A majority of medical school graduates fail basic nutrition tests, and less than 15% of those in the field feel equipped to offer nutrition counseling, said Stephanie Folkens, vice president of programs at the national nutrition non-for-profit Common Threads.
While time is precious in medicine, that isn’t an excuse to avoid familiarizing yourself with cooking and nutrition, she said. It’s all the more reason to get started.
“Medical students are carrying a high level of stress given the demands of their programs,” she said. “That’s a problem when you think about the implications that might have when it comes to counseling patients, especially when the connection between nutrition and chronic disease is so key.”
Along with Northwestern Medicine physicians Rupa Mahadevan and Melinda Ring, Folkens co-created a two-week elective course for the university’s medical students called “Cooking Up Health.” The chef- and faculty-led classes have been offered twice a year since 2017 and steer cohorts of 12 students through simple, plant-based meals that can be made with basic cookware in less than 30 minutes. Over the years, the chana masala, portobello mushroom burger and dark-chocolate-covered strawberry recipes have popularized the courses beyond capacity.