Dean Ornish

Ornish in 2016

Dean Michael Ornish (born July 16, 1953) is an American physician, researcher, speaker, president and founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, as well as Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.[1] He is known for his promotion of what he believes to be healthy diets, particularly vegetarianism.

Personal background

Ornish, a native of Dallas, Texas, is a graduate of Dallas's Hillcrest High School. He holds a Bachelor of Arts summa cum laude in Humanities from the University of Texas at Austin, where he gave the baccalaureate address. He earned his M.D. from the Baylor College of Medicine, was a Clinical Fellow in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and completed a medical internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital (1981–1984).

Professional background

Ornish is known for his lifestyle-driven approach to the control of coronary artery disease (CAD) and other chronic diseases. He promotes lifestyle changes including a whole foods, plant-based diet,[2] smoking cessation, moderate exercise, stress management techniques including yoga and meditation, and psychosocial support. He has acknowledged his debt to Swami Satchidananda for helping him develop this holistic perspective on preventive health.

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

He has been a physician consultant to former President Bill Clinton since 1993, when Ornish was first asked by Hillary Clinton to consult with the chefs at The White House, Camp David, and Air Force One to cook more healthfully. In 2010, after the former President's cardiac bypass grafts became clogged, Ornish met with him and encouraged him to follow a mostly plant-based diet, because moderate changes in diet were not sufficient to stop the progression of his heart disease, and he agreed.[3] In contrast to Esselstyn, Ornish recommends the consumption of fish oil supplements and does not follow a strict vegetarian diet, allowing for the consumption of occasional animal products.[4]

Ornish has written a monthly column for Newsweek and Reader's Digest magazines and is currently the Medical Editor of The Huffington Post. A one-hour documentary of his work was broadcast on the PBS science series NOVA. In addition to being featured on Bill Moyers' PBS series Healing & The Mind, his work is featured in a documentary film Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare about transforming the future of healthcare with patient-centered, integrative medicine.

He was interviewed and featured in the mind body medicine documentary, The Connection. Released in 2014.

Awards and honors

Ornish is a member of the boards of directors of the San Francisco Food Bank. Additionally, he is a member of the boards of directors of the U.S. United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the Quincy Jones Foundation. He is an advisory board member of HealthCorps. He was appointed to The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy and elected to the California Academy of Medicine.

Dean Ornish speaking at Google Zeitgeist 2011
Dean Ornish speaking at Google Zeitgeist 2011

He chaired the Google Health Advisory Council from 2007 through 2009.

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; the Linus Pauling Award from the Institute for Functional Medicine; the Glenn Foundation Award for Research in Aging; the Bravewell Collaborative Pioneer of Integrative Medicine award; and the Sheila Kar Health Foundation Humanitarian Award from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles).

He regularly gives keynote speeches on his findings, and has spoken at the White House, the Google Zeitgeist conference, as well as the Institute of Medicine’s first Summit on Integrative Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences.

Ornish was recognized as “one of the most interesting people of 1996” by People magazine; selected as one of the “TIME 100” in integrative medicine; 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;” and by Forbes magazine as “one of the seven most powerful teachers in the world.”


In March 2015, The New York Times published an article by Ornish critical of diets high in animal fats and proteins. Science and health writer Melinda Wenner Moyer responded to Ornish in Scientific American; in it, she criticized Ornish's research and dietary recommendations, saying he used what she considered to be misleading statistics. Her article elicited a lengthy response from Ornish, who defended his position by citing a number of research studies, saying that she was mistaken regarding the statistics he had cited, and identifying serious flaws in the studies she said conflicted with his claims. In reply, Moyer wrote another article critical of Ornish's arguments, concluding: "Ornish’s diet would probably be an improvement on the current American diet—if people could actually follow it long-term. But his claims about the dangers of saturated fat and red meat go beyond the science and in some cases contradict it."[5](links to the article and previous replies)

Published works

Books and monographs

Original reports


  1. "Preventive Medicine Research Institute". 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  2. Philip J Tuso, MD; Mohamed H Ismail, MD; Benjamin P Ha, MD; Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. "Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets." The Permanente Journal (Kaiser Permanente). 2013 Spring; 17(2):61-66.
  3. Sherwell, Philip. "Bill Clinton's new diet: nothing but beans, vegetables and fruit to combat heart disease", The Daily Telegraph, October 3, 2010.
  4. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dean Ornish Explain Healthy Way for Bill Clinton's Dramatic Weight Loss. CNN. September 22, 2010.
  5. Wenner Moyer, Melinda; Ornish, Dean (June 1, 2015). "Why Almost Everything Dean Ornish Says about Nutrition Is Wrong. UPDATED: With Dean Ornish's Response". Scientific American. Retrieved 7 Aug 2015.
  6. "Dr Dean Ornish Program | Wellness Program | WVU Health Sciences Center". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  7. "Review: Eat More, Weigh Less". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  8. "Browse Inside Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish: 150 Easy, Low-Fat, High-Flavor Recipes by Dean Ornish". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  9. Ornish, Dean. "Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy by Dean Ornish". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  10. "Dean Ornish's "The Spectrum" Diet: Overview and Expert Opinion". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  11. "JAMA Network | JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association | Intensive Lifestyle Changes for Reversal of Coronary Heart Disease" (PDF). 1998-12-16. Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  13. "Consumer-Driven Health Care: Implications for Providers, Payers and Policy Makers | Table of Contents". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  14. "Dean Ornish says your genes are not your fate | Video on". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  15. "Preventive Medicine Research Institute". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  16. Scherwitz, L. W.; Doody, R. S.; Kesten, D; McLanahan, S. M.; Brown, S. E.; Depuey, E; Sonnemaker, R; Haynes, C; Lester, J; McAllister, G. K.; Hall, R. J.; Burdine, J. A.; Gotto Jr, A. M. (2012-04-04). "Effects of stress management training and dietary chang... [JAMA. 1983] - PubMed – NCBI". JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association. 249 (1): 54–9. doi:10.1001/jama.249.1.54. PMID 6336794. Missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  17. Brown, S. E.; Scherwitz, L. W.; Billings, J. H.; Armstrong, W. T.; Ports, T. A.; McLanahan, S. M.; Kirkeeide, R. L.; Brand, R. J.; Gould, K. L. (2012-04-04). "Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease?... [Lancet. 1990] - PubMed – NCBI". Lancet. 336 (8708): 129–33. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(90)91656-U. PMID 1973470. Missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  18. "the research | The Ornish Spectrum | A simple and proven program for making healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes". The Ornish Spectrum. Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  19. Scherwitz, L. W.; Billings, J. H.; Brown, S. E.; Gould, K. L.; Merritt, T. A.; Sparler, S; Armstrong, W. T.; Ports, T. A.; Kirkeeide, R. L.; Hogeboom, C; Brand, R. J. (2012-04-04). "Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary he... [JAMA. 1998] - PubMed – NCBI". JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association. 280 (23): 2001–7. doi:10.1001/jama.280.23.2001. PMID 9863851. Missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  20. "Avoiding revascularization with lifestyle changes: The Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project". Mendeley. Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  22. "Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  23. "Comprehensive Lifestyle Changes Improve Levels Of Enzyme Telomerase Involved In Cell Ageing". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  24. "Elsevier". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  25. "Decision Memo for Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation (ICR) Program – Dr. Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease (CAG-00419N)". Retrieved 2012-05-17.
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