Normally, medical students don’t get an introduction into the kitchen during the course of their academic careers. Now, a new interdisciplinary course, between The University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine and the College of Education, is designed to bring medical students out of the operating room and into the kitchen to learn about nutrition.

The course, Culinary Medicine (NUTR 593), is taught by Deborah Cohen, an associate professor in the Nutrition Program, Department of Individual, Family and Community Education (IFCE). Culinary medicine is a concept that blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine.

Two years ago, Cohen heard a story on National Public Radio (NPR) about the success of a similar course taught at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University and thought, ‘We can do this here. All we need is a big kitchen.’ Nationally, Tulane implemented one of the first dedicated teaching kitchens at a medical school. Tulane's program includes medical school educaiton, resident education CME’s for practicing physicians and community nutrition and cooking classes.

“This is a four-week pilot course that teaches basic culinary skills to fourth-year medical students who don’t normally receive any nutrition courses in medical school,” said Cohen. “The new, innovative course, Culinary Medicine, takes a hands-on approach to teaching basic culinary skills to medical students in addition to providing basic and clinical science behind nutrition-related chronic diseases.”  

Associate Professor Deborah Cohen
Associate Professor Deborah Cohen, center, will teach Culinary Medicine, a four-week pilot course designed for nutrition graduate students and fourth-year medical students.

The pilot course, which begins Monday, Oct. 16, includes four modules spread out over the four-week course. The modules include: Introduction to Culinary Medicine, Renal Physiology and Sodium, Fats, and Weight Management. Each week will consist of a 4 hour culinary lab. The clinical component will consist of eight hours per week in a UNM-affiliated hospital and an Outpatient Clinic in collaboration with the UNM Dietetic Internship. Local chefs will be teaching the culinary aspects of the course during each of the labs.

In addition, there are two, three hour seminars each week where evidence- based research, diet and nutriiton assessment, Mindful Eating concepts will also be discussed with Cohen and a UNM HSC Family and Community Medicine physician, Dr. Amy Robinson.

The Lab component will teach students basic culinary skills and nutrition that can be translated to practice. There are also  online modules that focus on the basic sciences: physiology, biochemistry and metabolism reinforced with comprehensive assessment tools.

The course also includes collaborations with Chartwells and La Posada, both of whom provide food service to UNM. La Posada and Chartwells kindly offered to donate the food that will be used during the pilot course in October.

“Everyone is real excited and gung ho for the course,” said Cohen. “I think it’s a big deal for UNM.”

Classes will be held Mondays, from 9 a.m. to  1 p.m. in the Johnson Center Foods Lab, Rm. 124. Seminars will be held on Tuesdays & Thursdays from 1-4 p.m. On Wednesdays & Fridays students will spend four hours at Clinical Rotations. Registraton for the course is ongoing. It is open to nutrition graduate students and fourth-year medical students.

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