Mission Statement

Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute

PMRI is a non-profit research institute that performs scientific research investigating the effects of diet and lifestyle choices on health and disease.

Our work is grounded in compassion and dedication to service. PMRI achieves its mission by:

  • Publishing research that informs the practice of medicine and allows the individual to take personal responsibility for health
  • Collaborating with leaders in the scientific community
  • Educating and training health professionals and the public about preventive medicine and the benefits of lifestyle change

Research Highlights

Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute

Dr. Ornish's 35 years of clinical research proved how the lifestyle program he recommends improves most chronic diseases, including:

 

Telomeres

Increase Telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that control cell ageing

A pilot study, published in The Lancet Oncology, shows that comprehensive lifestyle changes may increase the length of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that control cell ageing. This is the first study to show that any intervention might lengthen telomeres over time. If the findings are confirmed by larger randomised controlled trials, scientists will begin to have a better understanding of how lifestyle changes may have the potential to reverse ageing on a cellular level.

Lifestyle changes lengthen telomeres
Lancet Oncology (PDF)

Telomerase

Increase Telomerase, the enzyme that maintains telomere length

Results of this study, published in the journal Lancet Oncology, showed, for the first time, that changing lifestyle significantly increases telomerase. Telomerase is the enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length. Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes that influence how long we live. This is the first time that any intervention, even drugs, has been shown to significantly increase telomerase.

Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study.
Lancet Oncology (PDF)

Telomerase and the Benefits of Healthy Living
Lancet Oncology (PDF)

Gene Expression

Turn on health-promoting genes & turn off disease-promoting genes

In this study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (www.pnas.org), we found that over 500 genes were affected by lifestyle changes. In fact, certain disease preventing genes were up-regulated, or turned on, and certain disease promoting genes, including oncogenes involved in cancer, were down-regulated, or turned off. The results of this study suggest that comprehensive lifestyle changes may cause changes in gene expression that could be beneficial to the general population as well as to those with prostate cancer.

“Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention.”
Preceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): www.pnas.org (PDF)

Prostate Cancer

Slow, Stop, or Reverse the Progression of Early-Stage Prostate Cancer

We examined the effects of intensive lifestyle changes on men with early stage Prostate Cancer after 1 year. After 1 year, none of the men in the experimental group underwent conventional treatments compared to 6 in the control group. Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) decreased 4% in the experimental group compared to a 6% increase in the control group, and prostate cancer cell growth was inhibited almost eight times as much in the experimental group compared to the control group. These results indicate that intensive lifestyle changes may effect the progression of early low grade prostate cancer.

“Intensive Lifestyle Changes May Effect the Progression of Prostate Cancer”
Journal of Urology (PDF)

“Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention”
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PDF)

“Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study”
Lancet Oncology (PDF)

“Relationship of Dietary Protein and Soy Isoflavones to Serum IGF-1 and IGF Binding Proteins in the Prostate Cancer Lifestyle Trial”
Nutrition and Cancer (PDF)

 

Heart Disease

Reverse & Prevent Heart Disease

We examined the ability of patients enrolled in the Lifestyle Heart Trial to sustain intensive lifestyle changes for a total of five years and the effects of these lifestyle changes on coronary heart disease. We measured adherence to lifestyle changes, changes in coronary artery percent diameter stenosis, and cardiac events. Outcomes in the experimental group showed significant improvement relative to controls. Additionally, compared to 1 year follow up, 5 year follow ups showed greater improvement relative to controls.

“Intensive Lifestyle Changes for Reversal of Coronary Heart Disease”
Journal of the American Medical Association (PDF)

“Changes in Myocardial Perfusion Abnormalities by Positron Emission Tomography After Long-Term, Intense Risk Factor Modification”
Journal of the American Medical Association (PDF)

“Can Lifestyle Changes Reverse Coronary Heart Disease?”
The Lancet (PDF)

“Effects of Stress Management Training & Dietary Changes in Treating Ischemic Heart Disease”
Journal of the American Medical Association (PDF)

“Improved Stenosis Geometry by Quantitative Coronary Arteriography After Vigorous Risk Factor Modification”
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)

“Statins and the Soul of Medicine”
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)

“Improvement in Medical Risk Factors & Quality of Life in Women and Men With Coronary Artery Disease in the Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Trial”
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)

“Long Term Effects of Lifestyle Changes on Well-Being and Cardiac Variables Among Coronary Heart Disease Patients”
Health Psychology (PDF)

“The Contribution of Changes in Diet, Exercise, and Stress Management in Coronary Risks in Women and Men in the Multisite Cardiac Lifestyle Intervention Program”
Annals of Behavioral Medicine (PDF)

“Lifestyle Changes and Clinical Profile in Heart Disease Patients with an Ejection Fraction of ≤40% or ≥ 40% in the Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project”
The European Journal of Heart Failure (PDF)

“Effects of Pomegranite Juice Consumption on Myocardial Perfusion in Patients with Coronary Heart Disease”
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)

“Angina Pectoris and Atherosclerotic Risk Factors in the Multisite Cardiac Lifestyle Intervention Program”
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)

“Socioeconomic Status and Improvements in Lifestyle, Coronary Risk Factors, and Quality of life: The Multisite Cardiac Lifestyle Intervention Program”
American Journal of Public Health (PDF)

“Relation of B-Type Natriuretic Peptide Levels to Body Mass Index After Comprehensive Lifestyle Changes”
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)

“Dean Ornish, MD: A Conversation With the Editor
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)


Diabetes & Pre-Diabetes

Reverse and Prevent Type 2 Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

Patients with diabetes were able to follow the Ornish program and show the same improvements in coronary risk factors and quality of life as those without diabetes.  Patients showed statistically significant decreases in their HgbA1c, and many were able to reduce their diabetes medication.

