As a young boy who loved science, Dr. Ankush Bansal, M.D., already knew that he wanted to become a doctor one day. Today, he is trained and certified in both Internal Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine and has taught medicine in many universities across Florida.
Dr. Bansal is also an advocate for Organized Medicine, where he is vocal in areas concerning both the patient’s and physician’s rights to healthcare. In this interview with Top Doctor Magazine, Dr. Bansal talks to us a bit about what it means to be a Lifestyle Medicine doctor and shares some insights into what’s going on behind the scenes of hospital doors during this pandemic.
What is a Lifestyle Medicine Doctor?
When you look up clinical guidelines about preventing diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, and many other similar diseases, a common denominator is always lifestyle change. Dr. Ankush Bansal, a vegan himself, is all for promoting a healthy lifestyle that combines a plant-based diet, regular exercise, and stress-reduction practices altogether.
Dr. Bansal has had many patients with any of the above-mentioned diseases reduce their medication dosage and even come out of it entirely by implementing a lifestyle change. He has even helped a man struggling with obesity lose over 30 pounds in just a few months. By reducing medication, patients can save money and cut costs on hospital visits.
The Challenge in Switching to a Plant-Based Lifestyle
Who knew that something as basic as changing your diet and adding more exercise to your routine could have such tremendous positive effects on your health? But is it that simple to do? Dr. Bansal tells Top Doctor Magazine otherwise.
Changing someone’s lifestyle is much easier said than done. Dr. Bansal often struggles with convincing his patients to switch to a plant-based diet. When people have been eating meat their whole lives, it isn’t easy to persuade them into eating a vegetarian diet. It’s almost like trying to convince them to switch religions. But when a patient comes to the hospital with a life-altering dilemma, such as a stroke, they become more accepting of trying out alternatives. What Dr. Bansal does is that he puts his patients on a plant-based diet during the duration of their stay at the hospital, and 95% of the time, his patients end up liking the diet and continuing it at home.
However, the challenge doesn’t end there. “What I found out is that my biggest obstacle is not the patient. Unfortunately, it’s other doctors,” Dr. Bansal admits. Primary care doctors always throw oppositions at him like “He’s going to have a protein deficiency,” and “You need meat to survive!” And Dr. Bansal believes this is due to a lack of proper education on nutrition.
Back then, doctors did not have much opportunity to learn about nutrition compared to medical students today. They had an hour at most of the Nutrition class, and that was it. And with most doctors in America today being 40-70 years old, you can see why Dr. Bansal experiences that kind of resistance when he pushes for the plant-based lifestyle.
Say Goodbye to Bacon
Another major factor influencing his patients’ opinion on living a clean and healthy lifestyle is all the media’s misinformation. Dr. Bansal recalls a cover on TIME magazine from 2005 that said, ‘Butter and Bacon are Good!’ We all know that this is downright far from the truth, but this example illustrates how easy it is for the public to be misguided if they are not actively educating themselves on proper nutrition.
However, Dr. Bansal is now seeing a growing number of young medical trainees getting into the plant-based diet or eating healthier and more natural food. He believes that the next generation of doctors will be keener to promote healthy living and veganism. Dr. Bansal shares a joke he hears from Europeans that goes something like, “You try to take away bacon from an American, and there will be a fight.” Well, Dr. Bansal hopes that one day, there will be no more fights.
Addressing the Lack of Support for Frontline Medical Heroes
Moving on to the next and more pressing issue, Dr. Ankush Bansal drops the truth bomb on what it’s like to be a medical frontliner during the COVID-19 pandemic. We see the media praising our medical heroes for all they do but are they getting the genuine praise and treatment they deserve when the camera stops rolling? Dr. Bansal divulges the three significant ways the healthcare industry is lacking support.
First, the evident lack of PPE is a giant cause for concern. Last year, medical workers had to reuse masks twice, which puts them at significant risk. Second, the healthcare industry suffered from a shortage of available staff. The number of patients increased while the number of medical staff decreased because hospitals had to cut costs; this was incredibly high-risk because medical staff would be exposed to more sick patients, therefore spreading disease much faster. And third, because hospitals had to save money, they were forced to cut on doctors’ and nurses’ wages by 50%. So, in addition to being overworked and exposed to more danger, medical workers were also being ripped off.
Dr. Bansal is saddened to see little to no progress on addressing the issue, and he worries it will only worsen. He overheard a chat among hospital administrators that said, “Hospitalists will come and go. Those guys are a dime a dozen.” In a world where health administrations only care about specialists who can make lucrative sums of money for them, he believes that more doctors will become disheartened and will stop practicing clinical medicine altogether.
The Rise of Telemedicine: A Silver Lining in this Pandemic
Nonetheless, every cloud always has a silver lining. And in this thick ugly cloud of COVID-19, the rise of telemedicine has been a wonderful gamechanger to the healthcare industry. With telemedicine, physicians can now increase the reach of their practice, and patients no longer have to deal with dreadfully long waiting times.
Dr. Bansal is looking forward to incorporating remote patient monitoring into his practice and is hoping to get FDA-approved technology to help operate it. Additionally, he hopes that insurance companies will reimburse physicians fairly as they move towards telemedicine.
Speak Up and Never Stop Learning
While medical workers continue to tackle this pandemic, Dr. Bansal urges them not to forget other underlying issues, such as fighting to provide proper and accessible healthcare to everyone. He also hopes that there will be continuous education on prevention for chronic diseases – for this will continue to go on once the pandemic settles.
A change in the system will not happen if no one speaks up, and so Dr. Bansal encourages everyone to advocate for fair healthcare rights alongside him.