Reprinted from the summer 2018 issue of The Ohio Family Physician.
By: Kelsey Sicker, The Ohio State University, MD Candidate Class of 2019.
Would health care look different if medical students or residents took a few nights a semester to hang up their white coats and tie aprons around their waists? What if each trainee cooked occasional meals with physicians, chefs, and dietitians?
During my first year, at The Ohio State University, a small group of medical students and I had the opportunity to learn how to cook healthy, cost-effective meals, under the direction of a local non-profit culinary program, Local Matters. For the next two years, these cooking classes evolved with the adoption of Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine CurriculumTM.
The program includes eight learning modules, each with lecture material, research articles, a quiz, and an in-person cooking session, hosted by culinary experts, volunteer dieticians, and physicians. Each learning module focuses on a different disease, highlighting the mechanisms related to nutrition, dietary interventions, and case studies.
The information is then used as a foundation for discussion on how to personalize patient counseling, while utilizing all of the specialties present. I experienced this curriculum as a student, and now participate as a coordinator and teacher of the in-class kitchen sessions, alongside volunteer professionals and a dietetics student.
Upon reflecting, this opportunity greatly impacted my comfort in patient care as well as encouraged personal growth. I have already found multiple opportunities in which I have been able to apply evidence-based recommendations to my patients in hospitals and outpatient settings. I feel comfortable bringing up nutrition and working with patients on overcoming obstacles to making healthy lifestyle changes.
The interprofessional nature of these classes pushed me to expand my understanding of disease and opened doors to a more holistic picture of patient care.
Finally, the culinary skills and nutritional recommendations that I learned have helped me take better care of myself, providing me with the tools to prevent future burnout as I transition to residency.
Why spend my time on this? The health burden in the United States weighs heavily on lifestyle factors. Yet, less than one percent of estimated total lecture hours for medical students is spent on nutrition,1 and the majority of content relates to biochemistry rather than diets or practical, food-related decision-making.2 It would appear there is a gap in priorities.
Another study showed that although 94% of physicians agreed that it was their obligation to discuss nutrition with patients, only 14% felt adequately trained to provide nutrition counseling.3
In order to fill this gap, multiple culinary medicine programs have been proposed,4 for widespread implementation with students, residents, and physicians. In our experience, every step in evolving the program was initiated by students.
I encourage those interested to reach out to physicians, administration, and faculty staff that are in a position to create change. Contact owners of the curriculum to see what it takes to start the process and see how they can help you. It doesn’t matter who you are (a student, resident, or physician), you can make a difference.
Not only can this change improve patient care, but it can also improve self-care, prevent burnout, lower costs by encouraging long-term and preventive care, and encourage interprofessional collaboration. If that is not enough motivation, remember that patients respond to physicians who practice what they preach.5
While I understand that my opportunity to experience this culinary medicine program is unique, I dream of the day that this will no longer be the case. Learn more about Local Matters and Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine CurriculumTM.
Article references are available on the OAFP website.