UCF medical school incorporates culinary skills

For the second year in a row, medical students at the University of Central Florida don aprons and learn how to prepare healthy meals.

It’s all part of a culinary medicine program that began in 2018.

Registered dietitian Mandy Layman is one of the instructors and believes training like this will bridge the nutritional gap between doctors and patients.

“That's a big challenge for Americans these days, how to cook healthy at home, and these doctors will be able to do that,” says Layman.

In the classroom, dietitians and pediatricians educate students. Once they enter the large teaching kitchen at the Orlando-based Rosen College of Hospitality, chefs take center stage, teaching knife skills and cooking techniques.

Chef Robb Seltzer is a director at the Rosen College of Hospitality and was glad to become part of the faculty.

“I was pretty excited actually because I’ve been involved in food and medicine for a while” Seltzer says.  

UCF is one of 50 universities across the nation to teach this culinary curriculum to students. The training program that began at Tulane Medical School in 2012 has now expanded to nursing, medical residents, and community physicians.

Pediatric obesity expert Dr. Robert Karch is the medical director of the UCF program. He says, along with classes, students are required to teach their new skills to members of the community.

They currently help educate veterans in the Orlando V.A. hospital system, children and families from Nemours Children’s Hospital, Grace Medical Home, and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, and patients from the Advent Health Diabetes Center. They also participate in a corporate wellness program for Rosen Hotel employees.

“By the end of the first week, they're answering questions, they're giving evidence-based advice to their patients and that's what this course is all about,” says Karch.  

Fourth-year medical student Carlos Delgado says there are other benefits.

"I think it's fun! It's a little cathartic, it's relieving of stress,” says Delgado. 

After class, students present and sample the healthy dishes. Delgado says it’s changing the way he cooks at home.

“I have like a beginner level knowledge of cooking, so this has taught me a lot," he said. "Everyday, I'm learning something new.”