Teaching the Whole Foods, Plant-Based Way of Eating to Medical Students

One thing that I've always advocated for, as have many of us in the whole foods, plant-based world, is teaching plant-based nutrition to students in medical school. Studies, reported by others, have consistently shown that nutrition is a subject that is barely broached if at all, during a medical student's education. And when it is, it is approached from a different vein than how people should eat.

But if we are to make real inroads with the public, which should be important to us because it will open up more products and restaurants that cater to our needs, not to mention all the societal benefits of reduced pollution, more water, more forested land, lower taxes, lower health insurance costs, etc., then doctors really need to come on board. And that requires two things -- education of the doctors and conversion of the doctor's own ways of eating. After all, a doctor who eats the standard American diet, is not exactly going to be prone to advising others to eat plant-based if she's not eating plant-based herself. And patients do follow the advice of their doctors.

So, imagine my elation when CBS News reported last night on a program at Tulane University that will require medical students to learn healthy cooking. Watch the episode that I just linked to and everything shown is plant-based. The program was developed by The American College of Lifestyle Medicine, which states that it advocates a "predominantly whole foods, plant-based diet." That's the good news. But my concern is in that word "predominantly." That leaves the door open for fish, olive oil and low-fat yogurt to mention a few of the key differences.

But, I am very encouraged by this program, which can be read more about here, and I applaud it. It is a giant leap forward because it recognizes the need to educate our future medical doctors on the importance of nutrition. And it is mostly whole foods, plant-based. Because of that, I'm not going to let perfection become the enemy of the good and denounce the program. Instead, I embrace this first step, and if it can result in turning people's diets around to being even "predominantly WFPB," then something remarkable will have been achieved.

But, I want to take it further. I want to call on our institutions to do the same. Could some of our organizations like the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) or the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell University or PlantPure Nation possibly come up with a similar program that is fully 100% whole foods, plant-based and market that to medical schools as well? There's nothing to say that the program developed and being marketed by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine needs to be the only program of this kind. I think it would be wonderful to see a 100% WFPB program also make inroads into the medical universities of our country.

I also think that there could be a need for standards-setting, or accrediting, if more and more medical schools start to do this. After all, if it becomes a trend, it's likely the Paleo people and others will also try to get in on it. I think getting a jumpstart on accrediting these kind of programs could be important to the success of the WFPB movement. And that could be another possible role for an organization like PCRM or possibly NutritionFacts.org.

We need to be successful on this because if more and more medical schools start to teach nutrition and cooking to medical students, then what they teach will impact future citizens for generations downstream. And we certainly don't want more medical schools teaching Paleo than teaching WFPB. In our free market society, that is a potential possibility. So, this is not something we can sit back and just watch what happens. It's something where we need to be at the forefront and keep ourselves actively promoting the education of medical students and doctors toward the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle.

So, while this good news is not perfect, it is pretty darn good. But we need to stay in front of it.