“Comparison of coronary risk factors and quality of life in coronary artery disease patients with versus without diabetes mellitus”
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)

“The effectiveness and efficacy of an intensive cardiac rehabilitation program in 24 sites”
American Journal of Health Promotion (PDF)


Weight Loss

Lose Weight and  Improve BMI

Patients who participated in the 12 week Ornish program showed statistically significant improvements in their in their weight and their BMI, reporting an average 20 pound weight loss in 12 months

“The effectiveness and efficacy of an intensive cardiac rehabilitation program in 24 sites”
American Journal of Health Promotion (PDF)

“Improvement in medical risk factors and quality of life in women and men with coronary artery disease in the Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project”
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)

 

Cholesterol

Lower Cholesterol

Patients who participated in the 12 week Ornish program showed statistically significant improvements in their total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerdies.  In fact, patients lowered their LDL-cholesterol levels by an average of 40%.

“The effectiveness and efficacy of an intensive cardiac rehabilitation program in 24 sites”
American Journal of Health Promotion (PDF)

“A Very-Low-Fat Vegan Diet Increases Intake of Protective Dietary Factors and Decreases Intake of Pathogenic Dietary Factors”
The American Dietetic Association (PDF)

 

Blood Pressure

Lower Blood Pressure

Patients who followed the Ornish program lowered their systolic and diastolic blood pressure after only 12 weeks, and many were able to decrease their blood pressure medication

“The effectiveness and efficacy of an intensive cardiac rehabilitation program in 24 sites”
American Journal of Health Promotion (PDF)

 

Depression

Relieve Depression

Our research showed that patients with depression and metabolic syndrome were able to make significant intensive diet and lifestyle changes. In fact, 73% of patients with depressive symptoms became non-depressed after only 12 weeks, with both men and women showing similar improvements in depression.

“Lifestyle changes are related to reductions in depression in persons with elevated coronary risk factors”
Psychology and Health (PDF)

“The effectiveness and efficacy of an intensive cardiac rehabilitation program in 24 sites”
American Journal of Health Promotion (PDF)

 

Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Projects

Optimize Outcomes & Cost-Savings

“Improvement in Medical Risk Factors and Quality of Life in Women and Men With Coronary Artery Disease in the Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project”
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)

We examined baseline and 3 month medical and psychosocial characteristics of women and men enrolled in the Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project. Results showed significant improvements in diet, exercise and stress management, as well as improvements in medical and psychosocial characteristics. These improvements occured in spite of gender differences in medical, psychosocial and sociodemographic status. These results suggest that programs focusing on intensive lifestyle changes can be successfully implemented in diverse regions of the United States, and may be particularly helpful for women with heart disease, who generally have higher mortality and morbidity rates than men after a cardiac event.

“Avoiding Revascularization with Lifestyle Changes: The Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project”
American Journal of Cardiology (PDF)

We examined the potential of intensive lifestyle changes as a direct alternative to revascularization procedures on patients enrolled in the Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project. Results showed that patients in the experimental group were able to avoid revascularization for at least 3 years without increasing cardiac morbidity and mortality. These changes also came at a significantly lower cost than a revascularization procedure. These patients also reported experiencing reductions in angina similar to what was reported after a revascularization.

“The Effectiveness and Efficacy of an Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation Program in 24 Sites”
American Journal of Health Promotion (PDF)

 

Our Team

Dean Ornish - Founder & President Anne Ornish - VP, Director of Program Development Colleen Kemp - VP, Director of Operations Heather Amador - Operations Manager Melanie Elliott-Eller - Clinical Nurse Specialist Alice Galvin - Clinical Research Coordinator Steven Frenda - Data Manager Tandis Alizadeh - Project Coordinator Candace Grumley - Research Assistant/Administrative Assistant Jessica E. Knies - Administrative Assistant Michael Lee Stacey Dunn-Emke Jennifer McCrea Susi Amendola Robert Avenson Dennis Malone Mimi O'Connor Phil Hardesty Charles Leighton Deborah Matza Ruth Marlin Bryce Williams Terri Merritt-Worden Kathy Ornish Maya Jeyaraman Claudia Pischke Gerdi Weidner Nita Chainani Wu Ivette S. Estay Lee Lipsenthal

Dr. Dean OrnishDean Ornish, MD

Dean Ornish, M.D., is the founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.  Dr. Ornish received his M.D. from the Baylor College of Medicine, was a clinical fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School, and completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital.  He earned a B.A. in Humanities summa cum laude from the University of Texas in Austin, where he gave the baccalaureate address. 

