I have given myself the freedom to think big and dream the impossible. Despite my busy schedules as a neurologist, I have always gravitated towards some form of community service, whenever time permitted. This truly makes me happy and I learn something new each time I give back to the community.

I have done several health talks in the community, in seminar halls and other places such as the church, the mall and coffee shops, in collaboration with my practice and my hospital. If the intent is to share, help and make a difference in the community, the location truly does not matter. And a journey of a 1000 miles always starts with that one step.

I am fortunate to have done several radio talk shows over the last few years. I have appreciated the opportunity to volunteer at the medical camp for Hurricane Harvey victims in Dallas where I witnessed that several of the evacuees had lost all possessions and had no contact with their family members for days. It was indeed a very humbling experience to hear all the devastating stories from the hurricane evacuees.

This gave me a different perspective on life, and I constantly remind myself of how blessed I am to help and contribute to the community and make a big impact. And my long term goal in the next 10-15 years is to go on medical missions and conduct medical camps in underdeveloped countries where there is no immediate access to medical care. I will start working on this when I’m able to travel to distant countries for a few weeks while there are not as many obligations at home. When life takes me to the empty nester stage, I intend to make the best use of my available time.

When I first heard about the ‘Walk with a Doc’ program, I was excited to find a platform to connect with the community through health talks. My energy and enthusiasm amplified as I contacted the national non-profit organization and told them I would like to lead a chapter in Plano, TX. Their help and support to kick start this was amazing in association with the Texas Medical Association.

I am now conducting walks once a month in a local park. I encourage my patients to join me for a walk and also encourage my family, friends and neighbors to come and join us every month. It starts with a 10-15 minute health talk, followed by a walk. It is a very casual environment and people can walk at their own pace. I motivate people to push themselves to do more, if they are able to. They have an opportunity to walk with physicians and ask questions during the walk. The older practice style is “Here’s the prescription for your medication. See you in 6 months.” And now I am proud to tell my patients “Here’s my prescription for walking, so we can reduce your risk of health related illnesses. See you at my next walk.”

The Community Response

The response from the community has been really good and now I have some regular walkers. Recently also had our 1 year anniversary of my Walk with a Doc events. I look forward to it. Even if I made a difference in one person, I consider that a success. My parents have inculcated in me that it’s not enough if you are intelligent, but you also need to be able to share knowledge and help others in a meaningful way. My father is a general surgeon and my mother is gynecologist and I have always been taught that this is a noble profession. I am fascinated that as physicians, we have an invisible platform to step up, help and educate others.

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I am a fitness enthusiast and I educate my patients on the importance of nutrition, healthy eating and increasing physical activity. As a neurologist, I see several patients with stroke every week and I talk to them about preventing or reducing risk of stroke by maximal medical management of medical problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

The fitness related activities that I have pushed myself to do so far are: Triathlon in September 2016, Half Marathon in April 2017 and a 62 Km bike rally in July 2018. These activities were definitely out of my comfort zone, but I love challenges and decided to go for it. Fitness does not mean you always have to do rigorous activities. But any moderate intensity physical activity to keep the body moving has some long term benefits. You need to find what activity you enjoy the most and is sustainable with your lifestyle. Any aerobic activity that makes your heart beat faster can improve your endurance. Just brisk walking 30 minutes a day can improve your health significantly. However, it is also important to mix up exercises to increase endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.

Benefits of Regular Walking

Here are 7 health benefits of regular walking:

  1. Lowers risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease.
  2. Increases attention and decision making ability.
  3. Alleviates Depression, anxiety and stress.
  4. Reduces risk of Cancer.
  5. Increases life expectancy.
  6. Boosts your immunity.
  7. Helps delay memory problems and dementia.

Walk with a Doc is a walking program for everyone interested in taking steps for a healthier lifestyle. What better way to start your day than on your feet making strides to help your heart and improving your general health to live longer! All while you are socializing with others and gaining some health information. I plan the Walk with a Doc events in a park; the nature trails, lush greenery and the fresh dewy morning air makes you feel refreshed. And as the leader of the Plano Walk with a Doc Chapter, I experience the joy of sharing some knowledge, which gives me happiness and professional gratification.

Dr. Supriya Thirunarayanan is a neurologist practicing in Plano, TX.

This article was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.