NEOMED students learn cooking- health connection at professor’s Poland homes



Twelve senior Northeast Ohio Medical University students gathered around the kitchen-island counter in the home of professor Eugene Mowad this week for the start of their elective in culinary medicine.

They are learning how food and diet affect physical and mental health through learning about how to cook whole, healthful meals with easily accessible ingredients as well as learning about nutritional diets – all while in the kitchen of their instructors.

Dr. Lisa Young, the vice dean of the college of medicine and Dr. Mowad, the associate dean for clinical affairs, decided to create this elective, “Food and Life: a Physician’s Guide to a Nurturing Career,” which began this year.

“Dr. Young and I work closely together

on academic and administrative issues all the time, and we thought, ‘What’s something that we can do that could be useful for a senior medical student but also something that we enjoy doing and that would be fun for them to do?’” Dr. Mowad said.

After breakfast, the class talked about obesity and ways to treat it with various types of diets. The class then started to prepare grilled skewers with meat and vegetables, couscous with vegetables along with hummus and baba ghanouj (cooked eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and various seasoning).

The location switches between Dr. Mowad’s and Dr. Young’s home kitchens because of the small class size and the idea of working in a casual environment – which Dr. Mowad said students usually will work in.

The three-week elective shows students how to apply those lessons to preparing food for themselves and their future patients so both can live a better, healthier life.

The doctors thought the class could add a great part of the senior students’ Clinical Epilogue and Capstone course. The course gathers medical students together and reflects on what they’ve done independently through different electives integrated with medicine such as cooking, film or theater.

Drs. Young and Mowad also provide students with a book, “In Defense of Food,” by Michael Pollan, which discusses the history of the Western culture diet including how it’s affected Western culture and the environment.

Safiah Amara, a fourth-year medical student studying to become a psychiatrist, said she took this class learn how to cook. But aside from learning a new skill, Amara said this class will help her profession in psychiatry, which she learned in the reading material about the relationship between diet and mental health.

“As a psychiatrist, if diet is a big part of what’s contributing to this epidemic of depression and anxiety, I’d want to know that so not only can I counsel patients and give them therapy but also talk about some lifestyle adjustments,” she said.

For the students’ last day of the class March 18, they will use the skills they’ve learned to create a final dish with a secret ingredient they must use in what they make. Dr. Mowad said his students have exceeded his and Dr. Young’s expectations of the class. They hope the elective will become just as popular next year.

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