For over 35 years, Dr. Ornish has directed clinical research demonstrating, for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease, without drugs or surgery.  Recently, Medicare agreed to provide coverage for this program, the first time that Medicare has covered a program of comprehensive lifestyle changes.  He directed the first randomized controlled trial demonstrating that comprehensive lifestyle changes may stop or reverse the progression of early-stage prostate cancer.  His current research showed that comprehensive lifestyle changes affect gene expression, “turning on” disease-preventing genes and “turning off” genes that promote cancer and heart disease, as well as increasing telomerase, an enzyme that lengthens telomeres, the ends of our chromosomes which control aging (in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2009). 

He is the author of six books, all national bestsellers, including: Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease; Eat More, Weigh Less; Love & Survival; and his most recent book, The Spectrum.

The research that he and his colleagues conducted has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Circulation, The New England Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Cardiology, The Lancet Oncology, and elsewhere.  A one-hour documentary of their work was broadcast on NOVA, the PBS science series, and was featured on Bill Moyers' PBS series, Healing & The Mind.  Their work has been featured in all major media, including cover stories in Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News & World Report.  He has written a monthly column for Newsweek and Reader’s Digest magazines and is currently Medical Editor of The Huffington Post, which has 45 million unique readers per month. 

Dr. Ornish was appointed by President Clinton to the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy and he was appointed by President Obama to the White House Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.  He is a member of the boards of directors of the San Francisco Food Bank and the J. Craig Venter Institute.  He established an integrative medicine clinic in the Saint Vincent de Paul homeless shelter in San Francisco which will be replicated throughout the country.  Dr. Ornish was elected to the California Academy of Medicine and chaired the Google Health Advisory Council 2007-9.

The Ornish diet was rated #1 for heart health by U.S. News & World Report in 2011 and 2012.

He has received several awards, including the 1994 Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from the University of Texas, Austin; the University of California, Berkeley, “National Public Health Hero” award; the Jan J. Kellermann Memorial Award for distinguished contribution in the field of cardiovascular disease prevention from the International Academy of Cardiology; a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association; the Beckmann Medal from the German Society for Prevention and Rehabilitation of Cardiovascular Diseases; the “Pioneer in Integrative Medicine” award from California Pacific Medical Center; the Stanley Wallach Lectureship Award from the American College of Nutrition; the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement; a U.S. Army Surgeon General Medal; the Linus Pauling Award from the Institute for Functional Medicine; the Glenn Foundation Award for Research; the Bravewell Collaborative Pioneer of Integrative Medicine award; and the Sheila Kar Health Foundation Humanitarian Award from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles).  Dr. Ornish has been a physician consultant to President Clinton since 1993 and to several bipartisan members of the U.S. Congress, and he consulted with the chefs at The White House, Camp David, and Air Force One to cook more healthfully (1993-2000).  He gave a keynote speech reviewing the science of integrative medicine at the Institute of Medicine’s first Summit on Integrative Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences.  For more information: www.pmri.org and www.ornish.com

Dr. Ornish was honored as “one of the 125 most extraordinary University of Texas alumni in the past 125 years;” chosen by LIFE magazine as “one of the fifty most influential members of his generation;” recognized as “one of the most interesting people of 1996” by People magazine; and by Forbes magazine as “one of the seven most powerful teachers in the world.”  


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Anne OrnishAnne Ornish, BA, IAYT

Anne is Vice President of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute where she directs program development.

She received her BA from the University of Colorado. After receiving her post-graduate degree in web production, she produced the online presence for the Ornish Program at WebMD from 1998-2006. Since then, she created and is Executive Producer of the PMRI.org and OrnishSpectrum.com digital platforms designed to educate and support both health consumers and providers.

She is a certified Integrative Health & Spirituality practitioner through the California Pacific Medical Center's Institute for Health and Healing's hospital training program.

She has also received professional training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Mind-Body Medicine with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Stress Reduction Clinic. She completed the Academy for Interactive Guided Imagery's two-year certification program.

Anne has 18 years of advanced training in yoga and meditation. Her years as an avid yoga practitioner and instructor have trained her in the therapeutics of stretching, meditation, guided imagery and breath awareness. Her focus in teaching yoga as stress management is to enhance and expand one's field of overall awareness while creating more simple, spacious and sustainable ways of being.Her multimedia series of guided meditation tools are featured inside Dean Ornish, MD's book, The Spectrum.

Anne was featured on the cover of Yoga Journal magazine's July/August 2006 issue.

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Colleen KempColleen Kemp, RN, MSN

Colleen currently serves as Vice President, Director of Operations at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. Colleen joined the Institute in 2002 and has served in a variety of roles including as Project Director for the Gene Expression Modulation in Nutrition and Lifestyle research study. Colleen is skilled at setting ambitious goals and producing on time deliverables in a multiple project work environment. She has extensive experience in project management, data coordination, research and education protocol implementation, communicating with regulatory bodies, funding agencies and senior investigators. Colleen has coauthored multiple articles and abstracts. Before joining the Institute she developed continuing education courses for health care providers and counseled individuals on integrating lifestyle modification, and other alternative and complementary therapies, into their health care plans. She began her career in nursing in 1980 in hospital-based critical care units where she developed her expertise as an acute care provider. She has a Masters in Nursing, is certified as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Integrative Health, and is a board certified Holistic Nurse. In the past she held an adjunct faculty position in the Nursing Department at Dominican University of California.

