Cleveland physician to receive Benjamin Spock Award

04/14/05

WASHINGTON -- Cleveland physician and surgeon Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., will be honored with the first Benjamin Spock Award for Compassion in Medicine by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization. The award will be presented to Dr. Esselstyn on April 16 at PCRM's 20th Anniversary Celebration, hosted by actor Alec Baldwin and attended by a host of other celebrities, including Daryl Hannah, Alicia Silverstone, and singer Emmylou Harris.

While serving as chairman of the Cleveland Clinic's Breast Cancer Task Force, Dr. Esselstyn became concerned about how physicians approach the problems of cancer and heart disease, focusing on diagnosis and treatment and often losing sight of prevention. He began a groundbreaking research study in which he virtually eliminated heart disease among his patients by encouraging them to change to a low-fat vegetarian diet, adding medications only when necessary. The study is one of the longest-running research trials of its type. Reporting in the American Journal of Cardiology in 1999, Dr. Esselstyn found that over a 12-year period, his patients had become virtually heart-attack proof. Although all the patients had significant heart disease at the study's outset, 100 percent had stopped disease progression.

"Rather than simply hand out prescriptions, he worked with his patients to get away from meat, dairy, and junk food, and take control of their lives," said PCRM president and founder Neal Barnard, M.D. "Even skeptical patients soon realized that Dr. Esselstyn's approach could save their lives." Dr. Esselstyn served at the Cleveland Clinic for many years, as president of the Staff and a member of its Board of Governors, chairman of the Clinic's Breast Cancer Task Force, and head of the Section of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery.

Dr. Esselstyn graduated from Yale University, and earned his M.D. from Western Reserve University. At the 1956 Olympic Games he won a Gold Medal as part of an eight-oared rowing team. As an Army surgeon in Vietnam, he was awarded the Bronze Star.

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