Inspirational Stories

April, 2023 by Akil Taher, Megha Shah

I always thought “I’m a doctor, I’m not supposed to be a patient”, yet there I was on the brink of death. I’m Akil Taher, a family practice physician raised in Mumbai, India and trained in family medicine, practicing in the US for almost 40 years. I was an experienced physician, a couch potato, and a pampered consumer who feasted over the best foods without worrying about unhealthy consequences. I was a go-getter, type-A personality, and thinking I was in pretty good health, until because like many, I believed that “Heart disease won’t happen to me.”

I died on the operating table at age 56 undergoing angioplasty and having stents put into my heart and in August 2009, at the age of 61, open-heart surgery knocked at my door and my world came crumbling down.

Fortunately, determination ran deep in my veins. I decided to completely change my life and reincarnate into a new life to stay true to the meaning of my first name, Akil−the “wise.”

A year after my bypass surgery, I undertook a mountaineering trek to Mount Kailash (altitudes of 19,000 feet) in Tibet. In October 2011, I ran my first full marathon (26.2 miles or 49.19 kilometers), the Chicago Marathon, and in September 2012, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

Over the last decade, I have overcome acute and chronic medical ailments to indulge in century cycling, triathlon Ing, skydiving, hang gliding, scuba diving, and white-water rafting.

As a resurgent physician, recovered bypass surgery patient,  septuagenarian athlete, heart-healthy speaker, and proponent of a whole-food, plant-based vegan diet, and lifestyle, I had to take even more purposeful action.

I changed my lifestyle to incorporate healthy eating habits, an exercise regimen, and regular practice of yoga and meditation. I pushed myself into areas that tested my vulnerabilities and capabilities.

As an eternal optimist, explorer, adventurer, author, and speaker, I stay focused on spreading the message of living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

As an athlete and whole food, plant-based veganism proponent, I have benefited tremendously by adopting a plant-based diet and fostering a deeper connection with nature and spirituality.

As a resurgent physician, I leverage medical science and lifestyle medicine to treat the underlying cause and not just the consequence of the disease.

I am thankful to live a life of greater meaning, my legacy!

Born in a Jain family, I have always been a vegetarian. My vegan journey started during Paryushan (the Jains festival of fasting for eight days) in 2019, when I decided to follow a Paryushan-friendly vegan diet. I did not consume any dairy products during the Ekasanas (eating only once), and I continued my routine normally. The misconception of relying on ghee and dairy products for energy during the fasting period was proven right there. During that period, I learned about the gut-churning cruelty inflicted on the speechless farm animals by the dairy industry and its heavy toll on the environment. It seemed logical to drop dairy products and adopt a plant-based lifestyle. Veganism seemed to align with the core Jain principle of non-violence towards all living beings.

The transition was not difficult because of the wide variety of dairy alternatives in the market. Like most others, I had to do some trial and error with recipes (especially when incorporating plant-based alternatives), but all that was worth the happiness I was getting in return.

I strongly believe that when the decision comes from within, backed by determination, the path becomes easier to pursue.

When it came to explaining to the kids why we were going Vegan, I started having one on one conversations with them about animal agriculture. These two questions after each explanation gave them a moment to think and feel.

“How would you feel if that had happened to you?”

“Do you think it’s the right thing to do?”

I made them watch kids’ friendly reality-based videos on YouTube ( We had open conversations, and the kids decided to go Vegan. My three year old couldn’t comprehend everything that was happening, but he followed his older siblings.

Initially, giving up on their favorite foods was challenging. We made sure to provide vegan options (i.e., vegan pizza, pastries, cookies, muffins, etc.) at every kid’s party, get-togethers, or playdates they attended. It’s been over a year now, and they are proud of the choices they have made. In fact, they are now experts at identifying what’s vegan and what’s not!

My family sees me as an inspiration, but I only introduced them to reality. To go vegan was their choice. I am proud of my family today; my husband and three young children (5, 7 and 11 years old) have embraced a plant-based lifestyle since 2021. Transitioning my kids to a plant-based diet was easier than I expected. Many questioned raising kids on a plant-based diet but having spent countless hours researching and learning from detailed discussions with medical professionals, I was able to overcome my initial apprehensions and misconceptions about the necessity of dairy for the healthy development of children.

Akil Taher, MD – Author of “OPEN HEART”

Megha Shah, Plano, Texas.

Founder of True V, a clean-label, plant-based, sustainable, and woman-owned business.

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29 days ago

Your point of view caught my eye and was very interesting. Thanks. I have a question for you.