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Jaimela Dulaney was born in Morgantown, West Virginia. She went to West Virginia University for undergraduate and medical school. She then did her residency and cardiology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. She was on faculty at WVU before moving to Florida to begin private practice. Exercise is key to a healthy life. Dr. Dulaney leads by example enjoying marathon running and triathlon. She completed her first Ironman Florida in 2013 and does several marathons each year.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay everybody, I’m back. I’m Caryn Hartglass. And I think we got everything all taken care of, which is great. So we can move forward. I like moving forward.
Jaimela Dulaney: Hello!
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, Dr. Dulaney. How are you today?
Jaimela Dulaney: Good! How are you?
Caryn Hartglass: Good! I am glad we could connect.
Jaimela Dulaney: Yes, I wasn’t paying attention. I had the computer on, but I wasn’t accepting requests, so I’m sorry.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s funny that you just said that because I had on my list of notes I wanted to talk about paying attention, just briefly, and you brought it up so I’m going to do that right now. There are just so many things that we need to pay attention to, little signs, because if we don’t take care of something – and you could probably speak of this as a doctor – things can get worse. Just as an example, I had a problem with my toilet today and you could very easily say, ‘Oh, I’ll let it go,’ but things can really become problematic with leaks and you don’t want to let something like that go. You’ve got to take care of it when something happens. And I’ve also got some terrible news recently about a daughter of a friend of mine who had some stomach issues I guess and she didn’t want to see a doctor. A lot of people have issues about going to doctors. Many, many levels. And she ended up dying of peritonitis.
Jaimela Dulaney: Ah yes, peritonitis. Oh my. That’s terrible. They would’ve thought that yeah…
Caryn Hartglass: Something curable, but when you let it go, it kills you. Yeah, so we need to be mindful. We need to pay attention.
Jaimela Dulaney: Yes, that is why people oftentimes ignore their blood pressure, their cholesterol, because it doesn’t hurt. And so they just ignore it because it’s not causing a problem and when the problem arises it’s within the form of a stroke or heart attack. So yes, pay attention.
Caryn Hartglass: Pay attention, and a lot of us, I know a lot of my listeners were kind of wary of the current medical system because we don’t have that many plant based doctors out there, and we don’t have a lot of confidence in what they want to recommend. But what I like to say is that at the very minimum, if you have a problem, at least get tested. You can decide what you want to do about it afterwards, but at least find out what is the problem.
Jaimela Dulaney: Yes, and I think that you should have a dialogue, and if you can’t have a dialogue with a physician then that’s a reason to try to find another physician. Because you should be able to have a dialogue and an open discussion about treatment options, and certainly that one of the treatment option being nutrition.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, so tell us your story – how you became a plant based doctor.
Jaimela Dulaney: I became a plant based doctor mainly for myself after reading A Diet for a New America by John Robbins. As soon as I read that then it kind of hit home about factory farming and then the medical condition. I thought, ‘Okay, I’m vegan. That’s just where it is. I’m an animal lover. It all makes sense to me.’ Then gradually everybody else said I was crazy in the family, and so gradually ‘Please eat a fish or please do this,’ and I would wax and wane a little bit. For some reason I happened on and I’m not even sure how I happened on Forks over – well, I know, I’m a runner and I listen to podcasts. One of the podcasts I listened to was a plant based runner. They were talking about some documentaries and I started watching. One thing led to another and I watched Forks over Knives, and I thought ‘Oh my god.’ Over time, we would tell people ‘Certainly, you need to be trim, you need to watch you cholesterol, watch your fat intake, maybe eat the Mediterranean diet.’ When I saw this, it’s like, okay, everybody has to be plant based. That’s when I started the whole nutrition thing as far as making my office more plant based and I became plant based. My mother was also sick at the time. We shared cooking responsibilities in the family – evening family dinners together – and she got lymphoma, my dad had dementia, I became the chief cook, so it’s like, we’re all plant based now, so that’s what happened. She gradually got better, and she got on board with the plant based thing, so the house remained, from that day on, 100% plant based. It’s worked well for us, and we’re trying to get as many people in the office now plant based.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, and when did you read Diet for America by John Robbins?
