Fourteen years ago, Desert Health was launched to shine a light on the shift towards lifestyle medicine — doctors prescribing food and lifestyle choices over pills. Naturopathic doctors, who learn this in medical school, have led the way followed by a growing number of functional and integrative doctors today.

However, there is still a major gap that needs to be filled for this movement to go mainstream – allopathic medical students learning how food can heal.

The lead feature in our second edition (March/April 2011) discussed how U.S. medical schools were embracing integrative care, yet still today, the average medical school student only receives about 20 hours of nutrition education.1,2 

Now, there is a free online learning platform that offers evidence-based courses on the ability of food to heal and to prevent disease. 

Plantrician University (Plant U) education complements academic curricula and is open to confirmed health care students and medical school faculty. The one-hour courses include a library of over 100 CME/CE quality lectures, discussion groups and forums with the latest research, resources and practices. 

The platform’s multifaceted approach encompasses education, advocacy, research, community building and strategic partnerships with other schools and organizations, including the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and Loma Linda University. By fostering collaboration globally, the platform aims to build a community of health care professionals dedicated to transforming health care paradigms.

New courses are added monthly, and future phases include a mentorship program to connect seasoned practitioners with students and early-career professionals to provide guidance, support and real-world insights for integrating plant-based principles into clinical practice.

Plant U was launched in 2022 by The Plantrician Project, a non-profit organization whose work emphasizes incorporating plant-based nutrition into traditional medical care through conferences, education and resources. Members include foremost experts Dean Ornish, MD, T. Colin Campbell, PhD, Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. MD, Michael Greger, MD, and William Li, MD, to name a few, along with founding physician Scott Stoll, MD.

By providing free access, Plant U removes financial barriers, they state, ensuring the next generation of health care professionals is equipped with the skills to understand, advocate for and implement plant-based nutrition into their practice. 

“Physicians are trained to diagnose and treat disease,” states the Plant U team, “and while they are often the gatekeepers of dietary recommendations, our medical education system provides very little meaningful training in clinical nutrition.” By bridging this gap, they hope to equip health care professionals in training with the tools needed to prioritize prevention and effective lifestyle interventions. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nutrition-related diseases are the leading cause of death and disability globally, accounting for an estimated 41 million deaths globally.3

As more medical practitioners start their careers with the foundation of a whole food, plant-based nutrition education, they project health care systems will begin to change, ushering in real health care reform and a more sustainable system.

For more information and application, visit Practicing health care providers can learn more about education and programs offered by visiting

References: 1); 2); 3)

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