The Plantrician Project has been leading the movement to educate the healthcare community about the benefits of whole food, plant-based nutrition for the better part of the past decade. The Project is a proud partner of Plant Based World Conference & Expo where they programmed the education for the CE-credited Health Summit featuring many of the top clinicians and researchers in the space.
This conversation is with two of The Plantrician Project’s founders – Dr. Scott Stoll and Tom Dunnam. Read the full article to learn more about the origins and mission behind the growing Plantrician movement and hear some valuable advice for any healthcare professional seeking to learn how to more effectively reverse and prevent disease through whole food, plant-based nutrition!
Tell us about the origin story and mission behind The Plantrician Project
Tom: I actually met Scott back in 2009 when I attended one of his weekend health immersion programs in Pennsylvania. I was looking for plant-based doctors and Scott was incredibly kind and approachable. We started working together on immersion programs for Whole Foods. We were doing great work reaching people through the immersions, but at one point Scott had the idea to do something focused on the clinician community. The idea was to multiply the effect we could have on the health of the population by reaching physicians.
Dr. Stoll: I had done a lot of research on alternative health treatments, anti-aging, etc. and failed to really get the answers I was looking for. Once I connected with and began transitioning my own personal journey in a plant-based direction I wanted to make it easier for my colleagues to discover the common thread that eating more plants leads to better health. We did not know it at the time, but this ended up becoming the mission behind The Plantrician Project – to be a resource for health professionals to effectively learn about the benefits of plant-based nutrition in a one-stop opportunity. And, of course, part of that goal is to help them implement what they learn into their practice so they can influence thousands upon thousands of patients.
Tom: It is also a major part of our philosophy to find common ground within the movement. We aren’t here to showcase the disagreements or arguments within the movement but rather to bring to light that which we can agree upon – and we agree upon almost everything except for some small nuances. We also seek to highlight new and different people and cultivate the leaders that will bring the movement steadily into the future.
How would you describe the growth of the organization over the past 7 years and what are you most excited about moving forward?
Tom: After coming up with the idea for the conference we were introduced to Susan Benigas who had been doing some work in the space and laying the groundwork for what would become The Plantrician Project. Together, the 3 of us developed the conference and built out The Plantrician Project including our first Board of Directors. The first conference was held in October of 2013 and had less than 200 attendees. We loved the energy of that first event and wanted to grow it – which we did over the next 6 years to where we had almost 1,000 attendees at our last conference in San Diego.
We have a lot of projects that we are currently excited about. We look forward to growing our partnership with Plant Based World Conference & Expo and developing more of a presence for The Plantrician Project on the East Coast. We are also developing a medical journal which we believe has the potential to add credibility and more of a foundation for the science behind plant-based nutrition.
Dr. Stoll: One of the most exciting things for us is international expansion. We have reach now into so many different countries. We are even working this year to launch a conference in Saudi Arabia.
I am also excited about the project with the Rodale Institute – the leaders in organic, regenerative agriculture around the world. We are working to create a regenerative health institute, which is connecting the dots between healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy humans, and a healthy planet. These are all such important connections and we are looking to stimulate new conversations that aren’t happening. My vision is to recognize that farmers are an important part of the healthcare solution and the healthcare system. We haven’t always thought about them that way but if we want to have a holistic approach to health, we need to welcome in farmers as heroes and part of that solution.
We also have a PBS program called Food Is Medicine which is going to start running nationally next year.
How do you see clinical research space evolving to provide more credibility and support for plant-based diets?
Dr. Stoll: Research in this space is often compartmentalized into smaller journals where the impact of the research is lost. So the establishment of the our medical journal is one way we are working to solve this problem. The journal is called the International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention. The idea is to compile the best and newest research in one place. It has also become the official journal of the Lifestyle Medicine Global Alliance and we hope to strike other partnerships as well. There is also a companion publication to the Journal, The Disease Reversal Digest, which takes the science in the Journal and writes it up in simpler language we can all understand.
One of our biggest needs is more research to prove that plant-based diet is the optimal recommendation to be used by healthcare system and government organizations. We need funding to support really good research and a board that can direct the right studies. This requires a recognition that research is important and a flow of funds into the right projects. As the industry is growing up we are hopeful that money from profitable companies will go back into research and contribute to a supportive, self-sustaining ecosystem.
How do you expand your audience from those who are already bought in to the concept to those more mainstream clinicians who need this information but are hesitant to seek it out themselves?
Dr. Stoll: In general, the healthcare system is not quite as receptive to the message as we would like, but that has been changing over the past 5 years. There are now fewer points of resistance to the message. We make it a point to speak at hospitals and speak to clinicians who have not yet heard the message.
It is important for us to continue doing the work we already do to connect with the un-reached healthcare providers and healthcare systems. We do targeted email programs with hospitals and clinicians. We also hope to have the Journal carried in a diverse group of health institutions to open up avenues of communication.
And of course it is essential that we communicate the message with as good and reputable science as possible.
What advice do you have for healthcare professionals who are curious about the benefits of plant-based eating but are hesitant to abandon so much of what they were taught throughout their medical training and education?
Tom: I can give you the non-clinician perspective. I was totally resistant growing up. It wasn’t until my mid 30’s that I made a commitment to try it out. It was the way it made me feel that proved its credibility during that time and I never looked back. I believe this strategy can work for anyone, clinicians included. The research is there, so take a shot at trying it out on yourself and see first hand how it makes you feel.
Dr. Stoll: It was Maya Angelou who said “I did then what I knew how to do, but now that I know better, I do better”. This is how I feel about being a doctor equipped with the knowledge of plant-based nutrition. It restores the joy of practicing medicine once again. So many of us went in to this field because we really wanted to help people – this provides the greatest vehicle to truly give people their lives back as well as add life to their years. I encourage any healthcare provider to sit down and do the research for yourself and prove it to yourself so that you can become the greatest advocate of whole food nutrition and lifestyle medicine to your patients.
The power of your plate is far more powerful than you can imagine. It has the ability to transform your life and the lives of your patients – one delicious bite at a time.
And of course, always lead with love!
Big thanks to Dr. Stoll, Tom and the entire Plantrician Project team for their leadership in making the world a healthier place. We here at Plant Based World look forward to continuing to work together to spread the knowledge about whole food, plant-based nutrition for many years to come!
Be sure to visit The Plantrician Project’s website to learn more and register today for the upcoming International Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference in Oakland California this September!