Health meets Food™ Remotely As Culinary Medicine Course Moves Online

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Students display their dishes to participants in the Culinary Medicine course which has been held via Zoom in response to the social distancing measures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken the UTHSC College Medicine’s Culinary Medicine course out of the kitchen on campus where it is traditionally taught, but the cooking and nutrition instruction has continued.

Susan Warner, MD, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medical Education in the UTHSC College of Medicine, continued the course remotely with the help of technology.

“Some of my culinary training was online,” Dr. Warner said. “So I had experience with virtual professional culinary classes making this transition easier.”

In February, the Culinary Medicine course became available to faculty and staff at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center at no charge thanks to a grant from the Tennessee Department of Health, Project Diabetes. The class, which is also offered to medical students in addition to UTHSC faculty and staff, consists of two series of six hands-on healthful culinary lessons. There is an eight module professional student series that is taught to both second- and fourth-year medical students. The UTHSC Culinary Medicine program and the UTHSC Office of Graduate Medical Education also offer both hands on, as well as virtual classes, to medical residents.

As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the nation, the Culinary Medicine course, which has been held in the kitchen in the Student-Alumni Center, had to switch gears and adapt to the new social distancing measures on campus and the Mid-South.

Dr. Warner said the biggest challenge was how to offer meaningful culinary skills classes virtually. Since most of the Health meets Food™ course material was already online, she, along with culinary instructors and registered dieticians and nutritionist, began using Zoom and a gooseneck iPad holder to successfully teach how to prepare nutritious meals to individuals enrolled in the course, from their own kitchens at home.

Those enrolled in the course continued to prepare meals, have discussions, and participate in enjoying their prepared dishes together remotely, creating a sense of community and togetherness among participants.

“The challenge of making Culinary Medicine classes work remotely for the medical students and residents also is an opportunity for the Culinary Medicine classes to be expanded to other UTHSC campuses from our College of Medicine program in Memphis,” she said. This has been a “silver lining.”

The Culinary Medicine course uses the Health meets Food™ curriculum governed by the Culinary Medicine Specialist Board. The program raises awareness of healthy cooking principles and awareness of how food, health, and well-being are interconnected. The virtual course has been offered as a one-month elective for fourth-medical students this spring. A six-week virtual series for faculty and staff is currently being developed until once again, the class can return to the kitchen together on campus.