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Heather Heather Amador, BS

Heather is Operations Manager at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing Education from the University of Missouri at Columbia. She came to PMRI in 1993 and has served in a variety of roles over the years including Assistant to the Director of Operations, Assistant to the Vice President of Finance, and Director of Retreat Programs. She currently serves as the Operations Manager. Heather is responsible for oversight of all study personnel as well as tracking study related expenses and contributing to progress reports.

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Melanie EllerMelanie Elliott-Eller, RN, MSN

Melanie is a cardiovascular Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. A Community Forum Moderator since 2005, she was a co-investigator of the Multi-Center Lifestyle Demonstration Project (1993-1998) and served as operational liaison and quality director for the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease (1993-2002). She has extensive experience in project management; quality management; clinical protocol development; operationalizing research protocols within national hospital accreditation standards; and health professional training and development. Melanie has worked with the lifestyle modification program from both a clinical and research perspective since 1991 and has co-authored numerous abstracts and manuscripts.

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Alice GalvinAlice Galvin, MSc

Alice is Clinical Research Coordinator at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. She received her degrees in psychology and neuroscience from the University of Dublin in Ireland. She previously worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator at the University of California at San Francisco. Alice is responsible for data collection from the hospital sites and building and managing relationships with hospital site collaborators. She manages the recruitment of participants and all regulatory affairs, and create and manage tracking databases. In addition, she works with the Data Manager and assists with manuscript preparation.

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Steven Steven Frenda, BA

Steven is Data Manager of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. He joined PMRI as a research assistant after obtaining a BA in Psychology from The New School University in New York City. He served as full time data manager from 2006-2008 investigating health services outcomes and emerging cardiovascular disease biomarkers. He is also pursuing his doctorate in psychology at the University of California. Steven has contributed to two previous research studies at PMRI, and has coauthored multiple manuscripts at PMRI over the past five years. He is responsible for building and maintaining the statistical databases, developing analysis plans, performing statistical analyses, interpreting study results, writing reports, and preparing manuscripts.

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Tandis Tandis Alizadeh, BA

Tandis earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science from UC Davis. She comes to PMRI from the financial and software industries. Tandis currently serves as Executive Assistant to Dr. Ornish and Project Coordinator at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute.

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Candace Candace Grumley, BS

Candace received a Bachelor of Science in Design in 2008 from San Francisco State University. Candace has excellent project management skills and attention to detail, which she used in the art world assisting with boutique hotel and commercial space design in California and New York. Candace has always had a strong interest in nutrition and health and is currently seeking a Nursing degree. She joined PMRI in 2010 and serves as Research Assistant and Adminitrative Assistant. In her free time she enjoys running, biking, and hiking.

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Jessica KniesJessica E. Knies, BA

Jessica currently serves as a part-time Administrative Assistant for the Institute while pursuing her certification to become a Master Pilates Instructor. Since graduating from the University of San Diego in 2004, Jessica has worked in the sales and member relations function within the health and wellness industry as well as recruiting for a boutique agency focusing on administrative professionals. Outside of work, Jessica enjoys hiking on Mt. Tam, entertaining friends, dance, yoga, pilates and nutrition.

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Michael T. Lee - focus97Michael Lee, BS

Michael is the web design & development consultant at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. He currently runs a small and growing business in design and web development, Focus97.com. Michael's formal education is a bachelor's degree in Physiology from UC Davis. With interests in science and medicine, Michael did research in atherosclerosis, co-authoring a paper under Dr. Amparo Villablanca. After moving to San Francisco in 2006 and starting Focus97, he continued basic science research interests at UCSF, co-authoring 4 papers in neurogenesis under Dr. Greg Stratmann, until eventually migrating to clinical research studies in hypoxia with Dr. Phil Bickler. He is now full-time in Focus97, with a small and growing team of web-enthusiasts and an ever-expanding portfolio of web design & development projects spanning 5 years and covering diverse industries.

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Stacey Dunn-EmkeStacey Dunn-Emke, MS, RD

Stacey is a registered dietitian with a Master's degree in Nutrition Science. Prior to joining the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in 1999, she was a nutrition educator, clinical dietitian, and clinical nutrition manager at several medical centers in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1991. Stacey frequently speaks on the topics of nutrition, diet and lifestyle. She has given invited lectures at Harvard Medical School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Emory University, University of CA, San Francisco, the California Dietetic Association and the American Dietetic Association. Stacey has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and MSNBC TV. She has been featured in Weight Watchers magazine and Natural Health Magazine. Stacey has been active in professional associations by serving as the Bay Area Dietetic Association President and was awarded Outstanding Dietitian by the Bay Area Dietetic Association, Outstanding Dietitian of the Year by ARAMARK, Healthcare Support Services, and Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year by the California Dietetic Association.

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Jennifer McCreaJennifer McCrea, MA

Jennifer has been Vice President of External Relations at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and continues as a consultant. Jennifer is a veteran fundraiser who has worked with executive directors, fundraisers and board members from a wide variety of nonprofits, including Millennium Promise, Creative Commons, Acumen Fund, Donorschoose.org, Grameen America, Teach for America, Witness, Columbia University, Comic Relief, X Prize Foundation, Mercy Corps, Rhode Island School of Design, Council on Foreign Relations, MIT Media Lab, Population Services International and many others. Jennifer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University, where she leads the Course in Exponential Fundraising. She is also a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, servers as an advisory board member of Berklee College City Music Program and is a co-founder and board member of the Quincy Jones MusiQ Consortium, an organization that unites leaders in the music industry, nonprofit organizations, corporations, foundations and philanthropists to make music an ongoing part of the lives of children. Previously, Jennifer held key leadership positions at Case Western Reserve University and at Washington University in St. Louis during their multi-billion dollar capital campaign. She was also Vice President for Development at Dickinson College.

