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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Primary Care Has A New Definition for Washington, D.C.

Nov 30, 2015 10:50AM
A Spotlight on Barnard Medical Center
Dr. Neal Barnard has been an internationally known researcher and physician for years as the author of 17 books, including the New York Times best-sellers Power Foods for the Brain21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart, and the USA Today best-seller Dr. Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, as well as his PBS specials, Protect Your Memory and Tackling Diabetes. Fortunately for area residents, Barnard is also a neighbor and will be opening the Barnard Medical Center in early 2016 at 5100 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

The center will be unique among primary care medical facilities. The difference, according to Barnard, comes from the approach that the three physicians, two dieticians and one nurse practitioner will take when working with any patient. ´We decided to set up a center that will provide regular primary care, and take standard insurance, so if you have a twisted ankle or a cough, you would see a doctor. But many people have nutrition-related problems—weight, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol or even things like arthritis where the patient doesn’t know the role that diet can play.”

As so many health issues are food-related, the team at the Barnard Center will address treatment with changes to the diet first, and if that doesn’t work completely, then they will try medication. “I am going to be reversing the standard role of what is considered alternative therapy,” notes Barnard. Of course, a twisted ankle has a normal, non-diet related treatment that will be addressed, but if, in the course of the conversation with the doctor reveals some other diet or nutrition-related issues or condition, that can be addressed as well.

Barnard describes the new model as something remarkably simple but effective: “A patient comes in with high cholesterol and their blood glucose is very high. I introduce them to our dietician down the hall. All I did was understand their problem and encourage them to look at the other side of things.”

The impetus to start the Center came out of Barnard’s work with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), of which he is a founding member. This international group of doctors and scientists has led ground-breaking research on the effects of diet and nutrition as preventative medicine for most common diseases. For years, PCRM worked with area patients in clinical trials, but due to the nature of medical research, there was a limited number of patients who could benefit from any of these studies. With the center, which will serve all types of patients (even those without insurance), there is no limit to the individuals who will be helped by the team led by Barnard.

The relationship between the Center and PCRM will grow more significantly, providing research opportunities on a whole range of medical issues. For example, what is the role of diet in migraines and other chronic conditions faced by patients? The Center, which is adjacent to the offices for PCRM, will help to answer some of these questions by examining the role that diet and nutrition can play in relation to a variety of conditions.

As Barnard is on faculty at the GW University School of Medicine, the center will work with medical students to learn this different approach to wellness and health. “It is a place where young practitioners (and the not so young) can thrive, just out of residency. This Center will give them a chance to practice medicine the way it should be,” notes Barnard.

Between now and the opening early in January, the final touches are being handled—securing the credentialing and setting up the exam and consulting rooms where patients can be seen. There is a seasoned team of professionals who are making preparations for the grand opening, which will take place on Jan. 4, 2016. Prospective patients will be able to start making appointments soon after. In the meantime, there are free weekly classes that are offered on diet, particularly for those who are struggling with a new diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a heart condition. Part cooking classes, part support group—these weekly gatherings, held in the office of PCRM, help anyone who is moving toward a plant-based, whole-food diet as a part of their journey to health. Barnard has seen so many scared patients find health, and a new lease on life, through the support of the physicians and the community of classmates.

For more information about the opening of Barnard Medical Center, PCRM and weekly classes, visit



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