Culinary Medicine

A healing embrace of understanding food

by Lauren Hales

The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, is the first dedicated teaching kitchen implemented at a medical school. The director of operations and executive chef, Leah Sarris, RD, LDN, has been with the program since its inception in 2012. The culinary medicine program at Tulane began with the goal of integrating greater education around food into the medical students’ curriculum through electives and seminars—not just the micro science, but choosing, preparing and eating food. Many people might assume doctors are trained in nutrition during medical school, but Tulane’s program addresses a gap in doctors’ knowledge.

How does food choice affect a patient’s standard of living? Leah believes that medical students should always take this question into consideration. Instead of just talking to patients about the warning signs and symptoms of diabetes, medical professionals should be able to give advice on which foods to embrace and which to avoid for that disease—to increase a person’s agency in living a healthy and happy life.

by taking what they learn back into their congregations, they work against the idea that the unhealthiest meal of the week is at a church potluck

The nutrition education for medical students affects not just their future patients’ food choices but their own as well. Through offering hands-on cooking classes to the Tulane medical students and Continuing Medical Education classes for licensed health professionals, the Goldring Center equips physicians to “follow healthy eating in their own lifestyles, becoming better role models for their patients in the process.”

Soon after beginning, program organizers realized the need for access to health education in the broader community and now offer regular classes free to the public. These classes focus on how to prepare healthy foods simply and on a budget. Leah reports that many attendees are members of faith communities around New Orleans. Students learn how to take small steps toward providing healthy and affordable food options, and by taking what they learn back into their congregations, they work against the idea that the unhealthiest meal of the week is at a church potluck.

The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine helps medical professionals and individuals embrace a holistic view of medicine: one that acknowledges how diet, lifestyle, and nutrition all contribute to disease and healing.

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