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Michelle McMacken, MD FACP DipABLM

Executive Director, Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine, New York City Health + Hospitals

Associate Professor of Medicine, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Attending Physician, Adult Primary Care Center, NYC Health + Hospitals / Bellevue

Founder and former Director, Bellevue Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program, New York City Health + Hospitals

Honored as one of “The 13 Most Influential Women Leaders in Health Promotion” by the American Journal of Health Promotion

Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine

Fellow of the American College of Physicians

Former longtime Internist, Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture, NYC Health + Hospitals / Bellevue

Former longtime Director, Adult Weight Management Program, Department of Medicine,
NYC Health + Hospitals / Bellevue

Author or co-author of sixteen articles in peer-reviewed research journals, three abstracts and one textbook chapter

Member, Editorial Review Board, International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention

Member, Nutrition Working Group, American Society for Preventive Cardiology

Former Board of Directors member, American College of Lifestyle Medicine

Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition, T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell

Council Member, True Health Initiative

Michelle McMacken, MD FACP DipABLM received her Doctorate in Medicine from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine / Primary Care at New York Presbyterian Hospital / Weill-Cornell Medical Center, where she served as Assistant Chief Resident in Ambulatory Care.  Continuously since 2004, she has been a member of the faculty at New York University Grossman School of Medicine and an Attending Physician at the NYC Health + Hospitals Adult Primary Care Center at Bellevue, where she has served in numerous capacities over the years.  She is board certified in Lifestyle Medicine as well as Internal Medicine, was honored as a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and is a former Board of Directors member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.  The culmination of her thoroughly innovative work in the New York City healthcare sector has been her inaugural appointment in January 2022 as Executive Director of Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine for NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest public health care system in the nation.

Hailed as "a trailblazer who knows how to get stuff done", Dr. McMacken in her current NYC Health + Hospitals role leads the most comprehensive expansion of lifestyle medicine programming in the U.S., bringing these efforts to all five boroughs of the city, with a focus on the prevention and reversal of chronic health conditions that disproportionately affect underserved communities.  She oversees system-wide initiatives, for evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle education serving patients and healthcare professionals alike, and for patient access to nutritious foods and plant-based meals.  She works closely with the Mayor’s Office and other city agencies to promote these services and to advocate for legislation supporting health-promoting food access and dietitian services.  In July 2023 she has newly been honored as one of “The 13 Most Influential Women Leaders in Health Promotion” by the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The base of Dr. McMacken's long clinical-practice career has been Bellevue, the teaching hospital for NYU's School of Medicine and a major referral center for medically complex patients, as well as one of the largest New York City hospitals offering state-of-the-art medical care regardless of financial or insurance status.  For concurrent eighteen year periods she served there as an internist for the Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture and as the Director of the Adult Weight Management Program in the Department of Medicine.  However, she is renowned nationally and even internationally mainly for having founded in 2018 and then directed the ground-breaking Bellevue Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program, first of its kind in a safety-net healthcare system, and now being replicated to six other city locations under her leadership at NYC Health + Hospitals.  She developed a successfully innovative team-based care model emphasizing lifestyle behavior change to reduce cardiometabolic risk in vulnerable populations, and this has already begun to be highly influential in healthcare initiatives elsewhere.

Dr. McMacken has been honored by NYU Grossman School of Medicine three times in the past as faculty “Teacher of the Year” for her work with physician trainees, and in 2021 was elevated to  Associate Professor status in the Department of Medicine.  Her research interests have centered around weight management, obesity medicine, dietary behaviors and lifestyle medicine, sometimes focusing on Latina/Latino patients particularly, and recently studying patient attitudes, perceptions and satisfaction as well as clinical outcomes.  She is the author or co-author of sixteen articles in peer-reviewed research journals, three abstracts and one textbook chapter, and is a member of the Editorial Review Board at the International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention, and of the Nutrition Working Group at the American Society for Preventive Cardiology.  She is a Council Member at True Health Initiative, and holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell.

Dr. McMacken has said:  "For the first few years of my primary care internal medicine practice, I managed chronic disease with the strategies I had been taught: a little bit of lifestyle advice, and a whole lot of medications, procedures, and surgeries... but I rarely got to the common root of these conditions.  My approach was usually reactive rather than proactive.  My patients didn’t get much better – the best I felt I could hope for was that their disease state was ‘managed’ and didn’t get worse...  Like most physicians, I had little to no nutrition instruction during my training, and I felt ill equipped to counsel my patients about their food choices...  As I went about following traditional disease management strategies, I felt myself teetering towards the burnout that is all too common among primary care physicians."

Self-education about nutrition then led Dr. McMacken to personal vegan dietary choices and a growing embrace of whole food plant-based nutrition, building her sense that food could be "medicine" and eventually unifying her professional message with her own self-care.   This had awakened her to the idea that many of the "chronic" diseases she treated every day were not inevitable and incurable, and that she as a primary care physician could empower people to lead healthier and more compassionate lives through plant-based nutrition.  Her passion for medicine had been reignited.

Throughout all of her clinical practice and healthcare leadership, Dr. McMacken has maintained her deep commitment to the prevention and treatment of chronic disease, especially through the kinds of lifestyle changes supported by a large and ever-expanding body of evidence, involving:  food, exercise, sleep, stress management, smoking cessation.  She has always sought to find out what motivates each patient in looking toward the future, to individualize her counseling across a variety of cultures, social situations and literacy levels, and to try to combat often-generations-long health inequities.  She says:  "It’s important to acknowledge that many physicians themselves do not practice healthy lifestyle habits, from diet to exercise to stress reduction.  It would serve our patients well for more of us to become role models of health, but even if we cannot, we still have a responsibility to counsel our patients on the lifesaving tools of nutrition and lifestyle change.  Most of our patients trust our advice!"

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