Faculty and a family medicine resident at the College of Community Health Sciences spent two days in New Orleans brushing up on their cooking skills and learning more about the medical student curriculum at Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine.
The Goldring Center hosted the two-day retreat welcoming universities and health care centers that license its curriculum to teach medical students how to better counsel their patients about food and nutrition. The center is led by executive director Dr. Timothy Harlan and program director Chef Leah Sarris, who is the first full-time chef to be employed by a medical school.
Sarris was a keynote speaker at the 16th Annual Rural Health Conference, hosted by the College and its Institute for Rural Health Research. She provided a demonstration at the conference of how to prepare healthy meals for an entire week using $150, the maximum food assistant allotment for a family of four from the Alabama Food Assistance Program.
Those who attended the retreat from the College were Dr. Richard Streiffer, dean of the College; Dr. John C. Higginbotham, Associate Dean for Research, Chair of the Department of Community and Rural Medicine and director of the Institute for Rural Health Research ; Dr. Jennifer Clem, assistant professor of Family Medicine; and Dr. Bhavika Patel, a chief resident in the College’s Family Medicine Residency.
Patel says she didn’t know much about culinary medicine beforehand, but her interest in food deserts and obesity sparked her interest.
“Physicians can be very influential to patients making beneficial lifestyle changes,” she says. “But it can be difficult for the patients to return to their home lives after the doctor visit and enact the changes they talked about. Merely talking to patients may not be enough, and sometimes it’s easier to understand what to do at home if the instructions are more hands-on.”
Patel hopes to apply this approach to patient education in her practice after graduating. “I want to take at a minimum their community module wherever I go to tackle obesity from the front lines.” She says she’ll likely practice in rural Georgia.
Streiffer says he hopes the Tulane curriculum will be incorporated into the College’s medical student education, Family Medicine Residency and even at the community level educating the public. He says he hopes that using the curriculum will lead to interprofessional collaborations.
“Addressing lifestyle issues in order to improve health is fundamental to what we do in primary care in the nation,” said Streiffer in a NOLA.com article. “We need ultimately to equip our students with a better set of skills, not just with disease but about wellness. This is a piece of a longer-term strategy to change our curriculum and our product.”