Doctors Terry Mason and Baxter Montgomery Are Bright Hopes in a Failing Health Care System
The June 23, 2013 conference Healthy Taste of the South Bay, gave two top physicians the chance to share compelling visions for transforming the health of thousands of ill patients, not to mention the model that the medical system uses to approach chronic disease.
DR. MASON’S VISION
Dr. Terry Mason, CEO of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, leads the third largest public healthcare system in the country. He is also a practicing urologist and one of the clinical stars of the documentary Forks Over Knives.
Dr. Mason’s vision is the Center for Total Health at Oak Forest, which would be a multipurpose health center using an evidence-based wellness-care delivery system to treat chronic illness and bring health to an underserved population. The physical foundation of his vision is a 340-acre campus with a 100-year old building that is lying idle, after caring for thousands of patients in the past. The facility has the capacity to serve 4,000 meals a day already.
People would get healthy food to eat, garden for some of their own food, walk the 10 miles of hallways on the campus, and transform their own homes into a treatment base. Dr. Mason envisions seven institutes to comprise the Center. These range from food science to exercise to employee wellness at the worksite. This breathtaking vision, which Dr. Mason is hard at work on getting to implementation, would transform
the lives of Cook County residents and serve as a model for the rest of the country.
DR. MONTGOMERY’S VISION
Dr. Baxter Montgomery, author of The Food Prescription for Better Health, founded and leads Houston’s Montgomery Heart and Wellness Center. A board-certified cardiologist, Dr. Montgomery has extensive experience treating heart disease using a wide range of approaches – including a whole foods, plant-based diet. Patients can attend a nutritional boot camp at his Center to learn the key skills to reversing heart disease with diet, and many of them choose to do so rather than to undergo risky surgeries or stay on drugs for life.
Dr. Montgomery’s Center is near the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world. This giant includes 21 hospitals, three public health organizations, two universities, three medical schools, six nursing programs, two pharmacy schools, a dental school, eight academic and research institutions, and
13 support organizations. The Texas Medical Center is also the world’s leader in performing heart surgeries. Imagine how many sick people it takes to keep that organization in business. And the taken-for-granted diet of most Americans, centered on meat, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs, and processed foods, does not disappoint in delivering patients.
Dr. Montgomery aims to reverse all that, with his Wellness Center one day overtaking the Texas Medical Center. I love this vision; the Texas Medical Center would shrink like a leftover patch of snow on a warm spring day if everyone ate the whole foods, plant-based diet that Dr. Montgomery advocates.
SIX KEY LEARNINGS THE DOCTORS AGREE ON
Although each is pursuing his own vision for change, Drs. Mason and Montgomery agree on key basic principles of health. Here are some of their observations they shared at Healthy Taste of the South Bay.
One. Early detection is not prevention. Dr. Mason: The medical system has “fooled the public into thinking early detection is prevention.” Dr. Montgomery pointed out the progression of disease in the U.S. population has been relentless. Prevention consists in taking away the cause of illness – which is primarily diet.
Two. Our current healthcare system needs major transformation. Dr. Mason talked about disparities in
access to care in the population he serves. He also put forth the idea “without disease there is no value proposition in our current system.” Dr. Montgomery described how the system is geared to deliver very expensive, yet ineffective, surgeries for chronic disease states.
Three. Poor lifestyle choice is the underlying cause of premature death and food is the most important element of lifestyle. Dr. Montgomery described an illustration in his book. He drew a tree with poor nutrition as the trunk, and chronic diseases as the leaves that grow as a result. These illnesses are resolved when the doctor treats “bad fooditis.” He went on to tell the audience “chronic disease is a food-borne illness” and that “we are primarily treating the side effects of the bad food we eat.” Dr. Mason shared that diabetes is rooted in malnutrition and the real causes of death are harmful lifestyle choices.
Four. Food can be used to treat and reverse chronic disease. Part of Dr. Mason’s vision is that food will be used as medicine at the Center for Total Health. He said “we have eaten ourselves into this problem and we can eat ourselves out of it.” Using food as medicine is a paradigm shift that Dr. Montgomery is modeling. In fact, treating chronic illness without changing patients’ food choices is doomed to failure. It’s like treating a patient with a vise grip crushing his thumb with pills, without removing the vise grip.
Five. People should concentrate on eating whole foods, not isolated nutrients. Dr. Montgomery pointed out that food is a complex chemical substance, and we can’t separate the nourishing components of food from the non-nourishing. “The body does not consume a protein, it consumes a food.” The total profile of nutrients in whole plant foods is far superior to the nutritional profile of animal foods. Dr. Mason is enthusiastic about whole foods people can learn to grow, and contrasted Farmacy and Pharmacy.
Six. Health is multidimensional, with spiritual and emotional aspects. Being happy is part of being
healthy. Dr. Montgomery tells his patients about the “livable aspects” of a plant-based diet, which leads to happiness in so many ways, not just simple survival. Health is about energetic enjoyment in all decades of life, so a senior in her 80’s can attend a grandchild’s college graduation. Dr. Mason’s Center for Total Health aims for mental and spiritual health as well as physical. He quoted Romans 12:2 from the Bible: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
In addition to implementing bold visions, Drs. Mason and Montgomery have something else in common. They are passionate, dedicated, articulate advocates brimming with positive energy. Their visions are big and original, but also within the bounds of the possible. Stay tuned for exciting developments.
If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read about Dr. Don Wagner, a physician who is using radio to educate the community on the power of whole foods, plant-based diets to prevent and reverse chronic disease.
Intrigued? Now you can use our Whole Foods Blog Finder to target informative, fun postings on whole foods, plant-based diets. Quick information at no cost!
Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods. The book describes a plant-based diet that can fulfill the doctors’ treatment plan of reversing illness with food.
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Tags: cardiovascular disease, Center for Total Health at Oak Forest, diabetes, Dr. Baxter Montgomery, Dr. Terry Mason, Forks Over Knives, Healthy Taste of the South Bay, Montgomery Heart and Wellness Center, nutrition facts, Plant-based nutrition, Texas Medical Center, vegetables, whole foods plant-based diet