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Culinary Medicine Class Provides Nutritional Overview


July 15, 2020

Photo of Brea Echard (DO '23), a culinary medicine class participant, working in a kitchen.Last week, the kitchens of 23 PCOM Georgia DO students were filled with the aromas of healthy foods baking, roasting and stir-frying. Delicacies such as zucchini muffins, grilled peaches and yogurt whipped cream, a pesto breakfast sandwich, Asian peanut tofu with pad Thai noodles, and black bean brownies were some of the 40 dishes demonstrated, photographed Instagram-style, and served for dinner. 

Under the direction of Chef Budd Cohen and two Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine faculty members, the second year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine students learned real-life applications for the biochemistry and nutrition topics they studied in their first year curriculum. 

Culinary Medicine course participant Brea Echard (DO ’23) said, “In only four days, this course allowed us to learn and discuss where our food comes from, how to adjust flavoring and maintain health with herbs and spices, and what molecules and nutrients in specific foods contribute to diseases and/or their prevention.” 

She added, “As physicians, we will be advising our patients on nutrition and lifestyle and asking them to pay close attention to nutrition labels. For many people, this is already a really confusing and daunting task because there is so much conflicting information out there.”

According to course co-director Farzaneh Daghigh, PhD, professor of biochemistry and nutrition at PCOM, “Culinary medicine is an evidence-based field in medicine that merges the science of nutrition and the art of food and cooking.”

Although the course was held virtually this year and broadcast out of Chef Cohen’s kitchen, it Introduced diets that reduce and prevent inflammation, cancer, renal disease and hypertension, while underlining the fact that different clinical conditions require different meals, foods and beverages. 

Daghigh said, “As food is condition-specific, the same diet does not work for everyone.” She noted that nearly half of all American adults have at least one chronic disease and that lifestyle modification can prevent 80 percent of chronic disease.

She said, “Culinary Medicine aids people to reach good personal medical decisions in accessing and eating high-quality meals that help prevent and treat disease and restore well-being. After taking this course, future physicians become equipped to advise their patients on disease-specific diets and feel comfortable with evidence based medical nutrition information.”

According to course co-director and clinical associate professor Joanne Kakaty-Monzo, DO ‘97, who chairs the PCOM Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the students were armed with knowledge that “gives them the ability to answer patients’ questions and know when to refer them to a nutritionist.” She explained that the students chose recipes and cooked along with Chef Cohen who explained the choices of ingredients while he was cooking. A chat box was available so students could ask questions.

Ariana Daftarian (DO ’23) said Chef Cohen “taught us so much about the nutritional values of different foods and where to get our food so that it will be healthy and cost-effective. Today,” she said, “he taught us about the different types of sugar substitutes and vinegars.” 

Emma Little (DO ’23) was proud that she picked the mangoes for her mango salsa from her own backyard. She said, “Discussing the science of diet and flavor really motivated me to refine my biochemistry knowledge and understanding.”

Admitting that he “joined the culinary medicine course to learn more about new dishes and ingredients to tantalize my taste buds while quarantining at home,” Hussain Kachwalla (DO ’23) said, “I got much more out of it than I expected.”

He explained, “The course incorporates fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. and explains the biochemical and molecular pathways that enhance our physiology. Not only does this mimic some of our medications, but it can also complement treatment plans for better outcomes in disease conditions and pathology. We got a deep understanding of food and its nutritional role in our body.”

Describing the course, Kachwalla said, “Chef Budd methodically plans things out, keeps it simple and easy to do, and provides a bit of flair and variety with fun facts and cooking secrets. Dr. Kakaty-Monzo and Dr. Daghigh were fantastic teachers of medicine and expanded our knowledge in all aspects of health. I highly recommend this course not only to improve yourself, but also to better the lives of others. Your future patients will thank you!”

Based on the “Health Meets Food” course offered by The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University, the Tulane School of Medicine allows medical schools across the nation to adapt the curriculum for their students. 

Cohen, who has 23 years of experience with CulinArt, a company that operates dining facilities in 18 states, joins PCOM clinical and biomedical science faculty in facilitating the summer elective for all PCOM campuses.

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  • About PCOM Georgia

    Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine which has a storied history as a premier osteopathic medical school. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the wider community. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 678-225-7500.

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