Words by Dr. Neal Barnard / Photo by Steve Shapiro
For all the patients who have complained that their doctors know nothing about nutrition, all the medical students who have had nowhere to see plant-based diets in action, all the people following vegan diets who could not find a doctor who understands their choices, all the enlightened but overly busy doctors who have had no time to counsel patients on food choices, and, most of all, all the people suffering with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and weight problems who are taking one prescription after another and have never been able to tackle the cause of their problems, we have opened the Barnard Medical Center. You can download the special Barnard Medical Center excerpt from the winter 2016 issue of Good Medicine to find out more.
It is a place where patients get the care they need, where they and their families are supported for diet and lifestyle changes, where doctors, nurses, and dietitians can thrive, and where medical students can learn.
Barnard Medical had its genesis back in 2003, when the National Institutes of Health funded the Physicians Committee’s research on plant-based diets for type 2 diabetes. As our approach became well-known, people from far and wide asked how they could visit our doctors, and doctors asked how they could learn about the methods we had developed. Although we have produced books, videos, television programs, and Web materials, and have held many conferences to bring our approach to a wide audience, it became clear that a medical center was very much needed.
When nutrition is a core issue—in diabetes, for example—we give special emphasis to the power of nutrition through individual and group sessions and ongoing support, and we prescribe medications only to the extent you really need them.
When nutrition is not the issue—for coughs, urinary infections, twisted ankles, and other problems that come into a busy primary care clinic—we provide the medicines, bandages, or whatever else patients may need. But every patient is also invited to schedule a diet makeover and get help with quitting smoking or breaking other habits. After all, a twisted ankle is not likely to be fatal, but bad eating habits that go overlooked year after year may well be. We’ll help change them.
Barnard Medical is also a teaching facility for medical students from the George Washington University, and a place where research studies can test new nutrition interventions. Barnard Medical is not-for-profit. We accept the major insurance plans and have a sliding scale for low-income patients. We gladly accept donations and memorial gifts of support.
I hope you have a chance to meet our team, and we look forward to the day when every doctor and every patient embraces the power of foods for health and has the knowledge and tools to put it to work.