Updating medical school curriculum impacts the education of generations of doctors and thus, does not happen overnight, nor did we expect it to. Anything worth doing is worth doing RIGHT, and inevitably that takes some time.
Still, we have been making progress toward our goal of bringing plant-based nutrition to Wayne State University School of Medicine. This past month, Amanda met with the course director for the 2nd year Cardiopathology course, Dr. Shaun Cardozo. It was apparent Dr. Cardozo cares a great deal for his students’ education. He is on board to extend the discussion about plant-based nutrition and its role in cardiovascular disease; furthermore, having trained under Dr. Kim Williams, MD, president of the American College of Cardiology (and outspoken plant-based physician), Dr. Cardozo already incorporates diet while counseling his patients. In addition to being completely supportive of our efforts, he also suggested we poll the faculty and students about their base knowledge of plant-based nutrition so that we might better tailor our education material. So be on the look out for updates on this project as well! Currently, we are designing a survey and will work towards submitting it for IRB approval.
If you have any suggestions on what you think your doctor should know about plant-based nutrition PLEASE email us a question you’d like to incorporate in our survey!
Amanda also had the opportunity to meet with the course directors for the 1st year nutrition course. Unfortunately, this meeting was nothing like the last. Ultimately Ms. Reinhard and Ms. Width agreed to disagree concerning the notion that there is one best path towards optimal health; moving closer to a whole-foods plant-based diet and away from animal products. It was their opinion that the reason there is no consensus on the “best diet” is because there isn’t one best way to eat.
In order to understand the resistance to the published literature on plant-based nutrition it’s important to realize a few things about the way research gets translated into consensus and thus, medical practice. There is currently an emphasis on randomized double-blinded controlled studies as the gold standard for “proof” that a pill works or, in our case, if a diet works. However, this standard is not necessarily appropriate in all disciplines, nutrition being one of them (due to the impossibility of blinding patients to what they eat). Deciphering what evidence is convincing and when the burden of proof has been met for certain fields is a skill that all future physicians absolutely need to learn and is encompassed by the "art of medicine." That is, the research will not always be black and white. In certain situations a physician must look at the quality of the research (even given the shortcomings of a small trial or the trial not being randomized) and decide if it is compelling enough to give their patient the best shot at a healthy life.
Our challenge is, and has been, convincing individuals to take a hard look at the studies and to connect that information to the real life patient results. Only through doing this can you begin to truly understand the impact that is possible with plant-based nutrition. After all, each and every one of us in medicine came to this field with grandiose ideas of helping PEOPLE and curing disease, not merely treating symptoms. Patient-centered medicine ought to be the end goal of any and all treatment considerations, and fortunately for us, plant-based nutrition is wholly concerned with helping patients live their most fulfilling, happiest, and healthiest lives.
There is still much work to be done and we will keep moving forward, setting up meetings with other faculty in other courses. We continue to have the support of the Assistant Dean of Basic Science Education, Dr. Matt Jackson, and are working directly with him to coordinate these meetings. His support in helping us achieve our goals has been instrumental to our successes thus far, and we are so appreciative of his efforts on our behalf.
I am positive that we have the right people at the right time to make magic happen here at Wayne State University School of Medicine. We have the opportunity to lead the charge in plant-based nutrition in medical education, and I am confident in our abilities to make this happen! I can’t think of a better copilot to take this project on with than Amanda, whose persistence and commitment to the cause are contagious.