Sentara Healthcare’s Nutrition as Medicine conference will take place on Saturday, November 9, 2019, at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The day-long conference features national experts speaking on the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle and how it can be used to treat, reverse, or prevent widespread chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Sentara Healthcare Hosts 2nd Annual Nutrition as Medicine Conference

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Sentara Healthcare's Nutrition as Medicine conference will take place on Saturday, November 9, 2019, at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Members of the Sentara Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program including Dr. Gunadhar Panigrahi, Sentara Cardiology Specialist, will participate in this unique event, unlike any other in Hampton Roads. The day-long conference features national experts speaking on the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle and how it can be used to treat, reverse, or prevent widespread chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Last year's inaugural Nutrition as Medicine conference sold out quickly, so we encourage anyone interested in attending to register as soon as possible.

Nutrition as Medicine is for both medical professionals and the community.

  • For healthcare providers, Nutrition as Medicine is a medical education opportunity that will help advance nutritional medicine throughout the patient care spectrum.
  • For consumers and members of the community, Nutrition as Medicine is an opportunity to learn about the impact nutrition can have on cardiovascular disease and diabetes, losing weight and improving quality of life through what you eat.

This event will explain:

  • The impact a plant-based diet can have on widespread chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
  • The scientific evidence on how and why a whole-food, plant-based diet can stop heart disease from progressing—and sometimes reverse it.
  • How eating whole-food, plant-based meals a few days a week can benefit health and improve quality of life.

You will hear from nationally recognized speakers including Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Nicole Avena, PhD, Dr. Michael Greger and registered dietitian Julieanna Hever. Speakers will dive into the science of how whole food, plant-based eating could help avoid and even reverse chronic diseases, with a special session focused on how to start a plant-based diet. Local Ornish program graduates will also share their success stories, and attendees will enjoy a plant-based meal using local ingredients for lunch.

Registration to the event includes:

  • A nutritious plant-based lunch
  • Ways to introduce more plant-based meals into your everyday life
  • Access to a wellness vendor village

Tickets are $30 for the public and $80 for medical professionals claiming CME credit. Tickets can be purchased at The conference starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m.

About the Sentara Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program

Sentara is the first healthcare system in the Commonwealth of Virginia to offer the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program, which is based at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital. The next closest location is hours away in Wilmington, N.C. or Lewes, D.E. The nine-week program was founded by Dr. Dean Ornish and focuses on improving lifestyle through four components: nutrition, stress management, community support and exercise. Groups of eight to fifteen participants meet twice a week for four hours each meeting. A team of seven healthcare professionals, including a medical director, program director, nurse case manager, and experts in stress management, behavioral health, fitness and nutrition leads the patients' classes. The classes focus on the cause of heart disease rather than its symptoms.

The program is based on more than three decades of research showing that lifestyle changes can treat and reverse the progression of coronary artery disease and other chronic conditions. The program has been incredibly successful, with 99 percent of studied participants having stopped or reversed their heart disease. Since the program was adopted at Sentara in 2016, 140 patients have completed it with impressive results; in just three months, depression scores dropped more than 50%, exercise capacity increased nearly 35% and LDL cholesterol decreased more than 20%.

"We felt there was more we could do for our cardiac patients to achieve our mission," said Dr. Gunadhar Panigrahi. "The Ornish Reversal Program, with its emphasis on exercise, healthy eating, mindfulness and group support, is an ideal way for patients to be proactive."

Event Speakers:

Dr. Dean Ornish

Dr. Ornish, a world-renowned physician, is the founder of the Ornish Medicine Program for Reversing Heart Disease, a program through which Sentara successfully treats many of its heart disease patients. For almost 40 years, Dr. Ornish has directed clinical research demonstrating, for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease, without drugs or surgery. Medicare created a new benefit category to provide coverage for this program, the first time that Medicare has covered a program of comprehensive lifestyle changes. Learn more at

Dr. Michael Greger, MD

A founding member and Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, MD FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. He has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, testified before Congress, and was invited as an expert witness in the defense of Oprah Winfrey in the infamous "meat defamation" trial. In 2017, Dr. Greger was honored with the ACLM Lifestyle Medicine Trailblazer Award. He is a graduate of Cornell University School of Agriculture and Tufts University School of Medicine. His latest book How Not to Die became an instant New York Times Best Seller. He has videos on more than 2,000 health topics freely available at, with new videos and articles uploaded every day. All proceeds he receives from his books, DVDs, and speaking engagements are all donated to charity.

Dr. Nicole Avena, PhD

Dr. Avena is a research neuroscientist and expert in the fields of nutrition, diet and addiction, with a special focus on nutrition throughout the lifespan. Her research has been honored by groups including the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Psychological Association, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Dr. Avena has written several books, including What to Eat When You’re Pregnant and What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler. She regularly appears as a science expert on the Dr. Oz Show, Good Day NY, and The Doctors. Her work has been featured in Bloomberg Business Week, Time Magazine for Kids, The New York Times, Shape, Men's Health, Details, and many other periodicals. Dr. Avena is a member of the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. She has the #2 most watched TED-ED Health talk, How Sugar Affects Your Brain.

Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT

Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, The Plant-Based Dietitian, has a BA in Theatre and MS in Nutrition, bridging her biggest passions for food, presenting, and helping people. She has authored four books, including Plant-Based Nutrition (Idiots Guide) 2E and The Vegiterranean Diet, and two peer-reviewed journal articles on plant-based nutrition for healthcare professionals. Her brand new book with Ray Cronise, The Healthspan Solution, publishes in December 2019. She was the host of What Would Julieanna Do? and co-host of Home Sweat Home, gave a TEDx talk, and instructed for the eCornell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Program. She's appeared on Harry, The Dr. Oz Show, and The Steve Harvey Show. Julieanna is the Co-Founder and Nutrition Director for Efferos, and she speaks and consults with clients around the globe.