Saving Lives Through Running

Neal Barnard, M.D. founded the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in 1985.

Neal Barnard, M.D. founded the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in 1985.

Those of you who read this blog know that I'm passionate about running, and trails, and dogs. Recently, I landed my dream job, a gig that allows me to bring these great loves together in a perfect way, at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Physicians Committee, it is a nonprofit organization founded in 1985 by Dr. Neal Barnard to promote preventive medicine (particularly good nutrition) and higher standards in scientific research. Among other victories, it has nearly ended "dog lab" at medical schools -- the hazing process during which medical students have to inject dogs with various medications, perform a range of procedures (which are harmful to the dog, and not useful in the student's education) and then finally, kill the dog (sometimes via an injection, but sometimes through cutting a key artery and watching as the dog bleeds to death.) Today, almost all medical schools have ended this barbaric practice, favoring human-relevant methods, and I am confident that dog lab will end altogether before long.

AN UPDATE - JUNE 30, 2016: Dog lab has ended in all North American medical school curricula! Thank you, Dr. Barnard and PCRM, for your decades of work on this issue.

Ethical Research

Beagles are frequently used in animal testing.

Beagles are frequently used in animal testing.

Plenty of groups exist to draw attention to how awful animal testing is, or to encourage people to eat fewer animal-based foods, but the Physicians Committee is the only one I know of that makes valid scientific arguments for why animal-based research is not a great way to make strides in curing diseases or learn more about how our bodies work, and also offers better alternatives to animal experimentation.

Healthier Diets and Preventive Medicine

Additionally, while some people will decide on their own to eat fewer animal-based foods, or abstain from them altogether due to ethical reasons, the Physicians Committee is one of the only groups out there explaining the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and giving people interested in healthier eating the support they need to change unhealthy habits and live fuller, happier lives.

Coronary angiograms of the distal left anterior descending artery before (left) and after (right) 32 months of a plant-based diet without cholesterol-lowering medication, showing profound improvement. Image from  Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD, The Cleveland Clinic

Coronary angiograms of the distal left anterior descending artery before (left) and after (right) 32 months of a plant-based diet without cholesterol-lowering medication, showing profound improvement. Image from  Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD, The Cleveland Clinic

I've decided that this year, when I run the amazing trails at the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty, I will do so to raise funds in support of the Physicians Committee. If after learning more, you want to support the Physicians Committee, I invite you to make a secure gift online, or -- even better --  join the VegRUN! team and use your own next race to raise money for the Physicians Committee's life-saving work.

You may learn some great training and nutrition tips along the way, as the program includes insights from Brendan Brazier, Scott Jurek and Matt Frazier.

Happy running, friends, and see you on the trails!

One important note: while I am an employee of the Physicians Committee, all views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not reflect the views of my employer.