2010 Benjamin Spock Award for Compassion in Medicine Recipient:
Baxter D. Montgomery, M.D., F.A.C.C.
Houston Cardiac Association and HCA Wellness Center
For the past 13 years, Baxter D. Montgomery, M.D., has practiced cardiology in Houston, Texas. As a clinical assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the
University of Texas and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, he manages arrhythmias and coronary disease, performs angiography, defibrillator implants, and other hospital procedures, and teaches young physicians.
But in 2002, he had to take stock of his own health. At age 38, his cholesterol was far into the not-so-healthy zone. Around the same time, his mother, who had had heart disease and diabetes, succumbed to complications of her illness and of the medications used to treat it.
This wake-up call made him re-evaluate not only his own health, but also his approach to medicine. Digging into the scientific literature and nutrition books, he came to some stark conclusions. A healthy diet was plant-based, and animal-based foods had to go. He changed his diet, got his cholesterol down, and began to build nutritional teaching into his practice. His patients welcomed his nutritional advice, but many needed more instruction than they would ordinarily get during an office visit. So he set up special group sessions on Saturdays, giving them the time and attention they needed.
“It struck me that families pass illnesses more effectively through recipes than though genes,” he said. “Instead of struggling to untangle lethal genes we should untangle lethal recipes.”
Dr. Montgomery developed a “nutritional boot camp” to help his patients break unhealthful habits. In five three-hour sessions over a four-week period, people with hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes learned to prepare healthful foods, followed by a maintenance program to help them stay on track.
A local television station interviewed him about his work, attracting the attention of other health experts and the general public. To help health professionals use a nutritional approach, he sponsored continuing medical education courses. In September 2009, he flew to Washington to discuss health issues at the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference. In October 2009, he convened a town hall meeting in Houston to address the declining health in the community and the power of a plant-based diet. He continues to reach patients and health professional alike, and works closely with PCRM in advocacy and education.
“American medicine needs to change its focus,” Dr. Baxter said. “Medical practice has become a process of prescribing medicines and procedures to treat the effects of the foods we eat. The key issue for health is lifestyle, and the core of that lifestyle is nutrition. That needs to be the focus of our practice.”
In 2007, this award was presented to David J.A. Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.
In 2005, this award was presented to Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.
Learn more about the award >