Jaimela Dulaney: I would say in the probably either 1999-2000 range. It’s funny, there was a girl, I do heart catherizations and one of the cath lab technicians was vegan. I’m from West Virginia originally, I live in Florida now, and I did not know any vegans or even vegetarians growing up. I inquired her, and I don’t know if she led me to that book or not, but as soon as I read that book, of course I quizzed her. Coming from West Virginia, I thought, ‘How can anybody not eat meat or that’s just crazy.’ It’s funny how it evolved. Nothing seems more right to me than eating plant based now.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, amen to that. Now in hindsight, if you were to go through medical school again and could recommend what should be taught, is there a place for nutrition somewhere in that curriculum?
Jaimela Dulaney: Oh, absolutely. The only nutrition that traditionally you learn in medical school was IV nutrition for critically-ill people that can’t chew food. But yeah, there should be. It should be how it relates to disease, it should be worked right in through pathology. I mean all that stuff should be part of the treatment. It would be an amazing asset.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, I would love if I could find a doctor that was plant based but the best that I could do is – in looking my network and at the description of the doctors available – I went with one that listed preventative medicine as one of the interests. Fortunately I found a doctor, she’s terrific. She’s not plant based, but she respects what I’m doing, and that makes it a lot more comfortable for dialogue. But there aren’t many of you out there. How do your patients respond? I’m sure most of them don’t know what you’re about, or do they?
Jaimela Dulaney: No, the majority don’t. Most people don’t come looking – there’s a few now that will come looking because I am plant based – but no, most people come sick looking for an answer. Either ‘it’s not your heart and you’re going to be okay,’ or ‘take this pill or we’ll do this, and you’ll be okay.’ But it really won’t affect the way they carry on their life. And there’s not much of an example out there, how as a physician, to approach that person. I’ve learned, learning by the seat of my pants, as far as people come in and I try to explain, “Well, this is what I believe. That your disease – you’re really in control of how this plays out, how your diabetes plays out, how your high blood pressure pays out, and how your coronary artery disease pay out. You may have already had a bypass, but that disease will continue to progress unless you do something to prevent it and/or reverse it, and this is what has been shown to reverse it.” Then I wait a little bit and see what kind of a response I get – the look of fear, the look of terror, the look of anger, the look of ‘oh my gosh, she’s crazy’ – and go from there as far as how I’m going to approach the next step. Sometimes it stops there. I give everybody references. I give everybody the Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease book here in the office and some plant based, low oil cookbooks that they’re willing to buy. I’ll give them the Youtube references on Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Bernard, to watch. Sometimes it ends with, ‘Watch these and if you have any interest, give me a call. We do some plant based nutrition courses in the office. I’d love to work with you, but I understand it’s your choice. The other option is to continue taking medicines or this is a viable option.’
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t understand what goes through every individual’s head when they’re faced with a health crisis. I know what went through my head when I was faced with a crisis, and I wanted to find out everything I could possibly do to survive and thrive. Based on what I researched, I figured out what I needed to do, and so far it’s working. I’m 8½ years out of an advanced ovarian cancer diagnosis and I’m fine. But there are other people who will get a diabetes diagnosis or they’ll have a mini stroke, and there are things that they can do to turn things around, and they’ve gotten a warning even. But for many people, either they don’t know what to do, or what you’re recommending just seems overwhelming.
Jaimela Dulaney: I think there’s so much dietary information out there now and not a lot of it is plant based. There are the Nutrisystem ads. There are the Weight Watchers ads. There are the diet clinic ads. There are the paleo ads. I think it’s so confusing and the most message – they don’t get many messages from their physician – and if they do get the medicine, when I see notes from other doctors, it usually says recommend diet with weight loss and exercise. So if you’re 65 years old and you’ve never exercised and you’ve been eating the same way that you’ve been eating all of your life, then people say, ‘push back from the table, try to cut back, portion control,’ that’s where it stops. Once they’re given especially diabetes, all diabetic medicine drives appetite, insulin especially. Once they’re given that medication, they become more hungry. So they go down that road even further, and it typically gets worse instead of better.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s really sad.
Jaimela Dulaney: I also think that people talk to each other and they look around. It has become the norm to be on blood pressure medicine over 50 and cholesterol medicine. It’s on the TV; the people look amazingly healthy that are on the cholesterol medicine advertisements. Even the Viagra and Cialis, people look fine and happy, so what’s the problem?
