Brian Lenzkes realized years ago there was a serious problem with his medical career. He just wasn't quite sure what to do about it.
It was the day after Thanksgiving in 2017 when he penned the words to an article he never published.
"My career in medicine is kind of like running on a treadmill that is just a little too fast for me," he wrote. "I can keep up for now, but I know I can't keep up this pace forever."
Dr. Lenzkes received a BS in Biology from UC Irvine before attending the Keck School of Medicine at USC. After graduating in 1999, he started his residency program at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, and extended his residency for an extra year to serve as Chief Resident. In 2004, he started his private practice career at Internal Medicine Associates, the longest established and most respected Internal Medicine group in San Diego.
So what could be so wrong with the career of a man who has been voted one of the "Top Doctors" in San Diego for 11 years, and is highly regarded by both his patients and his peers in the medical community?
Like a growing number of doctors, Dr. Lenzkes felt trapped in a what can only be described as a broken system. He was able to articulate the problem--if only he were able to envision a solution.
"Many of us feel this way on a daily basis," the article draft continued. "We are overwhelmed by the constant barrage of text messages, e-mails, family/work obligations, social stressors, sleep deprivation, and limited free time. In the medical community, we feel like Sisyphus trying to push that massive boulder uphill for all of eternity."
In the more than two years that have passed since Dr. Lenzkes wrote those words, many things in the medical community remain unchanged. Some things continue to get worse. Physician burnout is at an all-time high. Suicide rates for doctors are more than double that of the general population.
"Our profession continues to see a constant influx of sick patients we are unable to cure," he said. "The status quo is to throw pills at them and tell them to shape up. We grow frustrated as patients fail to improve. We become cynical."
But over the past couple of years, something has changed within Dr. Lenzkes, and he's realized he's no longer willing to stand by as patients grow sicker and sicker. The change started with a video he watched in early 2017 featuring Jason Fung, a Canadian nephrologist who is also a world-leading expert on intermittent fasting and low carb, especially for treating people with type 2 diabetes.
"That video changed my life," said Dr. Lenzkes, who has gone on to become a leader in the low carb community, and has added therapeutic carb restriction, the ketogenic diet, and fasting to his medical toolbox. Lenzkes adapted a low-carb diet and lost more than 50 pounds, and soon began helping patients lose weight through the implementation of "evidence based" lifestyle changes.
For the past year and a half, Dr. Lenzkes has co-hosted the popular Low Carb MD podcast with Dr. Tro Kalayjian, a board certified Obesity Medicine and Internal Medicine doctor based in New York, along with Dr. Fung and Megan Ramos. Low Carb MD podcast episodes have been downloaded nearly 1.4 million times.
"It recently dawned on me that I'm reaching tens of thousands of people every month through my podcast, but I’m often unable to truly reach people in my own practice. The last three patients of mine who developed diabetes, I predicted it six months before it happened. Diabetes is a preventable and reversible illness, and it's heartbreaking. We have the skills needed to avoid this disease."
Last month Dr. Lenzkes attended the Low Carb USA Boca Conference, where he delivered a presentation entitled "Deprescribing: Ending the Prescription Cascade." At the conference, he realized there were no shortage of people interested in his message, but he just needed to find a better way to reach them.
It was in Boca that he met Dr. Kristin Baier, MD, a family medicine doctor advocating for therapeutic carbohydrate restriction, who he learned was interested in moving to San Diego.
In a tweet published last Wednesday, Dr. Lenzkes announced "I am going DPC with an awesome partner Kristin Baier starting 7/1 in San Diego!!! We can keep people healthy with a clear conscience now. All we need are patients, a building, website, logo, etc...and tons of antacid!"
Dr. Lenzkes and Dr. Baier plan to open their new practice, Low Carb MD San Diego Direct Primary Care & Metabolic Health, on the campus of San Diego Christian College this July. They plan to cap their practice at a total of 400 patients per doctor, to allow the doctors to spend the time needed to develop more rewarding and effective doctor-patient relationships than can be achieved in the traditional system.
“People ask me how I can go from a practice where I had more than 3,000 patients and reduce that number to just 400. You can’t spend adequate time with the patient in a system where patients have to take a number, and only get 10 minutes with their doctor. This move will be like upgrading from an overcrowded Boeing 747 to a Learjet.”
Dr. Lenzkes plans to continue to spread the word about low carb through the podcast, and he is also looking forward to helping to educate doctors about ways they can be more effective, while avoiding the stress and helplessness that nearly devastated his own career.
SIGN-UP LIST FOR PROSPECTIVE PATIENTS - If you are interested in signing up to receive information on how you can become a patient, sign-up here. Patient list will be capped at 400 patients per doctor.
In the video below, Dr. Lenzkes details the many things that factored into his decision. This is a must-watch for any doctor experiencing physician burnout, or disillusioned with the current state of the medical profession. Emotional, educational, and timely...WATCH & SHARE!
This is a crazy story, but it's making more sense every day. Dr. Kristin Baier and I talk about the Direct Primary Care clinic we're opening together in July. We're calling it Low Carb MD San Diego Direct Primary Care & Metabolic Health. Please share this with anyone you think it might benefit.