National experts in plant-based lifestyles detailed the nutritional benefits of such diets in front of a sold-out crowd during Sentara Healthcare’s one-day integrative conference on November 13, 2018.

‘Nutrition as Medicine’ Conference discusses plant-based diets to sold-out crowd

National experts in plant-based lifestyles detailed the nutritional benefits of such diets in front of a sold-out crowd during Sentara Healthcare’s one-day integrative conference on November 13, 2018. More than 950 people packed the Virginia Beach Convention Center to listen to five thought leaders in nutrition and health, enjoy a plant-based lunch buffet, and mingle with more than a dozen local vendors. Event guests included more than 350 medical professionals, and registrants traveled from 14 states and even Canada to learn the positive effects nutrition can have on chronic illnesses and quality of life.

Members of the Sentara Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program including Dr. Gunadhar Panigrahi, Sentara Cardiology Specialist, participated in this unique event, the first of its kind in Hampton Roads. The event featured national experts discussing the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle on widespread chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Two local patients who graduated from the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program gave heartfelt testimonials to the crowd, explaining the positive health benefits they have witnessed after participating in the program at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital.

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. Dr. Ornish is also the president and founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute (PMRI) and a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California. Learn more at

Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.
Dr. Esselstyn is a physician and the author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. He is the Director of the Cardiovascular Prevention and Reversal Program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. His keynote address focused on the nutritional revolution of cardiovascular disease that treats the cause to prevent and reverse heart disease. His keynote was charismatic, convincing, and eye-opening. He received a standing ovation from the audience. Learn more at
Dr. Neal Barnard
Dr. Barnard is the author of several best-selling books on nutrition. His keynote address focusing on how nutrition can lower the risk or reverse diabetes, and offered simple ways to give plant-based diets a try. Dr. Barnard is the Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences and founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Learn more at

Dr. T. Colin Campbell
Dr. Campbell is a world-famous biochemist who specializes in the effect of nutrition on health. He is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University and his legacy, The China Project, is deemed to be the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted

Dr. William Li
Dr. Li is an international expert in health and disease-reversal. His work has impacted more than 23 million people across 94 countries. Dr. Li discussed his data-driven research of how the body heals itself and the effect certain foods can have on certain diseases, which resonated with the audience. Learn more at

Sentara is the first healthcare system in the Commonwealth of Virginia to offer the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program, 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 healthcare professionals, including a medical director, program director, nurse case manager and experts in stress management, behavioral health, fitness and nutrition, oversees and leads the patients’ classes. The classes address the causes 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.”

The Sentara Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program is a part of the Sentara Heart & Vascular program, which has earned a top 50 national ranking by U.S. News & World Report for nearly two decades. As a leader in research, innovation, and providing quality healthcare, Sentara is committed to offering opportunities for people to become empowered and proactive in line with the organization’s mission – “We improve health every day.”