Culinary Medicine Fellowship

Medical School Culinary Medicine Fellowship

As physicians, we know a poor diet is the number one risk factor for disease and that many patients get better with structured dietary interventions. But medical schools have little training in this subject, and students lack confidence counseling their patients about diet.

Culinary medicine addresses this gap. This approach combines nutrition education with culinary skills and is aimed at healthcare professionals and foodservice staff.

Interprofessional Collaboration

The fellowship is built around interprofessional collaboration, from a cooking class for students across the health sciences to experience shadowing in clinical settings. These experiences expose students to different disciplines and give them opportunities to build relationships outside of their own programs that can be beneficial in the long term.

Culinary medicine is a new field that combines important principles of nutrition, behavior and medicine. However, a lack of cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis hinders the ability to measure outcomes for culinary medicine initiatives.

Despite the limitations of this scoping review, it is clear that there is an increasing interest in culinary medicine as an IPE intervention within medical schools. It offers a platform to train physicians, chefs and other health professionals in the skills required to address diet-related chronic diseases in their patients. It is a unique and forward-thinking way to deliver dietary education, and it can help medical schools and healthcare systems attract and retain passionate students and clinicians.

Evidence-Based Education

The program teaches medical students hands-on, practical healthy cooking skills paired with evidence-based whole food nutritional concepts that they can use for their own health as well as for many of their future patients with diet-related disease. It also helps them become comfortable talking with their patients about diet.

The pilot study found that one session of culinary medicine training in the core medical student curriculum was feasible and significantly improved both nutrition knowledge, skills, and attitudes as well as patient nutrition counseling confidence among medical students. Themes based on qualitative analysis also indicated that medical students were better prepared to address the barriers to healthy eating in their patient population. However, due to inherent selection bias in studies of this type, further research will be necessary to assess the impact of culinary medicine on medical student learning and patient outcomes. Further, culinary medicine programs should be evaluated through rigorous methodological approaches, including control groups and randomized controlled trials.

Nutrition Counseling

The global impact of diet-sensitive diseases demands innovative nutrition education for health professionals and widespread, reimbursable clinical models to apply this knowledge to practice. Culinary medicine programs offer one solution to these challenges, ranging from in-person cooking classes to eConsults delivered by physician-dietitian teams.

Despite the widespread recognition that food plays a critical role in health, many physicians lack confidence counseling patients about dietary lifestyle changes and are unable to translate this knowledge into their practice. To date, limited evaluation has explored the impact of culinary medicine on medical student nutrition knowledge, counseling skills, and attitudes.

The UAMS culinary medicine elective provides first- and second-year students hands-on healthy cooking instruction paired with nutrition education, examining both evidence-based whole food nutritional concepts and how these can be applied to their future patients with diet-related health conditions. This unique 60-credit curriculum includes a mix of online education and conference sessions, as well as hands-on teaching kitchen modules.

Community Outreach

Cooking classes empower individuals to take control of their diet and nutrition. They also promote community food security, local agriculture and sustainable gardening. This statewide initiative connects community members, farmers, chefs and students in the health sciences (medicine, pharmacy, nursing, public health and nutrition) with resources designed to address food and nutritional security for Arizonans.

Culinary medicine goes beyond macro and micronutrient education to explore how diet impacts specific medical conditions and behavior change. The curriculum combines pre-work/videos/didactics and hands-on culinary sessions, taught by registered dietitians in kitchen environments.

Community classes taught by our culinary medicine team are empowering patients in ArnotHealth communities across the state. In 2017, our team received a grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to continue their work. This program, now known as Healthy Kitchens/Culinary Medicine, provides a six-week series of hands-on cooking classes and nutrition education for people living with diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases. Donations are accepted to support upcoming classes and community outreach efforts.

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