A Culinary Medicine Elective for Clinically Experienced Medical Students: A Pilot Study

J Altern Complement Med. 2020 Jun 12. doi: 10.1089/acm.2020.0063. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Purpose: Culinary medicine, a combination of nutrition science and the culinary arts, is an emerging approach for teaching nutrition to medical students and improving their competence in counseling patients with diet-associated diseases. Data are, however, lacking on the impact of culinary medicine courses directed at clinically experienced students. This study reports initial outcomes of a pilot nutrition and culinary medicine course targeting 4th-year medical students. Methods: An elective course on culinary medicine was offered to 4th-year medical students at the Perelman School of Medicine, comprising seven disease-focused sessions, with a final capstone session. Students read primary literature for each session. Individual sessions consisted of culinary literacy, cooking, and a case discussion led by physicians and registered dietitians. In addition, students participated in a nutrition education initiative in a local high school. Students completed pre-and postcourse surveys that evaluated perceived nutrition knowledge and counseling skills and personal dietary choices, and included free-text options for qualitative comments. Results: Thirty-one 4th-year medical students participated in three offerings of the course in 2018 and 2019. There was strong student enthusiasm for the course as (1) all the available slots for each course offering were filled within 2 h of an e-mail announcement to the students; (2) student attendance was consistently very high; and (3) student feedback about the course was uniformly positive. Students reported significant increases in their confidence regarding (1) knowledge of pertinent nutrition information; (2) discussing nutrition with patients; and (3) ability to impact patient behavior through counseling (p < 0.001). Qualitative comments suggested that students were contemplating or implementing changes in their dietary habits and food choices. Conclusion: A culinary medicine course for clinically experienced medical students may improve perceived nutrition knowledge and increases confidence in counseling patients with diet-associated diseases.

Keywords: culinary medicine; lifestyle change; medical education; nutrition counseling.