Students Benefit from Culinary Medicine Elective

written by Barbara Myers

What’s for dinner? At the YMCA Education Kitchen in Moultrie, Georgia recently, 12 second year PCOM Georgia DO students spent four afternoons cooking up a storm. Under the watchful eye of Chef Budd Cohen, menu items like cilantro lime brown rice, Asian peanut chicken with chicken fajita noodles, sesame ginger broccoli, mashed sweet potato shooters, roasted asparagus, honey mustard pork tenderloin, savory braised collard greens, and shrimp fra diavola were in various stages of preparation.

Two hours later, dinner was served buffet style with the colorful dishes placed at varying heights on tablecloth-draped tables. Dinner conversation ensued led by faculty members Clinical Associate Professor Joanne Kakaty-Monzo, DO, the academic chair for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at PCOM, and Dennis Peffley, PhD, JD, assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology in the Department of Bio-Medical Sciences at PCOM Georgia. Topics such as food history, the chemistry of food, special diets, patient perspectives, farm to table eating and nutritional value were woven into the discussion.

Based on The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University “Health Meets Food” course, the class was offered for the first time this year for PCOM Georgia students. The primary goal was to teach future physicians about how diet and nutrition play a part in the prevention and treatment of diseases. Student doctors also learned how to discuss this important topic with their patients.

Tyler Raeford (DO ’21) said, “This elective was really an outstanding piece of my medical school career. It was an opportunity to take some of the basic science and clinical knowledge I gained in first year and begin to integrate it into both clinical medicine and patient education.”

The Moultrie YMCA, where meals are prepared daily for more than 350 children, was the setting for the course. Rich Gallagher, CEO and president of the YMCA said, “It was such a pleasure seeing the Pineland Y Teaching Kitchen being used by PCOM to educate students in culinary medicine.”

He added, “As a Y focused on healthy living, we are proud to be able to host a class that will use the skills learned to create a healthier community.”

As part of the course, food was sourced from local farmers including State Representative Sam Watson who invited the class to his Chill C Farms in Moultrie. While overlooking his tomato crop, Representative Watson explained the basic economics of farming including supply and demand and how the cost of labor affects pricing. He also discussed drip irrigation, crop cycles, and the concept of seed to grocery store.

Student doctor Ashley Thor Tanner (DO ’21) said the culinary medicine course was “the highlight of my medical education thus far.”

With a passion for healthy eating, she said, “To have this opportunity to not only learn the evidence-based medicine behind the diet/lifestyle change model of health, but also to be able to learn how to educate and counsel patients on how to implement it in very practical ways has been such a huge asset to my clinical education.”

Tulane School of Medicine allows medical schools across the nation to use the curriculum. Chef Cohen, who has 22 years of experience with Culinart, facilitates the summer elective for both Philadelphia and Suwanee students. This year, alumni Susan Dornstein, DO ’96, who focuses on lifestyle medicine in her practice, contributed her expertise to the course as well.

Gallagher said, “Our community and many others in this area will greatly benefit because PCOM now has a presence in South Georgia.”

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