Doctors typically learn little about nutrition, much less cooking, in medical school. But combining those topics with medicine is a trend that’s garnering headlines for Harvard Medical School with a conference it holds in California wine country; and Tulane University in food-rich New Orleans.
Now, a local food version of this idea is launching in Traverse City, starting with a Culinary Medicine conference in September that will be a pilot for future programs. The theme: Think Like a Chef, Cook Like a Dietitian, Eat Like a Local Farmer.
In addition to nutrition and culinary skills, physicians and other health professionals will learn the numerous local farm and food resources they can share with their patients.
Dr. James Fox, a cardiologist with Munson Healthcare, attended the California and New Orleans sessions and said that hands-on cooking helped him connect with his patients about favorite foods and recipes.
“This type of personal connection helps patients feel more comfortable,” he said. “Having a rapport with them and their families frequently changes the physician-patient dynamic from an authoritarian ‘let me tell you what to do’ to a partnership of ‘let’s find a way to make your health better’.”
Family practice doctors and pediatricians affiliated with Munson are writing prescriptions for their patients to eat fruits and vegetables, with coupons for them to purchase produce at local farmers markets—an idea showcased at a recent Farms, Food & Health conferences held here. Last year it resulted in $10,000 of increased sales for local farmers.
With Culinary Medicine education, doctors can also share “aha moments” when they learn how easy and delicious it is to make, for example, a kale salad.
Culinary Medicine in Traverse City also capitalizes upon the acclaimed Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College, which is a conference co-host together with Munson Healthcare, Grand Traverse Regional Foodshed Alliance and Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities.
“I’m eager to offer my culinary expertise to this project,” said Fred Laughlin, culinary director.
Instead of an apple a day, maybe apple-cabbage slaw?
This article first appeared in the printed Taste the Local Difference Guide to Local Food In Northern Michigan.