Your doctor diagnoses high blood pressure or cholesterol, and you await a call from your pharmacy to pick up the prescription you may be on for life. What if instead, you anticipate an email with your newly prescribed 10-day meal plan? You swap reading a long list of side effects for recipes that can address the root cause of your condition and improve your overall quality of life.

This new concept is called “lifestyle medicine” and the Plantrician Project, a non-profit organization, is working to make it mainstream. 

A “plantrician” is defined as a physician or clinician empowered with the knowledge of the benefits of whole food, plant-based nutrition. The group’s ambitious goal is transforming human health, health care and the food ecosystem by changing the way doctors practice medicine. They envision “a world in which all physicians, health care providers and health influencers have embraced the dietary paradigm shift to a whole food, plant-based diet; in turn, effectively promoting patient and client adoption of this health-protecting, disease-fighting way of living.”

The Plantrician Project has been educating practitioners for a decade. Their first International Plant-based Nutrition Conference was held in Naples, Florida in 2013, attracting 180 people from 12 countries. Their 10th annual event will be held this year at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert and is expected to attract over 1,000 attendees from around the globe both in-person and virtually. 

“With its dry heat, hot springs and mountain views, the Coachella Valley is long known as a draw for those interested in health and wellness,” says the Plantrician Project’s Alexis Corrigan, director of marketing and communications. “It was a natural choice, particularly when considering that it is easily accessible for travelers regionally and internationally.” Their 2023 conference is scheduled to take place here as well. 

Plantrician Project Co-founder and Chairman Scott Stoll, MD

The CME-accredited medical education conference takes place September 16-19 and is open to all, offering up to 23 continuing education credits for practitioners. Content focuses on “the current and progressive scientific research conveying the efficacy of using whole food, plant-based nutrition in a food-as-medicine first approach to preventing, suspending and even reversing chronic disease.” Attendees will learn both science and practical application from foremost experts in nutritional medicine including Dean Ornish, MD; The China Study’s T. Collin Campbell, PhD; Michael Greger, MD of Nutritionfacts.org; and the Cleveland Clinic’s Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD. 

The Plantrician Project’s work is driven by statistics and backed by science. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 60% of Americans live with at least one chronic disease such as heart disease and stroke, cancer or diabetes.1 Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in America and also a leading driver of health care costs.1 Studies show that 70% of these diseases can be prevented or reversed with a whole food, plant-based dietary lifestyle.2 Yet despite these numbers, the National Academy of Sciences only recommends 25 hours of nutrition education in undergraduate medical education with many institutions offering less.3 Thus, it is no surprise allopathic doctor’s feel unprepared to address diet and nutrition with their patients. 

Author and food as medicine movement leader Dean Ornish, MD

A 2019 study published in The Lancet Planetary Health states that medical students worldwide report having “insufficient nutrition knowledge and skills to effectively support dietary behavior change in their patients.”4 The Plantrician Project works to provide that empowerment through education and processes that make prescribing lifestyle changes as easy as prescribing pills.

Beyond the conference, the Plantrician Project’s other tools and resources for practitioners include an education series; The International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention, a free peer reviewed scientific journal supporting the science of plant-based nutrition and healthy lifestyle to prevent and reverse chronic illness; PlantBasedDocs.com, a global directory of plant-based health care providers;
PlantPure Rx, a program making it easy to prescribe nutrition; a free Plant-Based Nutrition Quickstart Guide and its pediatric supplement; and Culinary Rx, a prescribable online cooking and nutrition course for both doctors and their patients. 

In an effort to reach the next generation of doctors who they feel will have the greatest impact on transforming health care globally, they are also launching Plantrician U, a compilation of their teachings slated to be free to all health care professional students worldwide. It is targeted to be online later this summer. 

“Lifestyle medicine is a hope filled message,” says Plantrician Project Co-founder and Chairman Scott Stoll, MD. “It’s a simple message that all of the choices you need to make to improve your life are in your hands each day.” We earn our disease through lifestyle choices, he notes, but when we change our choices, we support our body and its ability to heal and renew. “It’s simply what you put on your fork, how many hours of sleep you get, your exercise, and how you relieve stress, and forgive and receive life fully.” 

This year’s International Plant-based Nutrition Healthcare Conference topics address many of today’s leading health concerns including (but not limited to):

Friends, colleagues and plant-based luminaries Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. MD, Michael Greger, MD, Dean Ornish, MD and Michael Klaper, MD will take part in the September conference.
  • Intersection of Food, Pain and Regeneration (Stephan Esser, MD)
  • Deep Dive on Lipids and Food (Monica Aggarwal, MD, FACC)
  • Cardiovascular Disease and Diet (Koushik R. Reddy, MD)
  • Diet and Metabolism (William Li, MD)
  • Transitional Research on Diet and Dementia (Drs. Ayesha and Dean Sherzai)
  • Plant-Based Nutrition for Optimal Performance in Master Athletes (Richard M. Rosenfeld, MD, MPH)
  • The Breast Defense: How to Minimize Cancer Risk (Kristi Funk, MD, FACS)
  • Plant-based Nutrition Practice Strategy and Solutions (Melissa Mondala, MD, MHA) 
  • Unifying Theory of Lifestyle Medicine (Dean Ornish, MD)

The conference will begin on Friday with a welcome reception and opening dinner featuring a keynote address from Dr. Stoll. Presentations and panel discussions take place Saturday, Sunday and Monday and include nine plant-based meals. Incremental workshops covering clinical strategies, women’s health, men’s health and eliminating pain will be offered on Friday to in-person attendees (additional fees apply).

In a quote on the conference website, Stoll says, “It’s going to take doctors becoming informed, rising up, banding together, and, in the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath, demanding change of the current system. As physicians begin to change, the system will begin to change, ushering in real health care reform and a sustainable system. This will require a grassroots effort on the part of physicians.” 

Attendees include medical and osteopathic doctors, nurses, medical assistants, naturopathic doctors and other health influencers. Those eager to become a part of the change are encouraged to attend. Early bird pricing is available through July 18, and discounted pricing is available to fellows, residents and students in an accredited program. Exhibitor opportunities are also available.

For more on the Plantrician Project, visit plantricianproject.org. To register for the conference, visit www.pbnhc.com. Editorial by Lauren Del Sarto, founder/publisher Desert Health.

References: 1) https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/index.htm; 2) https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/index.htm; 3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6855992; 4) https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(19)30171-8/fulltext

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