Just like the words of the New York anthem, it’s time to “start spreading the news,” about the new Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. This is a giant step for the ever-growing integration of a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle and modern medicine.
The program is designed to help people get healthier by changing their lifestyle habits and encouraging patients to adopt a plant-based diet. While the lifestyle medicine program will focus on those who want to reverse current medical problems like Type 2 Diabetes, prediabetes, heart disease, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, or chronic obesity, it might also be the perfect facility for those seeking to maintain or improve a plant-based lifestyle. Care will be provided by a team of four physicians, registered dieticians, and a health coach.
Dr. Michelle McMacken, Director of the NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue Adult Weight Management Program, will lead the Plant-Based Pilot Program. Dr. McMacken is a highly regarded physician in the plant-based arena, and her appointment to this role is a “perfect match.” She is also an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, as well as an attending physician at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. And, she’s plant-based.
Ann Crile Esselstyn, noted author and lecturer about the inception of this lifestyle medicine practice, adds, “Dr. McMacken’s creative plant-based nutrition program will revolutionize and ignite this effective therapy for cardiovascular disease.” Esselstyn, wife of Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD, is a pioneer in the plant-based arena, and she is excited and confident about the program’s success.
The $400,000 pilot program is funded by NYC Health + Hospitals and will be open to at least 100 patients from all five boroughs. The pilot program is a result of Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams’ advocacy around plant-based nutrition. He knows, first-hand, the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based diet and the positive effects it can have on disease reversal.
We asked Dr. McMacken for some quick responses to the clinic’s inception, and here’s what she had to say:
1- How do you plan to introduce the Plant-Based program to employees and the community?
We’re spreading the word about NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue’s Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program throughout New York City. Our program is open to outpatients in our hospital system, as well as adults in the community, including hospital employees who would like to learn more. We’re finding that there is a lot of interest!
2- Are you hoping that the plant-based practice serves as a tool to increase others to embrace a WFPB diet?
Yes! Our goal is to help people make the transition to a healthier lifestyle, including a whole-foods plant-based diet, as a way to address the root causes of common health conditions including Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. Behavior changes can be hard. Our team of physicians, along with the assistance of a dietitian and a health coach, will be there to support people every step of the way. When people adopt healthier habits, they often inspire others around them, so the benefits keep spreading.
3- What do you see as your greatest challenge (as a provider) to those who do not know about plant-based eating but need it the most?
The greatest challenge is helping people believe that they can change long-standing habits and that this change can have a huge impact on their health and well-being. Some can’t envision what they would eat on a plant-based diet. Others are worried about having the time or skills to cook, having access to healthier foods, getting support from family and friends, or handling social situations. Our program exists to help people navigate these concerns. The payoffs to adopting a plant-based diet are well worth the effort!
4- What does your hospital already have in place with plant-based nutrition for in-patients and employee cafeteria?
The Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program emphasizes services for outpatients, including employees who meet health criteria for the program. Hopefully in the future, we will be able to expand services to inpatients, as well as a dedicated employee program.
(Background: NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue does not have an employee cafeteria, but rather employee lunch rooms.)
5- As a follower of a WFPB diet, what’s your go-to breakfast, and do you have a recipe you’d like to share?
I’m a hard-core oatmeal fan, especially overnight oats! Here's a recipe I love:
Overnight Chia Oats with Berries
½ cup rolled oats
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
¾ cup unsweetened nondairy milk (e.g., almond or soy)
1 small banana, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
handful of frozen berries
1 Tablespoon almond butter or old-fashioned peanut butter (optional)
Pour oats and chia seeds into a Mason jar and shake to mix. Add nondairy milk, splash of vanilla extract, chopped banana, and nut butter (if desired). Top with frozen berries. Place lid on jar and keep in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, enjoy your delicious breakfast at home or take it to work!
Now we know how Dr. McMacken starts her day, and this recipe looks like the perfect entry for starting a plant-based diet. Medicine is turning over a new leaf, and it seems to be plant-based.
Michelle McMacken, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine physician and an assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine. She is an honors graduate of Yale University and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where she earned her M.D. degree. With more than ten years of experience practicing primary care, Dr. McMacken is ready to embrace the new Plant-Based Medicine Practice at NYC + Hospital/ Bellevue in NYC.
To learn more about this new program, call 347-507-3695 to receive additional information.