Healing food: Local doctors are introduced to 'culinary medicine'

Church Health has started a new program aimed at building a new generation of health care practitioners who will place an increased emphasis on the role that nutrition and diet play in achieving optimal health.
Beyond being nutritious, there’s a new way of looking at food that is causing doctors and other healthcare practitioners to return to the classroom. This burgeoning field is called Culinary Medicine and Church Health is bringing this new approach to healthcare to the table here in Memphis.
Sharon Moore, manager of wellness education and nutrition at Church Health, is starting to use a newly developed curriculum in her kitchen. The program begins with teaching healthcare students and existing healthcare providers in the community this new way of looking at food — combining the joy of cooking with the science of medicine — in order to help patients achieve and maintain better health.
“Church Health received its licensure this past spring so that we could offer Culinary Medicine to both practitioners, healthcare students and, ultimately, to anyone in the community,” explained Moore. “This endeavor began when several of our staff members met with Dr. Tim Harlan, a physician at Tulane who is also a chef, to learn more about this scientific, evidence-based curriculum that is centered on nine general principles that follow the guidelines of the Mediterranean Diet that he has developed for Tulane. His passion for food, health and education led to the founding of the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane.”
“Our courseware uses the most extensively studied nutrition research — Mediterranean diet — and translates those principles for the American kitchen in a way that helps folks eat great food they are familiar with that just happens to be good for them,” said Harlan.  
Moore visited the Goldring Center and after hearing Harlan’s message, agreed that his vision was very much aligned with Church Health’s mission.
“The objective was to teach medical students and other healthcare provides how to talk in practical terms about nutrition and healthy cooking,” said Moore. “The goal was to have them go out in the community, to practice what they learned and explain the necessity of better nutrition, then encourage patients to attend community classes. That’s how the growth of this movement is intended to happen.”
The Church Health’s fellowship/residency program, which is a partnership with Baptist Memorial Health Care, was critical to getting their licensure. The health care students serve as volunteers in the Church Health cooking classes. This business model reduces the need for additional staffing while building a new generation of health care practitioners who will place an increased emphasis on the role that nutrition and diet play in achieving and maintaining optimal health.
To help guide this emerging field programming, Church Health has chosen an advisory board of 12 people, with representatives from medicine and optometry, food and wine (the restaurant business), and the faith community. 
“At the board’s first meeting on Sept. 13, the main agenda was to introduce the concept of culinary medicine and help the board members get a grasp of the magnitude of it,” explained Moore. “Our programming is divided into three parts: curriculum that is taught to the medical and healthcare students; continuing medical education for healthcare providers; and community classes, open to anyone wanting to make lifestyle changes based around nutrition.”
Church Health will teach all three components. A final piece of the equation is research. Church Health will be part of a pool of licensees across the country teaching culinary medicine. So far, there are 21 universities on board, some that are still working to get their licensure, and others, like the CHC, that are already licensed. 
“We will work from a research-based curriculum centered on the principles of the Mediterranean Diet that is updated annually by Dr. Harlan and his associates at the Goldring Center,” said Moore. “They do the research and track the data, then they allow us to share the data for purposes of grant proposals, etc.”
The first of the Church Health’s Continuing Medical Education classes will be held Saturday (Sept. 17), at the Church Health Wellness Center at 1115 Union, with spots open for up to 18 participants. These CME credits are applicable for physicians, PAs, RDs, NPs, APRNs, CDEs and PharmDs. 

Read more articles by Emily Adams Keplinger.

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