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Susi AmendolaSusi Amendola

Susi serves as the national director of stress management for the Ornish program hospital sites. Since 1978, she has studied yoga and meditation at the Himalayan Institute, Iyengar-style yoga under the direction of Margo Pope, and has attended numerous yoga workshops around the country, studying a variety of styles, including: Flow, Asthanga, Restorative, and Iyengar yoga. In 1984, she founded the Omaha Yoga & Bodywork Center, where she currently directs programs, and teaches classes. She has also developed a teacher training program (registered with Yoga Alliance) as a way to support teachers and students in furthering their experiences in yoga. From 1993-2004, she taught stress management at the Ornish Program at Alegent Immanuel Hospital's Heart Institute. She also teaches Yoga for credit at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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Robert AvensonRobert Avenson, PhD

Dr. Avenson is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Albany, CA. He has been a facilitator for hundreds of Ornish support groups since 1994. From 1999-2002, he served as the national director of psychological services on the Preventive Medicine Research Institute team that trained hospital staff to implement the Ornish Program. He has continued in this role from 2002 to the present for Highmark Blue Cross of Pennsylvania. He was the psychologist and group support facilitator for the two prostate cancer research studies run by PMRI and UCSF: The Prostate Cancer Lifestyle Trial, and The Gene Expression Modulation by Intervention Through Nutrition and Lifestyle Study. Bob is certified in Biofeedback. He is a Past President, Board Member Emeritus, and lecturer for The Northern California Society of Clinical Hypnosis. He has lectured at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served as a professor on the faculty of Alliant University, The California School of Professional Psychology where he taught the Advanced Clinical Seminar and Cognitive Behavioral Psychology.

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DennisDennis Malone, MA

Dennis has been an executive chef and group facilitator with the Preventive Medicine Research Institute for 20 years. He has made numerous appearances on local and national television, including Oprah. He previously owned and directed two well-known Marin restaurants. He has a master's degree in clinical social work from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Mimi O'ConnorMimi O'Connor, MS, LPC, NCC

Mimi is a licensed psychotherapist, national certified counselor, and professional seminar leader. She has facilitated support groups for Ornish Program participants since 2001.

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Phil HardestyPhil Hardesty, BS, ACSM, CES

Phil earned a B.S. in Exercise Science from Slippery Rock University and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Clinical Exercise Specialist. Upon graduation he worked for several years in a physical therapy practice then transitioned into cardiac rehab. Phil spent six years working directly for a cardiology practice as an exercise physiologist and then clinical coordinator for both cardiac rehab and an outpatient diagnostics center. Over the past eight years Phil has worked as the exercise physiologist for the Ornish program at Hamot in Pennsylvania. He also consults with PMRI.

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Charles Leighton LCSW, CGP

Charles is a licensed clinical social worker. He has facilitated support groups for Ornish Program participants since 1994 and was the coordinator of group support for Ornish Program at the Beth Israel Medical Center from 1994-1996. He has published articles and abstracts in the Journal of American Nursing and The Journal of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. He is a certified Yoga and meditation instructor with the Integral Yoga Institute and has practiced mindfulness meditation for over twenty years. Leighton has been in private practice since 1992 and has offices at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City and in Butler New Jersey where he works with individuals, couples, families and groups. He continues to consult with PMRI.

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Deborah MatzaDeborah Matza, RN, MPH

Deborah Matza RN, MPH, RYT-500, is a nurse who has focused her professional life on program development and integrating complementary approaches to health care into conventional medical settings. Deborah received her BSN from NYU and MPH from Columbia University. She began her clinical nursing career at Mount Sinai Medical Center in cardiac intensive care then later moved into clinical research and nursing administration.

Deborah is a certified Integral and Therapeutic Yoga instructor and has over 15 years of experience teaching yoga to people with chronic and life-threatening illnesses as well as the general population. She worked as the stress management coordinator for one of the original sites for the Dean Ornish Program for the Reversal of Heart Disease. Deborah has training in Therapeutic Touch, Reiki Level II and recently completed a one year intensive program in Integrative Therapy through the Urban Zen Foundation.

Since 2008, Deborah has received ongoing funding from a private foundation to develop a bedside yoga therapy program for palliative care inpatients in a major metropolitan medical center.

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Ruth MarlinRuth Marlin, MD

Ruth Marlin is a board certified internist with training at the University of Tennessee, the Mayo Clinic and the University of British Columbia. She worked in private practice for many years, with a strong emphasis on prevention and patient education and has given numerous lectures on lifestyle factors in heart disease, diabetes and prostate cancer. For 15 years, she worked with Dr. Dean Ornish at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute as a lifestyle retreat physician; as the Medical Director of the Prostate Cancer Lifestyle and Geminal Trials in collaboration with the University of California and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and as the Director of Medical Education. Dr. Marlin is presently the Associate Director of the Northern California Melanoma Center at St. Mary's Medical Center in San Francisco where she also offers Integrative Medicine consultations. She is a diplomat of the American Board of Holistic Medicine and a member of the American College of Physicians and the Society for Integrative Oncology. Dr Marlin continues to provide consulting services with PMRI.

