The Heart of the Matter

Adelaide Nutrition in Healthcare Symposium with international keynote speaker, Dr Kim Williams (USA) and local experts


2 February 2020

On Sunday 2 February 2020, DFN held a Nutrition Symposium in Adelaide, welcoming over 200 healthcare practitioners and members of the public to explore the role of nutrition in cardiovascular health. 

The full-day event entitled The Heart of the Matter: why we have a cardiovascular disease crisis and how we can eat our way back to health featured presentations by cardiologist Dr Kim Williams (USA), alongside a lineup of local healthcare professionals, medical students and an athletes’ panel.

Delicious whole food plant-based catering was on offer giving delegates a taste of nutritious vibrant 'food as medicine', and the day closed with an optional free screening of The Game Changers.

Thanks to generous donors, scholarships were awarded to nine local healthcare students who were delighted to grow their knowledge and networks in the field of preventative nutrition.

Learn more and access related resources below:

Recap video

With thanks to Inbound Creative

Symposium sessions
Dr Kim Williams
Dr Kim Williams: Nutrition and Heart Disease
Medical students' panel
Australian Medical Students' Panel
Lucy and Sylvia from AMSA - ADL 020220 -
Lucy Brown & Sylvia Gralak: Enhancing Nutrition Education for Med Students
Drs Heleen & Juliette Roex
Drs Heleen & Juliette Roex: A Healthy Heart from the Start
Dr Heleen Roex
Dr Heleen Roex-Haitjema: Science vs Confusion
Ask us anything
'Ask us Anything about Nutrition' with Deeni Betar-Young APD & Dr Adrian Griscti
Dr Adrian Griscti
Dr Adrian Griscti: An Apple a Day Keeps the Cardiologist Away
Athletes' Panel
Athletes' Panel
Show More

Nutrition and Heart Disease: the Heart of the Matter

Dr Kim Williams (USA), MD, MACC, FAHA, MASNC, FESC

Cardiologist, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago USA • Doctors For Nutrition International Advisor • Full bio

Dr Williams' presentation on nutrition and heart disease took delegates on a deep dive into the evidence.


First touching on the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, he went on to explore the key risk factors and the lifestyle interventions that have been proven effective in both treatment and prevention – chief amongst them, the adoption of a whole food plant-based eating pattern. 


In turn, Dr Williams unpacked the evidence about dietary interventions to address obesity, diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia, which are key to promoting and, in many cases, restoring cardiovascular health.

He also highlighted where associated co-benefits of plant-based diets have been established, for example in achieving better emotional wellbeing among those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Nutrition in Medical Schools Q&A Panel

Panel moderated by Dr Kim Williams with medical students Sylvia Gralak and Lucy Brown, and Flinders Medical Center RMO, Dr Juliette Roex

Dr Williams facilitated a lively discussion, in which the panelists explained why they became interested in the role of nutrition in healthcare, and their future career goals. All share a strong commitment to integrating nutrition science into their practice in order to offer true health care as opposed to the prevailing 'sick care' model. 

The importance of planetary health as a pre-requisite to human health was also emphasised, with Sylvia explaining the potential for plant based diets to not only improve our health significantly but also protect the environment.

All three panelists can attest to the lack of nutrition education in medical schools, something that Sylvia and Lucy are looking to address through their work with the Healthy Communities team at the Australian Medical Students' Association. This was the topic of their presentation that followed the panel Q&A.


Enhancing Nutrition Education for Medical Students

Australian Medical Students Association representatives

Sylvia Gralak and Lucy Brown, medical students at the University of Adelaide

Sylvia and Lucy presented the initial results of the Nutrition in Australian Medical Schools Survey, a project launched in 2019 by the AMSA Healthy Communities team.


After running through the key elements of the survey, they shared the preliminary results. The central finding is that Australian medical students are interested in and motivated to provide nutritional counselling to patients, but do not currently feel equipped to implement this into their future practice. 

In light of these findings, AMSA Healthy Communities have mapped out a number of advocacy and education pillars to help progress the integration of nutrition in Australian medical schools.


A Healthy Heart from the Start

Dr Heleen Roex-Haitjema & Dr Juliette Roex

Dr Heleen Roex-Haitjema, MD (non-practising paediatrician) • co-founder and chair of Doctors For Nutrition

Dr Juliette Roex, MBBS (Resident Medical Officer) • Lead Student Advisor for DFN

Dr Roex-Haitjema and her daughter Dr Juliette Roex's presentation set out the importance of healthy food choices from the earliest stages of life. 

Some of the key references from the presentation:


Sylvia Gralak

Sylvia is a final year medical student at the University of Adelaide. She is the current National Officer for Public Health and Code Green Project Officer with the Australian Medical Students’ Association. 

Lucy Brown

Lucy is currently undertaking her third year of the MBBS medical program at the University of Adelaide. Lucy is also part of the Australian Medical Students’ Association Healthy Communities team.

Science vs Confusion

Dr Heleen Roex-Haitjema, MD

Paediatrician (non practising) • Doctors For Nutrition co-founder and chair • Full bio

Dr Roex-Haitjema's presentation explored the area of interpreting research studies, with the aim of ensuring the strength of the evidence is prioritised in the ultimate conclusions reached by fellow practitioners, policy makers, and the general public.


With the growing role of industry-funded studies and commercial partnerships permeating the research and public health promotion sphere, Dr Roex-Haitjema also highlighted how to be aware of any third-party influences or potential bias when seeking to evaluate health claims.


