In the summer of 2013 I was accepted to Wayne State University School of Medicine (WSUSOM). This is it, I thought. What I had been waiting and training for since high school. The journey to become a better doctor and a better example for my patients began that day…
I was admittedly extremely unhealthy: eating fast food at almost every meal and drinking pop as my only source of liquid. Certainly patients would never listen to any advice I had to give if I couldn't follow it myself.
Having made up my mind to seek out a healthier lifestyle I still had no idea where to start. What exactly was a healthy diet? Flipping through Netflix I found a documentary about some meat and cheese-loving New Yorkers that ate the typical American diet and how they were going to get healthy. Figuring I could glean some inspiration and advice, I pressed play on Vegucated and my life changed forever.
The health implications of what I was doing to my body were enough but now I was made aware of what we’re also doing to the animals and the environment. That moment I decided I would never consume animal products again. However, my voracious consumption of information had only begun. I followed Vegucated up with another documentary, Forks Over Knives, and started reading books by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn while searching for published literature on the topic. The research was staggering.
How could I not have known about this sooner?
Why was this information not readily available?
Well…at least I was starting medical school, and I would get more information about it there.
Our nutrition education mentioned a vegan diet a total of 6 times in our course pack, and when it was mentioned it was on a list of patients who needed to be monitored for dietary deficiencies.
My medical school classmates and upperclassmen frequently inquired about where I was getting my protein or how I must be frightened of my impending B12 deficiency. Initially I was stunned. How could such bright young minds not understand what years of research have unveiled? It was then I realized it wasn’t their fault. The fault lies with society as a whole, our lack of education, and our willingness to carry on as we always have even though we know a better way. So I set out to change our medical school.
I was then a first year medical student with a heavy course load and not enough time on my hands to pursue other interests. I decided to modify my coursework and have my first year stretch over a period of 2 years. I am now officially finished with my first year course work (which took 2 years) and am a rising 2nd year medical student.
I can honestly say this was the best decision I've ever made. I now had ample time to devote to research in the field of psychiatry AND to start making contacts that could help me educate every medical student that set foot in Wayne State on plant-based nutrition.
Meeting Dr. Mary Morreale, a psychiatrist and associate professor at WSUSOM, was the turning point to changing my ideas into actions. A ripple effect from meeting her led me to Dr. Joel Kahn, a cardiologist, associate professor at WSUSOM, and compelling speaker. He directed me to Paul Chatlin, and I was completely blown away by what he was doing to support the plant-based community through his support group, Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group (PBNSG).
Immediately after being invited to a Halt Heart Disease and Diabetes seminar hosted by PBNSG I decided I would invite my fellow classmates to see the response.
One medical student came.
Her name is Brittany Van Houten and during the seminar I realized that her passion for plant-based nutrition matched my own, and I couldn't think of a better partner to help change our medical school.
After discussing multiple ideas and getting a handful of other medical students on our side, I met with Dr. Matt Jackson, Assistant Dean of WSUSOM, and all-around nice guy. The receptiveness and willingness to hear my ideas was truly inspiring and Dr. Jackson has since become instrumental in all of the changes we’ve set in motion. Like my experience with that first documentary, I know that this is only the beginning…
For now we have confirmed 2 events for the 2015/2016 school year:
- A Journal Club for the medical students to discuss Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s latest publication
- A Health and Wellness Seminar regarding the treatment and reversal of heart disease using plant-based nutrition
What’s next, you may be asking?
- Approval of our Plant-Based Nutrition Interest Group which will host a speaker to the medical school each month with plant-based lunches made available by PGNSG
- Presentations to members of the faculty that challenge the current curriculum in both nutrition and cardiovascular education, and introduce plant-based concepts
All the work Brittany and I will be able to accomplish at the medical school is in large part thanks to the unwavering support of Paul Chatlin and the PBNSG. We couldn't be more grateful.