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Bryce Williams

Bryce served as executive director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute (PMRI) from 2003-2007. He currently serves as Director of Health and Wellness at Blue Cross Blue Shield of California, where he is responsible for developing and implementing a strategic vision that seeks to engage and empower members in wellness and health-guidance initiatives focused on improved quality of life and optimal healthcare utilization. Bryce received his master's degree in clinical exercise physiology from the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse and holds undergraduate degrees in Finance and Spanish from Southern Methodist University. He currently serves as Operations and Finance Consultant at PMRI.

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Terri Merritt-WordenTerri Merritt-Worden, MS, CES, FAACVPR

Terri received her BS in physical education at the State University of New York at Buffalo and her MS in exercise science at the University of Arizona. She has been actively involved in cardiac rehabilitation and intensive lifestyle modification research for over two decades and is most well known for her work with Dean Ornish, MD and the development of hospital based intensive lifestyle modification programs. Terri is a member of American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and has served on the Board of Director's of the American Heart Association- San Francisco Division, the California Society of Cardiac Rehabilitation (CSCR) and AACVPR. She is also an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Exercise Specialist, a certified Integral Yoga Institute instructor and a fellow of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. In 2002 she received the AACVPR Distinguished Service Award and completed the Cardiovascular Health Fellowship with the Health Forum/American Hospital Association. In 2008 she accepted a position as Director of Health Management with the Wellspring Medical Center, part of the Silverton Hospital Network in Silverton, Oregon. She currently consults with PMRI from her home in Oregon.

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Kathy OrnishKathy Ornish, BS, MFA, CYT

Kathy Ornish, sister to Dean, currently lives in Lansing, Michigan, is a practicing certified yoga therapist and teacher, and a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. She completed the 500 hour Yoga Therapy Program and the 500 hour Advanced Teacher Training Program through Gary Kraftsow's American Viniyoga Institute (A.V.I.). Viniyoga evolved out of the teachings transmitted by T. Krishnamacharya and T.K.V. Desikachar of Madras, India. Formerly, she was a Professor of sculpture and ceramics for ten years.

Her primary emphasis is on teaching the breadth of the yoga tradition with the appropriate application of the many tools of yoga (physical postures, breathing, relaxation, meditation, lifestyle, chanting, and visualization). These tools are adapted to fit the need and unique condition of the individual, thereby assisting movement toward wellness at all levels (physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually). Kathy hopes she can help people realize their highest potential and is honored to help them get a glimpse into the best that they already are (http://www.goodspaceyoga.com/ ). Kathy currently provides consulting services to PMRI.

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Maya JeyaramanMaya Jeyaraman, PhD

Maya Jeyaraman received her PhD degree from University of Manitoba, Canada in 2011. As a part of her PhD thesis, Maya studied the role of phosphorylation of Connexin43 at Serine262, in the signal transduction pathways leading to cardioprotection and cardiac regeneration. Connexin43 is a major constituent of intercellular channels between cardiac cells that mediate synchronous contraction of the heart. Maya’s research work showed that Serine 262 phosphorylation of Cx43 is likely a mediator of cardioprotection and thus targeting Cx43 and its phosphorylation at S262 may provide a novel strategy to improve cardiac response to injury, as well as improving cardiomyocyte regenerative response after injury. Her research work has been published in many peer-reviewed journals. While pursuing her PhD degree, Maya also won many awards for academic excellence, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s Doctoral Research award. Apart from research work, Maya also played a significant role as an Academic networking coordinator, Journal club coordinator, Student pulse newsletter editor and as a reviewer for a few journals. She also has Certification in Higher Education Teaching (CHET). Outside of work, Maya enjoys her time with friends and family, nature walks, yoga, meditation and sharing insights about life. In addition to serving as a post-doctoral Clinical Research Scientist at Manitoba Institute of Child Health, Maya currently serves as an independent Research Consultant for PMRI since January 2012.

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Claudia Pischke, PhD

Dr Pischke joined PMRI in 2005 as a pre-doctoral research scholar where she conducted her dissertation research. She graduated in Psychology from Philipps University of Marburg, Germany, in 1999 and was trained as a Health Psychologist at the Free University Berlin, Germany, where she received her Master's degree in Health Psychology in 2003. She also performed part of her master's level research on health behavior changes in coronary heart disease (CHD) patients with diabetes mellitus (DM) at PMRI under the supervision of Drs. Weidner and Schwarzer. Before coming to PMRI, she was a research assistant at the Department of Health Psychology at the Free University Berlin, investigating the effects of cognitive processes and depression on health behavior change in patients with CHD. She also completed an internship in the Department of Social Psychology of the University of California, Santa Cruz with Dr. Faye Crosby. Her research interests include the effects of lifestyle change on risk factors and quality of life in secondary prevention of diabetes, coronary heart disease, and heart failure. She also has a strong interest in the role of gender and sex differences in the etiology and prognosis of chronic disease. In July of 2008 Dr Pischke accepted a position as Post Doctoral Scholar at the School of Public Health at Harvard University.  Dr Pischke now works at the Bremen Institute for Prevention Research and Social Medicine in Bremen, Germany. She currently contributes to PMRI, examining the effects of comprehensive lifestyle changes in relation to depression and coronary risk factors in men and women with elevated coronary risk factors.

