University of Chicago Medical Students Sharpen New Skills

by Michelle Borges

A group of medical students at the University of Chicago will soon be starting a Food as Medicine workshop series led by local chefs and its founder Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark, an integrative family physician.

While the workshop is currently extracurricular to students’ medical school coursework, it is not extracurricular to their practice. Dr. Maker-Clark recognizes great potential in practicing a food-as-medicine approach instead of mainly focusing on prescribing medications.

Dr. Maker-Clark

Dr. Maker-Clark received essentially no nutrition education during her medical school curriculum and very little during her residency and, unfortunately, this is still the trend today. Aside from school, many medical students do not know how to cook or prepare healthy meals for themselves. It is difficult for them to find the time or the resources to develop these skills.

However, Dr. Maker-Clark has helped reinforce the notion that healthy cooking skills belong in a medical practice, and it appears that the public agrees.

“There is a shift in the way Americans are looking at food and their health. Patients are always looking for a way to address their aliments before turning to prescription. I see them light up in my office when I offer a solution other than taking another pill,” she said.

The first Food as Medicine series at the University of Chicago looks promising. The anticipated workshop will begin in May and has full enrollment.

Each workshop focuses on creating flavorful, plant-based dishes and emphasizes the health benefits of the ingredients used. Furthermore, students will learn culinary basics, including food safety and knife handling, as well as how to relay these skills to their patients.

The workshops also include a discussion of the latest research on preventative diets such as the Mediterranean and the DASH diets, and how to follow these dietary approaches beyond practicing their recipes. Factors such as cost, availability, culture, religion and individual patient needs are also addressed in discussion of diet.

Dietary approaches to disease are helpful with inflammatory and chronic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and can also improve other aliments including headaches, depression and abdominal pain.

Dr. Maker-Clark is hopeful that cooking and food as medicinal concepts will be integrated into the medical school curriculum. She sees an imminent change in how Americans view healthcare and the potential for collaboration between healthcare professionals, chefs, farmers, and the community.

To learn more about Dr. Maker-Clark and her Food as Medicine approach, visit her website at http://drgeetamakerclark.com. The following is a recipe from the workshop curriculum and was created by chef Ellen King.

Cauliflower, Fennel, and Bean Salad

⅓ cup olive oil
2 long sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp minced rosemary
1 head mashed garlic clove
2 lemons, zest and juice
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 small head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 ½ cup cooked beans (or 1 15 oz. can drained and rinsed)
1 fennel bulb, shaved or thinly sliced
¼ cup chives
½ cup parsley
½ cup shredded parmesan (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
  3. Roast on a sheet pan for 4 minutes-until slightly colored. Remove from oven and sprinkle zest over cauliflower and add a little more lemon juice and olive oil. Set aside.
  4. Make the dressing. Add remainder of the lemon juice, vinegar, mashed garlic, olive oil and thyme and whisk.
  5. Combine the cauliflower, beans, fennel and dressing in a large bowl and toss. Mix in cheese if desired. Garnish top of the salad with remaining chives and parsley.
  6. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper

Michelle Borges is working towards a masters in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition. She has also previously taught Cooking Matters classes, another great program that introduces basic culinary skills to the community.

The Friedman Sprout is a monthly student run newspaper that aims to serve the student population at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, prospective students, and alumni. Our mission is to report on newsworthy information that affects the Friedman community including nutrition research, food policy, internship and volunteer opportunities, as well as school events. Our editorial slant is that of sustainability in food and nutrition.

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