5 Years of ‘Food as Medicine’

“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu

It all started exactly 5 years ago.

That was when we took the first step of our journey here at the University of California Davis Integrative Medicine Program (UCDIM).

And what a beautiful, big, bold journey it has been!

1825 amazing days of pure wonder–filled with long days of endless work and countless challenges but also unexpected triumphs and great satisfactions as we steadfastly constructed our dream.

One small step at a time. Beautiful strawberries

The initial idea for the program was simple–to share the message that how we eat greatly affects our health. And that if ‘food is medicine’, the very best way to look after your health is to embrace a whole food plant-based lifestyle.

We never imagined that we would end up where we are today–now having touched millions with our blog articles, our events and our talks.

But very importantly we have not grown the UCDIM garden alone.

Our journey has been a collective of journeys. A compendium of dreams. In which thousands have participated. Including you.

So while this blog post celebrates the 5th anniversary of the University of California Integrative Medicine Program, it is really a celebration of you too!

Because without each and every one of you, that ‘seed’ of an idea that we had five years ago could never have blossomed into the beautiful thriving garden it has become today.

Let’s take the time today to review our collective journey.

Our Early Beginnings

Chocolate heart.For the first two years at UCDIM, we concentrated our energies on educating our own physicians and staff about plant-based nutrition. To that end, we launched a Grand Rounds lecture series called Pioneers in Integrative Medicine.

In June 2011, just two months after the program started, we hosted our very first speaker, the illustrious Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. who discussed how to “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”.

Our next speaker was the world famous co-author of “The China Study”, Dr. T. Colin Campbell who spoke to us in September 2011 about “Nutrition in the Medical Model: It’s More Than Generally Known”.

The following March, Dr. John McDougall, founder and director of the famous McDougall Program came to speak about “The Starch Solution: With Comments on Multiple Sclerosis”.

As a result of these talks, dozens of physicians, nurses, staffers and students here at UC Davis successfully made the transition to a plant-based lifestyle.

Connecting With Our Community

As we grew, we realized it was time to reach out to a more ‘general’ audience. People around the globe are searching for answers when it comes to dietary choice; we were convinced that we could contribute to that conversation.

We were ready to share all we knew and to teach others about the importance of plant-based nutrition. What we weren’t prepared for was how much YOU would teach us!

We have learned so much from our community.Mar 27_5Anniversary_Illustrate19_000023075993

From each of you.

One of the most important things you taught us is how eager you are to get reliable and relatable information that can really help you transition successfully to a plant-based lifestyle.

In order to help you with that, we decided to start our blog about a year ago.

And the response has been unimaginable.

In just one year we have published 128 blog posts and now enjoy over 2 million readers!

We have always tried to bring a different spin to our blog. Covering topics that haven’t always been covered before, like our ‘Essentials’ series that discussed those absolutely must-have nutrients in our diet, our ‘One Health” series that looked at the interconnectedness of animals, humans and our environment, and of course, the ‘Changing Habits’ series that impacted so many, including our own UC Davis medical students (I’ll explain more about that a bit later).

Beyond Our Blog

Our educational outreach does not stop at our blog. For example, last year we ran a 21 Food Day Challenge where we offered people a chance to change their lives forever by trying out a 100% plant-based diet for 3 weeks. A whopping 10,000 people participated in the challenge!

Wrapped vintage gift box_iStock_000026921117_MediumOver the years, we have run several virtual events including last year’s Nurture Your Health Forum: The Ultimate Summit for Plant-Based Enthusiasts held in April which featured many of the leading chefs and RDs in the area of plant-based nutrition.

Closer to home, we are delighted that we have been given the opportunity to educate UC Davis medical students on the basics of plant-based nutrition. Specifically, we teach them real-world, practical lessons focusing on changing habits.

In just two short months, these medical students experienced firsthand how hard it is for people to change their behavior. (They also learned how good pizza can taste without any cheese!)

And in honor of our five-year anniversary, we came full circle by bringing back our Pioneers in Integrative Medicine series. In February 2016, we were honored to have New York Times best-selling author Dr. Michael Greger speak to us about “Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating Disease With Diet”.  And to make it even better, this time, we opened up the Pioneers series beyond our own physicians, staff and students by inviting over 150 people from our community to join us.

Now What?

At the 5 year mark, it is natural to look ahead to the next five years. And we have a lot planned for you with ideas to expand both our research projects and educational programs. Simply put, as we move forward, we will do everything in our power to grow with you and serve you to the best of our ability.

In closing, I would like to thank everyone that has made this journey possible.

I am deeply grateful for our continuing relationships with some of the greatest spokespeople and heroes of plant-based living including Dr. Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Greger and registered dietitian Jeff Novick, all of whom we greatly admire and rely on.

And equally, I want to thank YOU. Each and every one of you. Whether you have been with us since the beginning or just recently joined us.

Thank you for contributing to this special community.integrative medicine

Thank you for your journey into a plant-based lifestyle.

As we have discussed in our recent One Health series, by committing to your own health, you not only help yourself but contribute greatly to the well-being of our fellow animals as well as the planet itself.

May the next five years be just as amazing as the first five…

And to show our gratitude we would like to share an extra special recipe for Potato Spelt Gnocchi With Asparagus Puree and Black Olive Tapenade created by the one and only Eric Tucker from Millennium Restaurant— a veritable legend in the plant-based world and one of the top 3 vegan restaurants in the country.