Doctors and Chefs Join Forces for Health Through a Groundbreaking Culinary Medicine University Collaboration

By Ioulia Fenton

It is not unusual to visit a general practitioner or even a medical specialist for nutrition and health advice. It is also not uncommon for celebrity chefs like England’s Jamie Oliver and United States’ Alice Waters to champion healthy eating in restaurants and on TV. Now, in an exciting new collaboration, Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans and Johnson & Wales University (JWU) Providence have joined forces to produce a world’s first: a long-term medical culinary program that will bring together the two professions in the common cause for American health.

Chefs and doctors are working together to educate the public about the importance of a healthy diet (Photo Credit: Short Order Dad)

Doctors, medical students, chefs, and community members in the program will focus on the significant health role that food choices and nutrition play in preventing and managing obesity and associated diseases in America. The initial program will start at Tulane and will offer medical students practical community cooking classes, hands-on community outreach, and instruction in strategic relationship building with community organizations.

Part of the training will be delivered in partnership with Liberty’s Kitchen, an organization that is currently transforming the lives of New Orleans’ at-risk youth by providing a path to self-sufficiency through food service-based training, leadership, and employment programs. “In my experience, most kids that come to Liberty’s Kitchen have never seen a broccoli; do not know any fruits outside of apples, bananas, and oranges; and have never even been in a supermarket,” said Chair of Liberty Kitchen’s Board, Matt Schwartz. The new culinary curriculum will teach doctors and medical students how to prepare healthy foods and how to teach patients from low-income areas to eat well. University organizers wanted the teaching to be done in an off-site location. “We are currently developing a new 10,000 square foot facility that will be able to cater to the program and to Liberty Kitchen’s planned expansion,” said Schwartz.

The comprehensive long-term plan is to include seminars, internships, faculty training, curricular offerings, community outreach, and research. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a master’s degree in culinary nutrition at JWU with a rotation in culinary nutrition for Tulane medical students. Beyond Tulane, the vision is to establish other programs first at JWU’s flagship campus in Providence and, in the future, at JWU’s campuses in North Miami, Denver, and Charlotte.

“This is an entirely new approach in the training of both physicians and chefs,” said Dr. Benjamin Sachs, Senior Vice President and Dean of Tulane University School of Medicine. “Our goal is to change the way health practitioners think about food and the practice of medicine. With statistics showing that 65 percent of Americans are overweight and a third are obese, it’s not enough for doctors to know just the basics of nutrition. They must also learn to translate the science into practical lessons that empower their patients to lead healthier lives.”

Do you think that the coming together of medicine and culinary arts can have a positive impact on public health? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Ioulia Fenton is a Food and Agriculture Research Intern with Nourishing the Planet.

Read more about innovations in food, nutrition, and agriculture education in past blog posts: Healthier Kids: School Programs Improve Eating Patterns, Five Organizations Sharing Local Knowledge for Success Across the World, Achieving Agricultural Development through Capacity Building for African Higher Education, Food (and Farms) for Thought: Campus Farming and Environmental Sustainability, and Building a Sustainable School and Teaching the World’s Future.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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