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s a big problem. So you’re doing a great thing, and I was very excited to find out about you because there are not many plant based doctors out there. There are more and more. It probably feels good to you to know there’s others out there like you. I imagine you network with other doctors, go to conferences, perhaps. Do you have this conversation about being plant based? Did they listen? Did they raise their eyebrows? Sly smirks?
Jaimela Dulaney: Yes, certainly not much. When you go and eat at a conference, the food at medical conferences is terrible – it’s rich foods, donuts. There’s nothing worse than going to a conference and trying to find food. I guess one of the funniest conversations is the doctor’s lounge. The people gather and congregate, especially in the morning, before hospital/after hospital rounds. They have a little dining area, and they have a little buffet cart. It has eggs, bacon, sausage, and smoke salmon on Fridays, and there’s a little bowl of oatmeal there that’s all dried up. And of course they have a waffle machine and the sugary stuff for your coffee. And we’ve had the conversation. One, I tell the joke – there’s a cardiologist, an oncologist, and a general surgeon and I in the doctor’s lounge. I was eating my oatmeal and they were eating their egg and sausage. The general breast cancer surgeon asked me what I thought of the Atkin’s diet, and I just went off; I just went into my plant based diatribe. I’m sure once I started, it’s like ‘why did I even ask?’ But the oncologist left the room. The other cardiologist said, ‘Well, what would we do if everybody’s cured of heart disease?’ The general surgeon, I talked to him the longest, and he came up to me afterwards and he said, ‘When I got all the weight off from my Atkin’s diet, I might want to talk to you more about this.’
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, if you don’t die before then.
Jaimela Dulaney: Yeah, and so he hasn’t anymore, and he’s still eating his eggs and sausage in the morning. So no, there’s not much inquiries about it. I know that I have patients that have seen an oncologist and even the response has been, ‘Well, I don’t know how you would eat like this. I don’t’ like broccoli.’
Caryn Hartglass: It’s like they’re 5 years old.
Jaimela Dulaney: Yes, I know, and the other one was, ‘You should eat as much protein as you can because the chemotherapy is going to make you sick. So eat all the high calorie foods you can so you don’t lose weight.’ That was the other dietary recommendation.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, and I have to interject here and say that when I was on aggressive chemotherapy, I went to see one of my oncologists, and he asked me how I was doing, and I said, ‘I’m gaining weight.’ He said that is not a symptom of chemotherapy.
Jaimela Dulaney: On a plant based diet
Caryn Hartglass: On a plant based diet, I was gaining weight.
Jaimela Dulaney: Yes, I’ve fought with a nephrologist. People with advanced kidney disease sometimes tend to retain potassium, and potassium is really high in especially beans, and fruits, tomatoes, cucumbers. So those people – who are very ill and they lose protein because their kidneys just won’t hold on to it – so they tell them to try to eat protein, but you can’t eat potassium. So you have to stay away from all these good fruits and vegetables. And I actually went through on a weekend – if you look, there’s potassium in meat – and if you take away the meat and the animal products, you can actually make enough room that you can eat vegetables in a healthy diet. I tried to have that conversation with nephrologists, but I guess in their defense, it’s so hard to educate. It would take so much time to educate somebody on that.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup, and these people, they are smart, and I want to believe that they went into the medical business to help people. Then something went wrong – like it’s this human condition where we are deniers about so much, so much that’s obvious. These heart surgeons that operate on people with heart disease, they see the fat. They see it right there. They have to be making the connection.
Jaimela Dulaney: They also eat the steaks at the conference and believe so much in their ability to bypass lesions and them not come back that they feel invincible.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s mind-boggling. Okay, let’s turn around here. Tell me some of the happy success stories that you’ve experienced in your practice.
