Teaching medical students to cook

MSU Extension and MSU College of Human Medicine pilot project was a success.

Jillian Lapinski, second year medical student and Dr. Jayne Courts, smiling at the Culinary Medicine class. Photo credit: Kendra Wills l MSU Extension

Jillian Lapinski, second year medical student and Dr. Jayne Courts, smiling at the Culinary Medicine class. Photo credit: Kendra Wills l MSU Extension

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine second year students Jillian Lapinski and Natalie Brenders approached Michigan State University Extension’s office at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market in 2013, seeking a partnership for an elective course. After some discussion and research, Michigan State University Extension and the medical students worked to launch a one credit elective cooking class for first and second year College of Human Medicine students. The curriculum was based on Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine’s similar undertaking. After the course was announced to students via email, the class was filled with 18 students, and the waiting list filled to more than 40 students within the first five minutes. This was a remarkable response.

The MSU Culinary Medicine course took place in the Teaching Kitchen of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market on four evenings from January – April 2015. Sarah Van Eerden, a registered dietitian and president of the West Michigan Dietetics Association, served as the culinary arts instructor for the course. MSU College of Human Medicine Clinical Associate Professor Dr. Jayne Courts provided case studies and lessons on how to talk with patients about their diet and nutrition. MSU Extension led the coordination of the class in partnership with the medical students and MSU College of Human Medicine covered the cost of the food for the course.

The four sessions focused on practical nutrition lessons. Students were taught how to prepare a quick and healthy breakfast, tips for healthy meal planning, adding flavor to food without fat, sugar and salt, cooking with whole grains, and knife skills to cut and cook with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Culinary Medicine class, group shot.

The final class took place on April 1, 2015. Students were asked to complete a written evaluation of the course. One hundred percent of students surveyed said they learned how to make healthy meals, they plan to make the course recipes at home, they feel more confident using a knife in the kitchen, and they gained knowledge about how to talk to patients about nutrition and diet related health issues.

The following are some of the students’ evaluation comments:

“Yes! (I believe Culinary Medicine should be a full credit course.) I think a lot of us don’t come from healthy eater backgrounds and it helps us change our habits and be better models for our patients.”

“I would have never tried the vegetarian dishes we made on my own. I have learned a new way to eat healthy. Thank you.”

“I think we all should have this training because we know diet is the hardest thing for patients to fix. Having this background gives me more confidence to encourage patients.”

After this successful pilot project, Michigan State University Extension and the MSU College of Human Medicine are working on a plan to bring the Culinary Medicine course to more students in the future.

Special thanks to our pilot program students: Joy Burrell, Rachel Bowker, Natalie Brenders (Co-Coordinator), Kaitlyn Downey, Kayli Gimarc, Arlene Go, Kelly Harmon, Amanda Harris, Heather Heiser, Brittany Holly, Elizabeth Hunt, Veronica Juan, Glenna Knappe, Evan Kourtjian, Jillian Lapinski (Co-Coordinator), Dan Roberts, Alex Scales, Marco Tori, Irene Warner, and Katie Zurek.

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