MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — When writing a prescription for a patient, doctors' future recommendations may not be medicine, but cooking classes.
Instead of standing behind desks, medical students with the Eastern Division of West Virginia University School of Medicine stood behind cooking tables Nov. 22 as part of a MedChefs class through Blue Ridge Community and Technical College's Hospitality and Culinary Arts Program.
For the second class in a series, medical students learned how to cook healthy dishes with fall vegetables. The class also taught students different cooking techniques, such as blanching and braising, that they would be able to pass on to patients.
"We wanted to do a class based around training pre-med students in nutrition. Typically when you go to a doctor and ask them about nutrition, they refer to someone else. It's not that they don't have a clue, it's just that they don't have that skill set," said Steve Weiss, program coordinator for the Hospitality and Culinary Arts Program.
Weiss led students through recipes including puree of root vegetable soup and roasted rosemary butternut squash and shallots. He not only instructed participants on how to prepare the dishes, but also nutrition and health information behind each dish.
"Where medicine is going now, our hospital area and people that work there, very progressive. They're treating people who are borderline diabetes, borderline heart disease, so those key diseases we're trying to combat through food," Weiss said.
Dietitian Joan Starliper believes that food choice and knowing how to cook is something that is missing in today's society, making healthy cooking classes necessary. Starliper took the students on a trip through Martin's Food Market and taught students about what makes a balanced meal and meal planning guidelines.
For medical student Kalah Ainsworth, the class not only provided a break from work, but another way to assist patients.
"It will at least give us some more insight on cooking more things, and working hands-on makes it easier to explain to patients," Ainsworth said.
Dr. Rosie Lorenzetti, dean of student services for the WVU School of Medicine, cooked alongside the students and said she has seen the importance of smart food choices through her years of professional experience.
"I've been a family doctor for 30 years, and when you tell people that they have diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure, they always ask 'what should I eat?'" said Rosie Lorenzetti.
"We wanted to be able to help the medical students understand cooking and making recommendations to patients and be able to give them advice. Not everybody can get to a dietician," she said.
Weiss listed potential benefits for borderline patients taking a cooking class to be become more familiar with foods they've never eaten, becoming more confident in their cooking abilities and becoming healthier.
"I think a lot of the issues with individuals is they may have walked by butternut squash every year for 70 years and never picked one up. If we teach them how to do something, maybe they'll continue to do it," he said.
Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/