November 15, 2014 EDUCATION Doctoring recipes in kitchens at JWU Pilot program pairs culinary and medical students to create healthful meals people will actually want to eat By PAUL EDWARD PARKER JOURNAL STAFF WRITER PROVIDENCE — Aileen Bui, a first-year medical student at Brown University, makes a precise incision as sharp-edged steel slices through fatty tissue. She studies her work for a moment, and makes a second cut, parallel to the first. Then she adds salt and pepper. Bui is part of a pilot program by Johnson & Wales University and the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown to teach the next generation of doctors how to cook healthful foods in the hope that they will pass along that knowledge. Johnson & Wales student Brianne Cidras, center, coaches Brown medical student Supriya Shah, right, while Aileen Bui tastes sauce for the duck breast she made. The program features a series of lectures on nutrition at Brown and a series of workshops at Johnson & Wales that match students at both schools. The medical students learn how to prepare meals — that taste good — featuring fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. “We know obesity’s a problem,” says Bui, “but we don’t know the best way to combat obesity.” “If you just put a pile of quinoa on a plate, you look at it, and it’s not really that appetizing,” says Todd Seyfarth, head of the culinary nutrition department at Johnson & Wales and director of the pilot program. Patients “might not be apt to stick to that diet. Hopefully, our students can make it look better, our students can make it taste better.” Brown medical student Justin Yu gathers some spices from the pantry at the Johnson & Wales kitchen that will be used in the meal he helped prepare. The culinary students can attend the lectures at Brown, says Seyfarth, but one of the biggest benefits of the program is that they teach cooking techniques to the medical students. That forces them to master the subject, so that they can teach it to someone else, he said. The culinary students also get a sense of accomplishment from teaching the medical students. “I think it’s great how excited [the medical students] were to come in here and cook,” says Brianne Cidras, a Johnson & Wales senior from Germantown, N.Y. “For them to be so excited to learn something we wanted to teach was just so rewarding.” As Bui transfers her duck breast to the stove, Cidras goes over the finer points of searing the meat. Duck has a lot of fat because ducks are coldwater animals, and the layer of fat under their skin acts like a coat. The first step to searing the meat is to heat a cast iron pan until it is smoking hot. Then the meat is placed fat-side down. “We just let it render,” Cidras said. As the heat starts to penetrate the meat, the flame is turned down to let more fat render in the pan. Finally, the meat is transferred to an oven to finish cooking, rendering more fat. "We don’t want it to be too fatty,” Cidras said. The trial program is the brainchild of Brown medical students Dave Lieberman and Annie Wu, and Johnson & Wales professors Seyfarth and Michael Makuch, who had discussed individual community outreach efforts they had made, as well as the need for better nutrition training for doctors. “We study nutrition at the medical school to some degree,” Lieberman said. But that largely focuses on the science of food, such as how lipids are metabolized in the body. "We were more on the theory side,” he said. “We saw a gap in the knowledge in what is being taught.” "The traditional doctor does not get much education on nutrition,” Seyfarth said. “None of it is in food. We look at it much more food-centric. When you really focus in on nutrients, you lose the potential to get people to eat healthier.” Claudine Yee, a Brown medical student, prepares an apple for the meal she'll help to create at Johnson and Wales. After a lecture on the effects of sodium on hypertension and health, the program had a workshop on how to reduce salt in food without losing flavor. Other workshops have included how to use purees to replace fats in food while still making them satisfying, how to cook with fiber, and how to incorporate healthier fats into dishes. Makuch says the program has turned out better than he expected. “You bring medical school students into a culinary lab — I really didn’t know what to expect.” But culinary student Kristen Pizzi, of Rockaway, N.J., saw no problem. “Actually, their knife skills were pretty good.” Which bodes well for the trial program. “We’re looking to continue it on.” PHOTOS BY THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL/BOB BREIDENBACH Copyright © 2014. LMG Rhode Island Holdings, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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