Member spotlight – Meet ASLM Fellow and Health Psychologist Mark Anns

ASLM Member Spotlights showcase the invaluable work that ASLM Fellows, Board Certified Professionals and member ambassadors are doing to establish Lifestyle Medicine as central to health, healthcare and health policy. ASLM members represent a broad range of medical and health practitioners as well as passionate professionals working in health and wellbeing who believe that and interdisciplinary and lifestyle-centric approach should be considered when it comes to the prevention and management of chronic and lifestyle-related disease.

What is your background?

I currently work in private practice as a health psychologists based in Sydney. I have a varied work history – management, training, policy, and education – both in the public and private sector.

My professional background is as a health psychologist and my various roles have included:

  • Health Policy Manager at Indivior a pharmaceutical company specialising in addictions
  • Manager at the Cancer Institute NSW
  • Manager of the NSW Health Opioid Treatment Program
  • Head of the Counselling Unit at the Sydney Albion Street (HIV) Clinic
  • Past president of the Australian Society of Sex Educators and Therapists (ASSERT)
  • Co-Founder with Professor Basil Donovan of Australia’s first Graduate Diploma in Sexual Health
  • I am the current convenor of the APS Transpersonal Psychology Interest group
  • Several periods of being in Private practice as a psychologist

How did you come to Lifestyle Medicine

Walking up a hill and having chest pain progressed to walking on a flat surface and having chest pain – a round of consultations and an urgent recall from the cardiologist led to being told I need a stent inserted. However, waking up from the procedure, I was told the scan had been deceptive although there was some narrowing of an artery, I did not need a stent. I was told to take some pills and make lifestyle changes which I then did.

However, I was struck by the concept that here I was, an intelligent person (a health psychologist) who had ignored many warning signs, and it took an extreme situation for me to finally engage in behavioural change. If this is what it required for me to make changes, what hope did the “average punter” have to make changes?

I started to examine the challenges of making lifestyle changes and came across the ASLM and thought that these people seemed to think along the lines I was adopting. I took a redundancy from the company I had worked with for many years and decided I wanted to return to practice as a psychologist. I did not want to just return to psychology practice as usual rather I wanted to restructure how to do my work.

To do this well I decided to embark upon training and completed a course with ASLM and then decided to undertake Board Certification. Not content with just doing that, I am currently enrolled and should complete my Masters in Lifestyle Medicine (Southern Cross University) mid-2023.

I think this reflects that if I am going to restructure my work, I want to ensure I have the knowledge and credentials that go with the undertaking. Although the larger aspect of what drove me was that I found the approach interesting and intellectually stimulating.

Why did you choose Fellowship?

While undertaking the various courses related to Lifestyle Medicine I realised that many aspects of my work history overlapped with the requirements of the Fellowship program. I believe achieving my Fellowship would provide credibility for my work in this area. It was while gathering the evidence for the Fellowship that I decided to undertake the Master’s course.

How has, or how do you envisage Fellowship influencing your career/direction?

The various courses and interaction with members of the ASLM has reinforced to me the importance of creating a more diverse practice. Now I cannot imagine a psychological practice that does not address lifestyle factors impacting health and wellness.

My current intention is to restructure my psychological practice to become, by the end of 2023, a Psychology and Lifestyle practice that focuses on the interactions between mental health and lifestyle and provides education and coaching for individuals who wish to improve their health and wellbeing.

Any advice for members considering Fellowship enrolment?

Accessing the latest research and attending workshops and conferences allows a broadening of your approach to healthcare. You will find others who think as you do – you are not alone.

Tell us a random fact about yourself

Some of my most memorable times have been in Egypt, meditating in (and Under) the Great Pyramid of Giza. I learnt that powerful altered states of consciousness can be experienced sometimes unexpectedly, and I enjoy assisting others in understanding their own transpersonal experiences.

Interested in learning more about Lifestyle Medicine?