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Gerdi Weidner, PhD

Gerdi Weidner, PhDDr. Weidner joined PMRI in 2001 from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she was Professor of Psychology and Preventive Medicine (from 1984-2001). As Vice President and Director of Research at PMRI, she directed the research programs on cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer until May 2009, when she returned to an academic position in the Biology Department at San Francisco State University. She also conducts research at the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, Germany, where she was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize and a Mercator Professorship from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). She continues her affiliation with PMRI as a consultant.

Dr. Weidner’s research examines the role of stress, environment and gender in the etiology and treatment of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and cancer. She collaborates with investigators from a variety of disciplines (e.g., psychology, medicine, public health, epidemiology). Her research has been funded by NIH, the American Heart Association, DAAD, NATO, the German Research Foundation, and Eurotransplant.

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NitaNita Chainani-Wu, DMD, MS, PhD

Nita Chainani-Wu received her DMD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996. She then completed her specialty training in Oral Medicine (2000) and a Master's in Science in Oral Biology (2001) from the University of California, San Francisco. She received her PhD in Epidemiology from the School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley in 2005. She has published on the role of diet in oral, pharyngeal and esophageal cancers, oral lichen planus, the association of oral lichen planus and hepatitis C virus, integrin expression in hairy leukoplakia, safety and anti-inflammatory activity of curcuminoids and their use in oral lichen planus, sialogogue use in xerostomia, and validation of instruments for measurement of signs and symptoms of oral lichen planus. Her current research interests include the role of diet and lifestyle factors in oral and systemic diseases. Dr Chainani-Wu has been on the faculty at the University of California, San Francisco since 2001 and has been in private practice in oral medicine in Sunnyvale since 2000.

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IvetteIvette S. Estay, PhD

Ivette completed her PhD in Cancer Biology from the Stanford School of Medicine in 2009. In her dissertation work "Ubiquitin ligase regulation of Gli transcription factors", Ivette, characterized cellular mechanisms that regulate the stability of Gli proteins. Gli proteins are the primary mediators of the Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) signaling pathway, a key developmental pathway that is aberrantly upregulated in basal cell carcinomas, the most common type of skin cancer. In addition to her thesis work at Stanford, Ivette has research experience in plant physiology, microbiology, and cardiovascular biology from a variety of institutions, California State University, Northridge, Harvard, and Agilent Technologies. Outside of the lab, she served the Stanford University community as a coordinator of the Cancer Biology High School Summer Program (2005-2008), Graduate Student Council Publicity Coordinator, Assistant Elections Commissioner for Graduate Elections, and Co-founder and Vice President of the Biomedical Association for the Interest of Minority Students. For fun, she enjoys entertaining friends, salsa dancing, hiking, art museums, and learning about other cultures. Ivette joined PMRI in 2009 and currently serves as Clinical Research Coordinator.

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Lee LipsenthalIn Memorium
Lee Lipsenthal, MD, ABIHM

Dr. Lee Lipsenthal was an internist, trained in the prevention of heart disease. Dr. Lipsenthal was a key researcher on many of the studies with Dr. Ornish and has published many textbook chapters in the areas of heart disease and of physician health and he served as the Medical Director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. He also served on the American Medical Association's physician wellness committee and worked with the British and Canadian Medical Associations. Dr. Lipsenthal was the Past President of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine and has also served for many years on the Board of Directors for The Institute of Noetic Sciences, HeartMath, and The Hoffman Institute. He authored many research publications in peer reviewed medical journals and was a chapter contributor to many medical texts such as: Caring for Vulnerable and Underserved Patients: Principles, Practice and Populations. Editors, Wheeler M., Fernandez A., Schillinger D., Bindman A., and King, T., McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 2006; Integrative Medicine, Editor, Dave Rakel, MD, ABHM, Saunders;2 edition (February 7, 2007) and Integrative Cardiology, Stephen Devries (Editor), James Dalen (Editor), Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (December 3, 2010).

Lee passed away in September, 2011. His book, Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day As If It Were Your Last, was published in November 2011


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Overview

Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute Preventive Medicine Research Institute

For more than 30 years, Dean Ornish, M.D. and his colleagues at the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute (PMRI) in collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco and other leading academic institutions, have conducted a series of research studies showing that changes in diet and lifestyle can make a powerful difference in our health and well-being, how quickly these changes may occur, and how dynamic these mechanisms can be.

Part of the value of this scientific research is that it raises awareness and redefines what is possible, giving many people new hope and new choices. Before, these research findings were thought to have been impossible. They show that your body often has a remarkable capacity to begin healing itself, and much more quickly than had once been thought possible.

Many people tend to think of breakthroughs in medicine as a new drug, laser, or high-tech surgical procedure. They often have a hard time believing that the simple choices that we make in our lives each day-what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke cigarettes, how much exercise we get, and the quality of our relationships and social support-can be as powerful as drugs and surgery, but they often are. Sometimes, even better.

