TCU, UNTHSC students highlight partnership of medicine and nutrition

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On this particular class day, the focus was lowering sodium.

With water boiling, steam rising and pans sizzling, TCU senior dietetic students taught recipes and healthy eating to medical students from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in a joint Culinary Medicine course.

Kirby Buchanan, a first-year medical school student from Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine at UNTHSC, said he was never much of a cook, but he’s learning healthy habits.

“I think by implementing it in my own life, I’ll be able to further help patients down the road, and making changes that could benefit them,” Buchanan said.

The goal is to highlight the important partnership between nutrition and medicine.

Anne VanBeber is one of the class’s professors. She said this class shows future medical professionals what “healthy eating” means.

“What does ‘eat healthy’ mean? What does ‘increase your fiber’ mean?” VanBeber said. “It doesn’t mean anything unless you can comfortably tell [the patients] about all the legumes you can add to your salad.”

Camille Schaffner, a second-year physician assistant student, said she’s learned that eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring.

“We always tell our patients to eat better, but a lot of practitioners don’t really know what that means. And so I felt like it was important to get to a class and really learn what I’m recommending to my patients,” Schaffner said.

The TCU dietetic students benefit too, by getting to practice what they’ll soon be doing after graduation.

“All of these students are learning how the whole health care team works to the benefit of the patient,” VanBeber said.

Buchanan said that the Culinary Medicine course offers more nutrition education than he would have received by only attending medical school.

“Most of it is system-based learning, like learning the specifics about the body, and they’ll throw in a little bit of nutritional information, but not as much as we’re getting on this course,” he said.

The course is a partnership between TCU, UNTHSC and Moncrief Cancer Institute. It is offered each spring to 30 students selected by a lottery, according to VanBeber. She hopes that with the new medical school’s opening, the course will fit 60 students.