative medicine, Dr. Peeke was the first person to serve as senior research fellow at the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine. For this work, Dr. Peeke received a National Research Science Award Fellowship and an Intramural Research Training Award Fellowship.

As assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, and adjunct senior scientist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, Dr. Peeke has focused her most recent research on the relationship between chronic stress and overeating. Her national bestseller, Fight Fat After Forty, presented her research findings on how chronic stress contributes to weight gain and threatens the length and quality of life. Since her book was published in 2001, Dr. Peeke has continued to highlight the topic nationally through magazine articles, television and radio appearances, newspaper columns or reports, and educational forums. She is the monthly "Lifestyle Coach" columnist for Prevention magazine and serves on the editorial boards of several other national magazines including Shape, Allure, and Spa Magazine. Dr. Peeke has also been invited to share her expertise on the The Oprah Winfrey Show, Today, The View, Dateline, Primetime, Good Morning America, Nightline, and CNN Headline News. "My work in television and the media allows me to touch many lives. I like to give people hope that, with courage, tenacity, and a good sense of humor, along with the best of what science has to offer, it is possible to weather life's tough storms."

Dr. Peeke also teaches by example. She led a dozen women through training and joined them in running the 2001 New York City Marathon. Calling themselves the "Peeke Performers," each of the runners completed the marathon, though none had previously considered themselves athletes. Much of Dr. Peeke's work concentrates on healthy lifestyle choices. She has worked with former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop as an advisor and expert in mind-body fitness for his national "Shape Up America" campaign. She also serves as the medical director for the National Race for the Cure for breast cancer.



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

Financial. I have worked my way through my undergraduate, graduate, and medical school years. I had to work in a lab throughout most of my medical school years to make ends meet. Fortunately I received several scholarships, which helped immensely. It's funny; I was coming through medical school at a time when some would think a significant challenge would be to navigate through a system dominated by men. I made it work. In my life, I was quietly assertive. With wit and humor, I got over those speed bumps during my training. For instance, women medical students were asked to wear those ridiculous (and freezing cold!) dresses in the operating room while the men got to don comfortable scrubs. Not a problem. I would continuously—and courageously!—walk into the men's ("doctor's") lounge and grab the scrubs I needed. After multiple passes, they got the point. Soon, the scrubs were placed in the women's ("nurse's") lounge. Soon after, the signs were changed to "Men's" and "Women's" locker rooms.

How do I make a difference?

I feel I make a difference as a communicator and an educator. My work in television and the media allows me to touch many lives. I like to give people hope that, with courage, tenacity, and a good sense of humor, along with the best of what science has to offer, it is possible to weather life's tough storms. Nothing makes me happier than when someone, a patient or an individual who has listened to me or read my work, tells me that they have changed for the better. That's such a gift. I also love to teach my medical students, as they are so eager to have the chance to put it all together. The mental, nutritional, and physical components come to life in an integrative and holistic way. I make a difference in shaping the mental attitudes and knowledge base of those future practitioners.

Who was my mentor?

My personal mentor was my mother, to whom I'm grateful for her staunch attitude that "you can do anything you want to in life regardless of your gender." I would try anything and everything and never felt limited. She lived a life in which she became a lawyer while mothering five children and then went on to build a corporate empire with my father.

My professional mentors were all men. I went to graduate school and received a master's degree in public health and public policy from the University of California, Berkeley. Drs. Henrik Blum and Aaron Wildavsky were my mentors from there on out. Henrik was like a father to me. Drs. Arthur Korhman, Bill Weil, and Andy Hunt were pivotal during the years I trained in Michigan. Dr. Alan Stone was a valuable mentor and friend throughout my internship and residency training. Finally, while at the National Institutes of Health as a senior fellow, I was blessed to meet and have as my continuing mentor, Dr. George Chrousos, a handsome and brilliant Greek scientist, who taught me what "ella!" meant when our lab phone rang. He also taught me priceless lessons in what the pursuit of excellence in science and research was all about.

How has my career evolved over time?

I have always followed Helen Keller's motto: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all." Armed with my M.D., I received further training in a field rarely studied by physicians—nutrition and metabolism. With that training and my medical training, I left my original field of practice—critical care—and became a scientist. While at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I was given the opportunity to become the first senior fellow at the Office of Alternative Medicine. What an exciting and challenging time to apply research science to this new field. From there, more surprises. I feel that as life goes on, you learn about special gifts you may have to share with others. Mine turned out to involve the media. One day, while at the NIH, a CNN correspondent interviewed me for a story on nutrition. Lo and behold, I was comfortable in front of the camera and more television work ensued. Next, I wrote a consumer book on nutrition that became a national bestseller. Who knew? Now I am a regular in-studio medical expert for the networks. I write monthly national columns in consumer magazines, work as a member of Oprah's team, and I teach nutrition and metabolism to medical students. I am also continuing to write consumer books and articles hoping to motivate people to learn and change their lives to incorporate healthier lifestyles. I work with the White House as the medical director for the National Race for the Cure for breast cancer and as a consummate athlete, have run the New York City Marathon with my patients, the Peeke Performers. In all, I've found my M.D. to be invaluable in opening doors to allow me to fulfill my passions and discover new passions to explore.



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