Dr. Ornish and his colleagues conducted a series of randomized controlled trials and demonstration projects showing that these comprehensive changes in diet and lifestyle are both medically effective and cost effective. They used the latest in high-tech, state-of-the-art diagnostic technology to prove the power of these low-tech, low-cost, and ancient interventions.

They were the first to prove that the progression of coronary heart disease is often reversible by making comprehensive lifestyle changes. They showed, also for the first time, that these lifestyle changes may stop or even reverse the progression of early-stage prostate cancer. What affects prostate cancer is likely to affect breast cancer as well.

Dr. Ornish began conducting research in 1977, when he was a second-year medical student at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. While studying bypass surgery with Dr. Michael DeBakey, he wondered what might happen if people addressed the underlying lifestyle factors that often cause coronary heart disease rather than just literally or figuratively bypassing the problem with surgery or a lifetime of medications. He took a year off from medical school to conduct a pilot study of 10 patients with severe heart disease. After only one month, he found that blood flow to the heart improved and the frequency of angina (chest pain) diminished by over 90%. This study was published in the journal Clinical Research.

He returned to medical school and received his M.D. in 1980. He took another year off from his medical training to conduct a randomized controlled trial of this program in men and women with heart disease. He and his colleagues replicated the earlier findings and found that the ability of the heart to pump blood improved significantly after only one month. These findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1983.

After finishing his internship and residency in internal medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in June 1984, Dr. Ornish moved to San Francisco and founded the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute later that year. He and his colleagues began conducting the Lifestyle Heart Trial, a randomized controlled trial designed to study the effects of these comprehensive lifestyle changes using two state-of-the-art measures: quantitative coronary arteriography to measure coronary artery blockages, and cardiac PET scans to measure blood flow to the heart.

The amount of coronary artery blockages (atherosclerosis) showed significant reversal (improvement) after only year. In contrast, the amount of coronary atherosclerosis increased (worsened) significantly in the comparison group of patients who were not making these changes in diet and lifestyle. This study was published in The Lancet in 1990 and was the subject of an award-winning one-hour documentary on NOVA, the PBS science series.

Based on these findings, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health provided funding to extend the Lifestyle Heart Trial for four more years. They found even more reversal of coronary atherosclerosis after five years than after one year in the group of patients who made comprehensive lifestyle changes, whereas the disease severity continued to worsen in the comparison group of patients who were not making these changes in diet and lifestyle. They also found 2.5 times fewer cardiac events such as heart attacks, bypass surgery, or angioplasty in these patients when compared to the control group. This study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 and also in other medical journals as well. This study was featured in Bill Moyers' PBS series, Healing and the Mind, as well as in virtually all national media.

In 1993, PMRI began a series of demonstration projects to determine if diverse populations throughout the U.S. would be able to make and maintain these comprehensive lifestyle changes. Mutual of Omaha became the first major insurance company to cover Dr. Ornish's lifestyle program and the first insurer to cover any type of integrative medicine program. PMRI began the landmark Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project, which involved patients from medical centers in four academic medical centers (Harvard's Beth Israel and Deaconess Hospitals, UCSF, Scripps, and Beth Israel Medical Center in New York) and four community hospitals (in Omaha, Nebraska; Columbia, South Carolina; Ft. Lauderdale, and Boston).

In this demonstration project, they found that almost 80% of people who were eligible for bypass surgery or angioplasty were able to safely avoid it by following Dr. Ornish's guidelines. Mutual of Omaha calculated saving almost $30,000/patient in the first year.

In a second demonstration project, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield compared patients who went through Dr. Ornish's program for reversing heart disease to a similar group of patients who did not. They found that overall health care costs declined by 50% after only one year and by an additional 20-30% when compared to a matched control group.

Based on these findings, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began a demonstration project to determine the effects of these comprehensive lifestyle changes in Medicare beneficiaries with coronary heart disease. These findings in over 2,000 patients were reviewed in a formal Medicare Coverage Advisory Commission hearing on January 25, 2005. Based on these outcomes, Medicare agreed to cover Dr. Ornish's program for reversing heart disease, the first time Medicare has covered an integrative medicine program, thereby making this program available in a sustainable way to those who most need it.

In 2005, in collaboration with Dr. Peter Carroll (chair of urology, UCSF) and Dr. William Fair (chair of urology and urologic oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center), Dr. Ornish and his colleagues at PMRI published the first randomized controlled trial showing that the progression of early-stage prostate cancer may be stopped or even reversed by making these comprehensive lifestyle changes. This was the first randomized controlled trial showing that the progression of any type of cancer may be stopped or reversed by making lifestyle changes. What is true for prostate cancer is likely to be true for breast cancer as well.

In 2008, PMRI and UCSF published the first study showing that these comprehensive lifestyle changes may beneficially affect gene expression in men with early prostate cancer-"turning on" or upregulating disease-preventing genes, and "turning off" or downregulating genes that promote breast cancer, heart disease, and chronic inflammation. This study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They also showed that this program may significantly increase telomerase, and thus telomere length, by almost 30% in only three months, which is the first study showing that any intervention may increase telomerase. This study was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, a professor at UCSF who received the Lasker Prize for discovering telomerase. Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes that control how long we live. As our telomeres get longer, so do our lives. This study was published in The Lancet Oncology.

PMRI continues to conduct leading-edge scientific research and to form strategic alliances to make this work available worldwide.