Dexter Shurney, MD, MBA, MPH, chief health equity, diversity, and inclusion officer and chief medical officer at Adventist Health, discusses the concept of "food as medicine," which he will be explaining further at the National Association of Managed Care Physicians (NAMCP) Spring Managed Care Forum.
Despite being board certified in preventive medicine, Dexter Shurney, MD, MBA, MPH, chief health equity, diversity, and inclusion officer and chief medical officer at Adventist Health, didn't get a lot of training on how to use food in the proper way. Shurney's talk, "Food As Medicine," will be presented at the National Association of Managed Care Physicians (NAMCP) Spring Managed Care Forum.
How do you describe food as medicine, and how did you come to embrace it?
Food as medicine is actually a very old concept. If you go back to the father of medicine, so to speak, Hippocrates, that was his phrase: "Let food be thy medicine." Even in our modern times, parents in particular should understand that if their child—their 2-year-old or their 3-year-old—comes to them and says, "Mom or dad, I want to eat cake and ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner," most parents would probably say "No, I don't think so. That's not healthy." Right there, intuitively, we kind of know that what we eat does matter, and that's the whole concept of food as medicine.
Personally, I sort of got there because I saw how it worked. I saw the effects of it, not only in others, but also on myself. There was a time—15, almost 20 years ago—where I was prediabetic, I had high cholesterol even though I was on medication, and I was hypertensive. Yet, I was board certified in preventive medicine, so if anyone should have known what to do and how to take care of themselves, it should have been me. But, through all my training, I really didn't get a whole lot of training on food and how to use food in the proper way. It was mainly things such as macronutrients like protein or carbohydrates, and calories in and calories out. But we need a lot more and most physicians and clinicians are not trained in that, so we don't really think about it.
But when you really see what happens, then you become convinced. That's what happened to me, and I made some changes in my diet and wonderful things happened to me. I've seen it happen in patients, I've seen it happen in relatives. I come from a family where those diseases that I just mentioned, those conditions, are very rampant, everyone has them. We all pretty much eat the same way, or we did, and those of us that have changed have actually seen [drastic] improvements, so it's pretty neat the way that works.
What are you most looking forward to both learning and teaching at NAMCP?
Oh, there's so much. It's always a great time when I'm at NAMCP. I just want to raise awareness; I want to show people the power of food as I have learned for myself. This will actually be my second time speaking on the topic but, again, the last time was probably a decade ago. [There is] so much more now to share, so I'll share some of these new insights, and also just some simple practical things that people can do, such as I mentioned counting fiber and things like that, where they can incorporate and apply this into their daily habits.