Jaimela Dulaney: One of those success stories is actually a patient that her heart was affected by a particular type of cancer called amyloid. She came in in heart failure. She had been on experimental chemotherapy, and they basically said, ‘It’s getting to the end of the rope here. We’re looking for different experimental drugs.’ I said, ‘Have you ever tried a plant based diet?’ and she said, ‘You know, my daughter is plant based, and she suggested I try that.’ She said, ‘I don’t know if I want to do anymore chemotherapy,’ and I said, ‘You know what, why don’t you give it a try? Try a month. Be as strict as you possibly can. Eat as many greens as you can. See how you feel, and if you don’t feel well then you know you tried it.’ Two years later, she’s still doing quite well, and her oncologist fired her because she didn’t want to do the experimental chemotherapy. They told her that basically it was probably a residual of the other chemotherapy that cured her in the end. Another patient, too, had been bypassed – all the bypass grafts gone, chest pain, multiple caths – and finally we had the conversation. It’s like, ‘You know, try this,’ and he’s doing quite well. He added Tai Chi to his regimen, he’s been plant based for two years – no more caths, no more heart attacks – and he’s doing well. I don’t have a tremendous amount. My mother that had lymphoma, she did have chemotherapy, but she went through the chemotherapy completely plant based – never had an infection, tolerated it well. Now at 82, she’s playing golf three times a week, Zumba twice a week, and feels great and is making all kinds of Italian plant based recipes now. So I think those are success stories. It’s really hard to get people to believe that the food that they grew up on could be causing them to be ill.
Caryn Hartglass: Can we just diverge a minute and talk a little bit about healthcare in the United States and insurance and Obamacare and has it affected you and your practice at all? Do you have any opinions on where we’re going with that?
Jaimela Dulaney: I don’t know where we’re going. No, the little ray of light is that we’re promised that there will be more emphasis on well-care than sick-care – that physicians maybe will start having to be accountable for keeping people healthy as oppose to watching them stay ill. But I haven’t seen it yet. What we have seen is insurance telling us what we can and can’t do and what we can and can’t order. As far as diagnostic testing, the bills keep going up. Testing keeps increasing because to see and talk to a patient, you don’t get any reimbursement for, very little. It’s testing that gets the reimbursement, so a lot of practices, especially primary care practices can, only survive by doing procedures. So there’s five minute conversations with people, and then they’re testing, and they’re hoping they find something before it’s lethal. It drives me insane because if there was just a little more incentive to talk to people, things would be a lot better.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so you do a plant based podcast. Where can people find that?
Jaimela Dulaney: It’s on iTunes and Stitcher. It’s Jami Dulaney MD Plant Based Wellness Podcast. It’s on jaimeladulaneymd.podbean.com.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well I’m going to be posting the one where you interviewed me, which we did last week, and that was a lot of fun. So people who are in South West Florida can find you? Where are you located?
Jaimela Dulaney: Yes, I’m about 40-45 minutes south of Tampa and a little bit north of Fort Myers so kind of in this town called Port Charlotte, Florida, which is a mediocre little Florida town on the west coast. So it’s nice, you can get anywhere quick, but it’s a touristy area. Fishing – a lot of people come down here to fish, unfortunately – so there’s seafood and hush puppy restaurants all over the place.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, but West Florida, there are some really beautiful spots there.
Jaimela Dulaney: Oh, it’s gorgeous. It’s actually a very pretty area. I must say I listen to your debate. I watched the documentary of you and Cattlemen’s Association and I loved it, by the way.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, thank you. Thank you for watching. The lone vegan preaching through the fire. We need to have more conversations like that, and we need to be talking to the cattle producers. Yup, a lot of talking. Anyway, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. I’m so glad you’re out there doing the work that you’re doing, Dr. Dulaney.
Jaimela Dulaney: Thank you very much for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, go forth and be well.
Jaimela Dulaney: Okay, thank you. Bye bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Alright, we have maybe a minute or two left, and I just wanted to remind you – I was talking before about my new blog, called What Vegans Eat. I think they’re really fun. They’re short. They’re sweet. They give you a lot of great ideas about what to eat, and they link to a lot of our recipes. Please check it out. Let me know what you think of it. The other thing I wanted to mention is we have an event coming up here in New York, and if you want to meet me, you can at my Happy B’Earthday review. It’s on Earth Day, my birthday. Would love to see you there. Find out more at responsibleeatingandliving.com. It’s on the homepage and it’s going to be a lot of fun. The Swingin’ Gourmets are going to be there, and there’ll be some fun food and drinks, and it’s a benefit for Responsible Eating and Living. Thank you for tuning in today, and we’ll be back next week with more food conversation. Remember, have a delicious week!
Transcribed by Jessica Tea, 4/9/2015