It was the autumn of 1983. I was a third year resident at the University of Wisconsin Family Medicine program at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison. I was "newly minted doctor" on rotation in the Coronary Care Unit taking care of critically ill patients with all types of cardiac problems. One evening I admitted a 53-year-old woman who I will never forget. She had just experienced a severe heart attack and was fighting for her life. Lying in bed with oxygen flowing, IVs in her arms, monitors beeping and all of the wonder drugs and technology that modern medicine could muster to keep her alive; she looked at me as tear rolled down from her eye and said "you're a young doctor and I hope that in your career you will help people like me before they get to this stage – please help them to do what it takes to prevent this from happening to them". I looked into her eyes that were filled with fear and sadness and said: "yes ma’am… it is my plan to make your wish my legacy. Thank you for your insight and your inspiration..."
By that time I had already read enough to know that her heart attack, which occurred when a buildup of inflamed cholesterol laden plaque in one of her coronary arteries ruptured and blocked vital blood flow to a portion of her heart muscle, was almost entirely preventable. In medical school they had taught us that coronary artery disease is a progressive disease that is a largely a consequence of aging. But alas, the full truth emerged just 7 years later when Dr. Dean Ornish published a landmark study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Using the latest in cardiac imaging techniques and a rigorous scientific design, he proved that this "disease" is not really a disease at all -- but rather a condition that is not only preventable, but also largely reversible with some straightforward lifestyle changes.
Since then, additional overwhelming evidence has proven that the cornerstone intervention to prevent and reverse heart disease-- our nation's leading killer -- is a Whole Food Plant-Based diet. In addition, it is now clear that this same diet helps to prevent and commonly reverse virtually all of the most common chronic diseases that I see every day in my office as a Family Physician.
True to my CCU patient’s wish, in my 33 years since finishing residency, I have dedicated my medical practice to inspiring people of all ages to take charge of their health and "Say No to Chronic Disease and Yes to Vitality”. I set the stage for them to take charge of their health by choosing great tasting, colorful health promoting whole plant based foods as the ticket that allows them to discontinue their medications, increase their energy levels and prevent, or in many cases even reverse, diseases like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and many others.
While medical practice is slow to change, the enthusiasm that I see for Plant-Based Health and Wellness in heroes like Paul Chatlin and the 6000+ members and volunteers of PBNSG are evidence that this movement has turned the corner and is “going viral”. There is a growing understanding that junk food, chicken, fish, red meat, dairy products, refined oils and eggs are all horrible disease promoting food-like substances masquerading as human food that should at the very least be minimized, and ideally eliminated, from our plates.
People of all ages are recognizing in record numbers that we are not slaves to the marketing ploys of the animal and junk food industries, but rather educated consumers who recognize that “Health is a Gift we Give Ourselves". We are saying Yes to a whole food Plant-Based lifestyle for ourselves and our children and, in the process, the world is becoming a better place for our families, for the animals and for the earth itself. Please join me in making my 1984 patient’s near dying wish a reality that we can all be a part of by living and sharing the heath and joy that comes with a Plant-Based Lifestyle. In addition, help to change the culture at your workplace by reading and employing the principles in Gigi Carter’s new book: “The Plant Based Workplace”. More on this in my next article and, in the meantime, have a Healthy and Joyous Holiday Season!