Ask us Anything about Nutrition Panel Q&A

Deeni Beetar-Young, APD

Dr Adrian Griscti, MBBS, FACRRM, FASLM 

Panel Q&A moderated by Dr Heleen Roex-Haitjema

Dr Adrian Griscti is DFN's South Australia Ambassadoc and Deeni Betar-Young APD is South Australia Lead Dietitian for DFN • Full bios

This wide-ranging Q&A covered a number of nutrition topics including:

  • Key nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron and iodine

  • Whole food plant-based diets for different stages of life and health conditions

  • Tips on how to bring up/discuss diet with patients


An Apple a Day Keeps the Cardiologist Away 

Dr Adrian Griscti, MBBS, FACRRM, FASLM 

General Practitioner, Barossa Valley • Doctors For Nutrition Ambassadoc for South Australia • Full bio

From decades at the front line of rural community medicine, Dr Griscti shared how patients and their doctors can measurably reduce cardiovascular risk factors with the help of some affordable and simple lifestyle and diet upgrades. He also provided some illustrative anonymised case studies and shared the results of his own cardiovascular health turnaround.

The key takeaway from Dr Griscti's session was that cardiovascular disease risk factors share many common underlying biological causes, mechanisms and disease pathways which can be significantly improved with a whole food plant-based diet.

Some of the resources and references mentioned in Dr Griscti's session:

  • National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance: Absolute cardiovascular disease risk management - Quick reference guide for health professionals
  • Australian absolute cardiovascular disease risk calculator:

  • Wright, N., Wilson, L., Smith, M. et al. 2017. The BROAD study: A randomised controlled trial using a whole food plant-based diet in the community for obesity, ischaemic heart disease or diabetes. Nutr & Diabetes 7, e256.

  • Ref: McMacken, M. and Shah, S., 2017. A plant-based diet for the prevention and
    treatment of type 2 diabetes. Journal of geriatric cardiology
    : JGC, 14(5), p.342.


Athletes' Panel

Plant-powered Athletes' Panel Q&A


  • Kate Abraham (New York and Berlin marathons participant)

  • Izzi Batt-Doyle (Distance runner, NCAA 10km Bronze, 2017 and 2019 Australian representative at the World University Games, BA Psych (Hons) Mindfulness & Nutrition)

  • Ben Loaker (cyclist, personal trainer)

  • Samuel Mussared (pro bodybuilder, coach)


Moderator: Damian Espinase (ultra-runner)

In the lead-up to a complimentary screening of The Game Changers documentary, this Q&A provided perspectives from athletes all of whom use a plant-based approach to eating for optimal athletic results, recovery and overall health. ​


Plant Based News article about the Symposium

Published: 30 Jan

News article by DFN's co-founder Lucy Stegley, quoting from Dr Kim Williams and other Symposium presenters, with background about the content and objectives of the event.

DFN video interview with Dr Kim Williams

In this interview, filmed in Adelaide on the day of the Symposium, Dr Williams shares his experience of appearing in The Game Changers, explains his own transition to a plant-based diet, outlines his key concerns about ketogenic diets, and highlights the importance of nutrition education within the medical profession. With thanks to Inbound Creative for videography and editing.

Delegate feedback

The symposium has received positive feedback from delegates, including those within the healthcare sector and laypeople. The wordcloud below shows the most frequently-occurring words and phrases in praise of the event.

Our scholarship recipients emphasised the educational value they gained from the symposium. Below is a selection of their comments:

It was inspiring to hear from doctors who are currently practising the way I would like to in future, in addition to furthering my passion and interest in this area of medicine. 

– Medical student, University of Adelaide

I am interested in lifestyle-based interventions for people with depression and chronic illness ... it is a privilege to learn more about the role of nutrition/lifestyle in disease prevention, and to hear the experts share their clinical experiences.


– Health Psychology student, University of Adelaide

As a newly studying Nursing student I hope to be able to educate and aid individuals in fighting health conditions exacerbated by a 'western diet' which is what the Symposium speakers are doing.

– Nursing student, University of Adelaide

Four of the Symposium scholarship recipients

Thank yous

This event would not have been possible without the assistance of numerous individuals, organisations and institutions. With warm thanks to:

Our presenters

• Dr Kim Williams • Dr Heleen Roex-Haitjema • Dr Juliette Roex • Dr Adrian Griscti • Deeni Betar-Young APD • Sylvia Gralak • Lucy Brown • Kate Abraham • Izzi Batt-Doyle • Ben Loaker • Samuel Ryland Mussared • Damian Espinase


Our event and scholarship donors


Our venue and venue host


The University of Adelaide Associate Professor Hubertus Jersmann

Our creatives

Ben Adlington and Josh Jarvis from Inbound Creative for filming the event
Jacqui Rose from Jacqui Brogan: Photography . Film . Graphic Design

Our event caterers

Plant B Life
Francesco's Cicchetti
Wicked Coffee

Our media and promotional partners

Nourish Magazine Australia
Plant Based News
ABC Radio Adelaide
Climate and Health Alliance
International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention
Food For Life by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Our feature film

The Game Changers

Our booth holders 

Australian Plant Based Medical Students’ group

Doctors for the Environment Australia
Plant Powered Adelaide 
Nourish Food & Wellness

Our ticketing partner


Our scholarship recipient attendees and all of our delegates


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