by Sheila Julson
“I think people are becoming more aware that chronic disease is a lifestyle choice,” observes Dr. Jimmy Conway, orthopedic surgeon and one of the founding physicians of OSSO Healthcare Network. Over the last six years, Conway discovered how switching from the standard American diet to a nourishing plant-based diet—vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruits—had helped him recover from a health issue. He now promotes the positive impact of plant-based diets for musculoskeletal health.
Conway grew up in Ada and knew that he wanted to be a doctor since he was in second grade. “I had a friend whose dad was a general surgeon. After interacting with him one afternoon, I went home and told my mom that I was going to be a doctor,” Conway reflects.
Conway was active in football and track during high school. He determined that he wanted to enter the orthopedic specialty after he tore the ACL ligament in his knee. The injury required surgery. “My first thought while waking up from surgery was ‘I’d rather be on the other side of this equation,’” he laughs.
As an undergrad student at East Central University, Conway observed medical procedures undergone by injured athletes, solidifying his interest in orthopedic and sports medicine. He attended the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and completed his orthopedic residency in San Antonio, Texas, in 1989. He moved back to Oklahoma City, where he joined Orthopedic Associates physicians group.
In 1996, Conway, along with four other physicians, formed OSSO Healthcare Network. The practice grew to a large multi-specialty group, which includes gynecologists, general surgeons, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons and pain-management doctors.
As co-owner of a successful practice, life was good for Conway until he woke up one morning experiencing pain in his left arm. Having a family history of heart disease, he immediately visited his cardiologist. Lab work revealed dangerously high cholesterol levels, and he learned he would need triple bypass surgery.
Before the scheduled surgery, Conway discovered two books that would change his life: The China Study and Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. “After reading Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, I called my cardiologist and told him that I wasn’t having surgery. That started me down the path of plant-based eating. After being on a plant-based diet for a while, I felt so much better and I wanted to learn the science behind it,” he says.
Conway immersed himself in researching the connection between food and its effects on the body. He found similarities between how tendons deteriorate and the onset of heart disease. “The processes that cause plaque to build up and harden the arteries are the same precursors that cause a tendon to break down,” he explains.
Now aware of the stark connection between diet and joint/tendon health, Conway discusses the benefits of plant-based eating with his patients. To build further awareness, he and his wife, Andrea, host free monthly seminars on how switching to a plant-based diet can lead to better joint health. They provide educational literature and Andrea prepares food for each seminar so attendees can sample how satisfying plant-based entrees can be. “I won’t eat boring. I’ve always liked to eat and I’ve always been a foodie,” Conway emphasizes. “What we eat is very tasty.”
The talks attract up to 50 people per month, proving there’s a growing public interest in improving health through preventive measures. Conway’s next seminar will be April 21 at Community Hospital.
Conway also leads a monthly meeting at Rococo Restaurant’s Northpark Mall location to support those switching to plant-based eating, and he and Andrea hold a monthly event at The Friendly Market, in Norman. He also shares his nutritional expertise on radio KTLV 1220 AM.
Conway is one of several doctors featured in the upcoming documentary Eating You Alive, due for release this summer. Mary Lee Jacobs, one of the film’s producers, interviewed Conway and filmed him performing surgery, where he explained the adverse effects of an inflammatory diet on the patient’s joints. Conway believes the documentary will play a significant role in building awareness of how poor diet can cause disease, while consuming plant-based foods can lead to a lifetime of health and wellness.
OSSO Healthcare Network is located at 100001 S. Western Ave., Ste. 101, Oklahoma City. For more information, call 405-692-3749 or visit OSSONetwork.com.
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.