My name is Jaimela Dulaney. My nickname, Jami, is after a local general practitioner in the small rural town I grew up on the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border. Growing up, my parents and grandparents had vegetable gardens but also ate family raised pork and beef. We ate the Standard American Diet.
Diabetes and heart disease was very prevalent in my family and my mother’s parents died in their late forties and early fifties. Riding in the back seat taking my grandmother to the hospital late at night and sitting in waiting rooms played a big role in my going to medical school.
Cardiology made sense to me. By controlling risk factors for heart disease I could help people to avoid the fate of my young grandparents. I never thought that hypertension or diabetes could be reversed, only managed.
As far as my own genetic risk, I sought to stay in shape and eat what I thought was a healthy diet. The reality I believed was that if I exercised enough and controlled my portions I could delay the onset of those conditions. So I switched from golfing to running and started running marathons. I framed my finisher shirts and displayed them in my office to motivate my patients to exercise. Even though I was normal body weight, I still took statins for borderline high cholesterol.
I heard about the work and book written by Dean Ornish, MD but felt that was a really radical way of eating. After reading A Diet For A New America by John Robbins, I became vegan – mainly because of the cruelty of factory farming. But I still did not see the potential disease reversing effects of a plant based diet.
It took the documentary Forks over Knives to open my eyes. It was lifestyle changing for me and my family. We all eliminated meat, fish and dairy from our diets. Gradually, we refined our diets even more by getting rid of cooking oils and processed food. In the process, I eliminated my need for cholesterol medicine and acid reflux medication.
My cardiology practice changed with a greater emphasis on plant based nutrition education. I completed the eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification program as well as an Integrative Nutrition Course at the Wellness Health Forum and then began teaching group nutrition classes in my office. I was, for the first time, able to take medications away from my patients and see their angina disappear. I am very excited about the potential to reverse disease, and nutrition education in the form of on-site — and online — classes is now an essential part of our practice.