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Northwest VEG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Portland, OR that works to educate and encourage people to make vegan choices for a healthy, sustainable, and compassionate world.

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Interview with Integrated Medicine Group's Dr. Richard Heitsch

August 31, 2009

Richard Heitsch M.D., medical director of the Integrated Medicine Group (IMG) in Northeast Portland, has over 10 years experience in functional medicine and a masters degree in Public Health. He is trained as a surgeon and holds vast experience in general and trauma surgery as well as sports medicine and rehabilitation. IMG is an Event Sponsor of VegFest '09, and we are very thankful for all of their continued support. Dr. Heitsch will be presenting at VegFest (Sept. 19) at 3:30pm on the "Vegan Diet for Optimal Athletic Performance."

  1. How is your practice different from a standard western medical practice? And how long have you been practicing integrated medicine?

  2. I've been practicing integrated medicine for 15 years both in Vancouver and Portland. We practice a broader spectrum of treatment than western medicine. We focus on natural physiology in healing rather than synthetic means. It is our goal to restore normal physiology—the state that things are supposed to be in—rather than a temporary fix. Integrated Medicine Group is a 6 year-old practice.

  3. Are your patients different from those seeking western standard care?

  4. Yes, I see patients that are trying to take charge of their own health. Rather than being innocent bystanders, I get to see people that want to be involved with their well-being. My patients aren't looking for a quick fix; they are looking to regain their health.

  5. How did you find your way to this path?

  6. I've always been fascinated with biochemistry-- as this is the basic science behind what we are trying to do. Years ago my family was not getting the results they were hoping for through standard medical care, so I started researching and seeking alternate means of wellness.

  7. What inspired you to go vegan? And what are your favorite foods?

  8. After extensive research, I realized a vegan diet is a much healthier way of living. Four or five years ago my wife and I attended one of John McDougall's weekend seminars [in Santa Rosa, California] and I was convinced the McDougall diet is no fad. He's a really good scientist, and he's come as close to anyone in finding the optimal human diet. In regards to foods, there is such a wide variety of foods that I can and do enjoy. I'd have to say dark green veggies. And tomatoes, especially ones from my garden.

  9. How does a vegan diet relate to integrated medicine?

  10. There are two components to health: a healthy plant-based diet and exercise on a consistent basis. These are the basis of health and well-being. And these should be the basic elements of any health practice.

  11. What are your thoughts on the future?

  12. There is more data available now than ever before that overwhelmingly points toward a plant-based diet as the safest and healthiest way to live. This diet will become more and more accepted as a way of living—and the sooner the better!

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