Food Not Pills: Medical Schools Embrace Nutritional Training
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
You know who said that? It wasn’t some trendy foodie, like Michael Pollan or Jamie Oliver. Nope. It was Hippocrates, way back in the time when most humans wore togas 24/7. Admittedly, they didn’t have much “modern medicine” to use instead, but Hippocrates’ statement contained wisdom that’s only recently been re-discovered by the medical community.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the 10th meeting of the Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives conference. The event–a joint project of the CIA, Harvard School of Public Health and Samueli Institute, a non-profit dedicated to investigating healing practices–brought doctors together with chefs in an attempt to share science-based truths about the link between diet and health.
For too long, modern medicine has relied on the prescription pad to alleviate symptoms, rather than exploring alternative (and arguably more effective) solutions made available by diet and lifestyle changes. While none of the doctors gathered at the conference go so far as to suggest that all pills can be replaced by food, there’s a growing realization that today’s medical providers lack training about which foods we should eat more of, or less of, and why closing that education gap is the goal of the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University, the first dedicated teaching kitchen to be implemented at a medical school. Opening officially in May, the Center will move to a new location in New Orleans. The facility will feature a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen and will provide hands-on cooking and nutrition education classes to community members, medical students, and medical professionals.
“It is our hope that our improvements to medical nutrition education will synergize with our community education and outreach to enhance patient-physician dialogue about the importance of dietary and lifestyle changes and, ultimately, produce better health outcomes.”
The Goldring Center grew out of Tulane’s groundbreaking partnership with prestigious culinary school Johnson and Wales. Together, in 2012, the two schools created the first culinary medicine program in the country.
“Many medical conditions require that patients follow specific dietary guidelines. But in some cases, doctors are not quite sure how to counsel patients about healthy eating. And such topics are not common in traditional medical school curricula,” reports Barbara A. Gabriel for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Reporter. “At a number of clinics, patients receive pamphlets on what to eat and not to eat for different medical conditions. But translating that into everyday practice is not always straightforward for patients, said Esther Joo, a second-year student at Tulane University School of Medicine.”
With obesity at an all time high (and linked to poverty), and chronic conditions like food allergies on the rise, it’s more important than ever that physicians be equipped to educate their patients about the role food plays in overall health. We can only hope that more medical schools will follow in Tulane’s footsteps in the very near future. Our lives depend on it.
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