Tulane University School of Medicine has partnered with the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University to launch a new center for culinary medicine to teach students, residents and physicians the tenets of healthy cooking and nutrition. The cornerstone of the program will be a teaching kitchen—the first of its kind for a medical school. It will be a customdesigned classroom and research space off campus outfitted with professional cooking stations, stoves and ovens. In this environment, medical students will learn about healthy cooking so that they can bring these skills into the community. “There is clear evidence that when physicians, including medical students, follow a healthy lifestyle, they are better able to empower their patients to follow their lead and make healthier choices,” says Dr. Timothy Harlan, executive director of the new program. The goal is to help students understand the impact of cooking on medicine, nutrition health and disease. Since so many of the leading causes of disease in America can be traced back to diet and lifestyle, physicians need more practical training in food and health, says Dr. Benjamin Sachs, dean of the School of Medicine, senior vice president of the university and James R. Doty Distinguished Professor and Chair.
“Obesity is the most important public health problem facing this country,” Sachs says. “To understand nutrition has become critical and to teach it in conjunction with culinary science is a new way to reinforce the education of physicians.” Program director is chef Leah Sarris, a former professor at Johnson & Wales, a university based in Providence, RI, that is renowned for its education in culinary and hospitality areas. Sarris, Harlan, Dr. David Franklin, associate professor of biochemistry, and Dr. Chayan Chakraborti, assistant professor of medicine, are teaming to integrate cooking and nutrition into the first- and second-year medical school curricula. In a January demonstration at the School of Medicine, chefs used healthy fats to fry up a sizzling pan of fresh Gulf shrimp. The pilot project also included a morning metabolic biochemistry lecture on lipid metabolism and concluded with a team-based learning class on lipid nutrition and patient case studies. “We used the cooking demonstration as a touchstone to reinforce what they learned in biochemistry, and the team-based learning class was about clinical applications, tying it all together for patients,” Harlan says. “We don’t want to just create a nutrition course. Instead we want to integrate nutrition into all of the curriculum––biochemistry, physiology, cell biology, etc.” Plans call for the teaching kitchen to open in the summer at a yet-to-be-announced site in the New Orleans community.
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