Dr. Dexter Shurney provides an overview of NAMCP, Conversation on Food as Medicine

Despite being board certified in preventive medicine, Dexter Shurney, MD, MBA, MPH, head of health equity, diversity and inclusion and chief medical officer at Adventist Health, hasn’t received much training on how to use food appropriately. 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 line, “Let food be your medicine.” Even in our modern age, parents in particular should understand that if their child, their 2 or 3 year old, comes up to them and says, “Mommy or Daddy, I want to eat cake and ice cream for breakfast. breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” most parents would probably say, “No, I don’t think so. This is not healthy. There, intuitively, we kind of know that what we eat matters, and that’s the whole concept of food as medicine.

Personally, I got there because I saw how it worked. I have seen the effects, not only in others, but also in myself. There was a time—15 years ago, almost 20 years ago—when I was pre-diabetic, had high cholesterol even though I was on medication, and had high blood pressure. Still, I was 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, throughout my training, I really didn’t receive much training on food and how to use food appropriately. These were mostly things like macronutrients like protein or carbs, and calories in and calories out. But we need a lot more, and most doctors and clinicians aren’t trained in that, so we don’t really think about it.

But when you really see what’s going on, then you become convinced. This 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 these diseases that I just mentioned, these conditions, are very endemic, everyone has them. We all eat pretty much the same way, or have done so, and those of us who have changed have actually seen [drastic] improvements, so it’s pretty neat how it works.

What are you most looking forward to learning and teaching at NAMCP?

Oh, there are so many. It’s always a good time when I’m at NAMCP. I just want to raise awareness; I want to show people the power of food as I learned it on my own. This will actually be my second time talking about this subject but, again, the last time was probably ten years ago. [There is] so much more now to share so I’m going to share some of these new ideas, and also some simple practical things people can do like I mentioned fiber counting and things like that where they can incorporate and apply that in their daily habits.