Redesigning Medical Education

Our current medical education system needs to be transformed. This curricular redesign is necessary to combat the chronic diseases of our time including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer which now account for 75% of our health care costs and 7 out of every 10 deaths. While our current approach to education and practice has provided us with powerful tools to treat acute exacerbations of chronic conditions such as heart attacks, we are not well equipped or trained to prevent them over time. It is estimated that as much as 80 percent of diabetes and heart disease and close to 40% of cancers can be prevented from simply changing our diet, having adequate physical activity and not smoking.

Despite this fact and improvements in smoking cessation, most Americans still do not meet nutrition or physical activity goals and doctors are not trained to help patients prevent disease and stay healthy. My work and my passion as a medical educator is to change this reality. My goal is to transform medical education to equip future doctors with the tools they need to advise their patients on how to use food as medicine and therapeutic lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and mindfulness activities such as yoga or tai chi to prevent sickness and maintain health. The most recent survey of U.S. medical schools conducted in 2012 showed an average of only 19.6 hours of nutrition throughout the entire 4 year medical school curriculum. I am actively engaged in work to fill this gap of nutrition in medical education.

My work at the University of Arizona College of Medicine of Phoenix includes developing a 4 year nutrition curriculum and working with student groups like the Culinary Medicine Interest Group (featured above) to teach students how food in the form of healthy cooking can prevent and treat medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. As a hands part of their education, I have had the privilege of developing this concept as cooking classes in a community health center for culturally diverse underserved patients. I am also continuing to serve as Adjunct Clinical Faculty at Stanford where I did my medical training to contribute to the Stanford Nutrition Project and teach prevention to students as part of their required medical school curriculum.

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