Dr. Don Wagner Heeded “Physician Heal Thyself,” and Now Guides Patients with a Whole Foods, Plant-Based Diet Plan
Childhood was a health disaster for Don Wagner. Born with cardiac issues, including a hole in his heart and arrhythmias, he started life on medications and hospitalizations.
At age 4, he tumbled off a three story balcony in New York City, his childhood home. Paralyzed on his left side, he spent 6 months in a hospital with doctors helpless to get him to recover. Finally, still unable to move the left side of his body, the young boy was allowed to go home. When the doctors told Don’s parents he would probably never walk again, his Mom became his hero. Refusing to give up, she learned some physical therapy modalities and worked with Don intensively until he made a full recovery. Don was not done with the hospital stints yet, though, and his pediatrician became a role model because Don saw him so often.
Luckily, Don grew into better health in his teenage years. “I never wanted to be sick again,” he told me as I shared a fragrant Indian curry dinner with him and wife Sandy. The couple, thriving on a whole foods, plant-based diet, now juggles their busy Bullhead Urgent Care Center in Arizona with a plant-based private practice and Dr. Don’s vegan radio show.
“I grew up on the standard American diet, but had a hippy macrobiotic uncle. He and his friends told me, “Don’t eat meat, man, it’s not healthy.”
Instinctively I knew they were right, and became vegetarian when I went to college, then vegan just before medical school. I didn’t know how to do it right, though. I didn’t feel well, and my weight plummeted from 180 to 122. I ended up going back to being vegetarian, which was easier for
me,” Dr. Don relates.
Dr. Don became certified in Emergency Medicine and Family Practice. He moved his career from New York to Florida, then decided to live in the West. Tragedy struck his family again on 9/11. Dr. Don was in a small town in Arizona to interview when he watched the Twin Towers fall. He lost two family members that day. The comforting safety of a small town with no crime was irresistible and so he accepted a new position. Later he moved to Bullhead City, a faster-growing town, and eventually opened Bullhead Urgent Care Center.
Dr. Don likes to resolve his patients’ problems. “I was happy fixing bones and sewing up gashes, but frustrated that my patients with chronic disease never got better. They just ended up on more and more meds. I knew there had to be another approach. I became vegan again in 2006, but this time I got the science. I studied the research of Doctors McDougall, Esselstyn, and Campbell. This time I ate right, with whole foods like vegetables, flax seed, and nutritional yeast. I was careful to get enough B12. I felt great, but still did not know how to use what I was learning to get my patients well.”
The turning point for Dr. Don was a low-income, seriously ill patient who came to his Urgent Care Center. This man, who had not had the funds
to see a doctor in years, turned out to have advanced diabetes, hypertension, and elevated liver enzymes. Dr. Don put him on multiple meds, but the man wanted to get at the cause of his ills. Dr. Don told him the problems all traced to lifestyle choices, and marvels at the result. “The man got a bike to ride everywhere for exercise. He gave up drinking and started feasting on vegetables. In 6 months, he was off all his meds and never came back to see me. He was well.”
Encouraged by success, Dr. Don began handing out Dr. Esselstyn’s book to his heart patients and Dr. Campbell’s book to his cancer patients. “Some get it, some don’t. If the patient wants to work on a plant-based eating plan, I take care of him or her. Otherwise, one of the other clinicians in the Urgent Care Center does. I only work now with patients heading in a plant-based direction. It can be a slow transition. The hardest foods for my patients to give up are oil and cheese. They convince themselves that a little bit is okay. But even a little bit causes inflammation and plays havoc with their recovery. Sometimes I have to transition them off of up to 15 medications. The process is challenging, but highly gratifying for me. The ones who go all the way get well, and I rarely see them again.”
Dr. Don also gave Dr. Esselstyn’s book to his wife, Sandy, who was suffering from severe pains in her legs caused by blocked blood vessels. Sandy discovered the pleasures of a whole foods, plant-based eating plan. Her leg pains vanished, her blood pressure normalized, and her energy soared. Sandy, who runs the Urgent Care, is a gifted cook who shares her healthy recipes with patients and is working on a cookbook.
Dr. Don lets everyone know about the power of whole foods, plant-based diets to heal with his terrific broadcast radio program, the Dr. Don Show. Pretty much every leading figure in plant-based lifestyles, from physicians to PhDs, to chefs to exercise and psychology experts, have been guest on his show. Dr. Don is a skilled interviewer who works with his guests to articulate their story.
At first Dr. Don could reach only the Bullhead City broadcast area. As listeners began to thank him for changing their lives, he realized he needed
to get his show to a larger audience to help even more people. He now archives all shows on the site of his Urgent Care, and is building a new website to host the archives and become a go-to resource for information on healthy vegan diets. His plans for the site include videos, articles, recipes, and more.
You can listen to the archives of his show now. Don’t miss out on this treasure trove of entertainment and information while we wait for his new site to launch.
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 an easy-to-follow diet built on a simple plant-based eating plan that can prevent, and even reverse, most chronic disease. Janice is honored to have been a guest on Dr. Don’s show.
Tags: Bullhead Urgent Care Center, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Don Show, Dr. Don Wagner, getting healthy, Plant-based nutrition, reverse chronic disease, vegan radio show, vegetables, whole foods plant-based diet