WVSOM offers new clinical nutrition and culinary medicine elective to students

Students at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) won’t be using their hands just for osteopathic manipulative treatment; they’ll be using them to cook healthy meals.

The school offers a new elective for students that addresses clinical nutrition and culinary medicine. Five third- and fourth-year students took part in the first two-week course that included not only a culinary lab where they received hands-on kitchen experience making plant-based dishes, but classes that explained mindful meditation exercises through yoga, clinical visits with diabetic patients, exercise physiology information from a sports trainer at The Greenbrier, and nature hikes to identify edible mushrooms. Three first- and second-year students are currently participating in the second elective offered.

Dina Schaper, D.O., one of the course’s advisers, said each component of the elective is designed with osteopathic principles in mind.  

“Everyone is passionate about creating a rotation to enable health and wellness,” Schaper said. “This year, our concentration is diabetes treatment and prevention. The prescription is knowledge of food choices, food preparation, moving our bodies and using mindfulness to guide those choices and change the way we think about food. Every aspect of our program dovetails with osteopathic tenets. Unfortunately, West Virginia is ranked No. 1 in obesity and No. 2 in diabetes; our long-term goals include involving as many students as possible in order to improve the health of our population.”

While nutrition is addressed in WVSOM’s curriculum, the elective is the first time WVSOM has offered in-depth information about culinary medicine.

“This elective helps students look at the cause of a disease instead of just putting pills in a patient’s body,” said Robert Foster, D.O., WVSOM’s associate dean for osteopathic medical education. “We are training students to become physicians who can change a patient’s lifestyle and reverse degenerative diseases. The body can repair itself, and that is a very osteopathic way of thinking.”

Foster and other WVSOM faculty, including Brian Griffith, Ph.D., Raeann Carrier, Ph.D., and Shinichi Asano, Ph.D., help teach the course.

In the first culinary lab, students Carrie Fox, Hayden Moore, Victor Rendon, Brittany Ross and Jeff Spindel put on their aprons and tested their chopping skills to make cucumber salad, black-eyed pea salad and wheat spaghetti with lentils. The students were under the guidance of WVSOM O’Cafe chefs Adam Sydenstricker and Paul Ciciora.

“People tend to eat with their eyes first, so food needs to look good or else people won’t be inclined to taste it,” Ciciora told the students during the lab. “We want to try to cook with all the senses.”

In the second culinary lab, students prepared chickpea shawarma with millet, pinto sloppy Joes and rainbow cabbage slaw.

Moore, who was a fourth-year student at the time of the course and has since graduated, said it is important for students to take time to learn valuable cooking techniques that could be shared with patients, especially since many students have so little time to prepare healthy meals themselves.

“It’s such a critical part of health. The reason we have such a problem with diabetes is because we’ve lost control of healthy eating,” Moore said. “What I want to get out of this elective is how to use this information as a tool. I’m doing a residency in surgery, and I’m going to need to know what kind of food will keep patients healthy after surgery.”

Ross, a third-year student, said she is glad to see more schools incorporating nutrition into their curriculums.

“This is an aspect of medicine that makes a huge impact. We learn a lot about the ‘micro’ aspects of everything, but it doesn’t easily translate to patients, so this is a better way of conveying information,” she said.

Ross said she also appreciates a new learning environment outside the classroom or clinic.

“When you try new things, and try to improve yourself, you become more relatable to patients,” she said. “I never want to stop learning, so when I have an opportunity to do so I’m going to take it.”

Foster said the school hopes to offer the elective three or four times in the next academic year.

Date Added: 
Tuesday, June 11, 2019