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Cooking up a new medical school course

Linda Shiue, MD, brought her expertise and passion to create a culinary medicine course at the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine.

It’s fair to say Linda Shiue, MD, is at the forefront of the food as medicine movement.

Nearly 8 years ago, she became the first director of culinary medicine at Kaiser Permanente.

This past spring, the San Francisco internal medicine physician marked another landmark in culinary medicine, developing a month-long elective for doctors in training.

“This marked a milestone in my career,” Dr. Shiue said. “It’s the class I would have wanted to take decades ago in medical school, but it just didn’t exist. I am excited to fill that gap.”

She doesn’t think doctors should be trained with the same level of nutrition knowledge as registered dietitians, but they need to know about food and cooking.

“About 80% to 90% of chronic illness is related to nutrition,” Dr. Shiue said. “Even if doctors think about the connection between disease and nutrition, they may not know how to best work with a multidisciplinary team, such as dietitians, health educators, health coaches, and bariatricians, to meet their patients’ needs as well as they could.”

For 3 years, Dr. Shiue worked with a diverse group of experts to develop the course for the 4-year-old Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine (KP SOM) in Pasadena.

By launching this culinary medicine course, KP SOM is now one of a select group of medical schools nationwide to teach future doctors about nutritional science, how to cook for good health, and ways to integrate that knowledge into patient care, Dr. Shiue noted. She hopes it will be an annual offering at the school. 

There’s clearly a thirst for the information because the 150-instructional hour elective had a waiting list. The students, all in their fourth year, enrolled. They hailed from various disciplines, such as dermatology, anesthesiology, and general surgery — not to mention primary care.

“I thought it would be just primary care, and it wasn’t,” Dr. Shiue said. “I was so happy to see that. That meant they understood no matter what field they go into they knew that nutrition was going to be an important part of their patients’ lives.”

Kiran Magee, MD, now a resident in Internal Medicine at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara, was in the course.

Kiran Magee, MD

“I took this class because I enjoy cooking and believe food is medicine,” Dr. Magee said. “So many of the diseases that hurt our communities are related to food access and what we eat. I wanted to learn more about how to incorporate cooking knowledge into my practice for myself and my patients.”

Dr. Shiue, a trained chef who runs cooking classes at Kaiser Permanente called Thrive Kitchen, taught the cooking portion of the course, while other experts led the other parts through the Kaiser Permanente Center for Healthy Living in Southern California.

During 7 cooking sessions, students learned to whip up creations with whole grains, fish, plant-based proteins, and vegetables. They also had to create a recipe and discuss how it supported health.

“I learned different strategies to tailor meals based on individual health needs,” said Dr. Magee, noting one technique of adding acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, to cut down on salt. “This experience will allow me to counsel patients more effectively and hopefully use medications less or in conjunction with food.”

Want to learn from Dr. Shiue? You can with new fee-for-service Lifestyle Medicine and Culinary Medicine consultations. Learn more by calling the KP San Francisco Health Education Department at 415-833-7808. 



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