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Doctors In The Kitchen Learn 'Food As Medicine'

Wendy Rigby
Texas Public Radio
The new Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF) teaching kitchen is now open at the Children's Hospital of San Antonio.

The medical community is trying all kinds of methods to beat back childhood obesity and related health problems like diabetes. One San Antonio hospital is putting doctors in the kitchen to try and make a difference.

Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
Lauren Sadovsky, MD, is one of the second year pediatric residents training in the new CHEF kitchen.


Fresh vegetables on the chopping block, shredded, baked chicken on the plate, and advice from cooking experts. That’s what you’ll find at the new teaching kitchen at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. It’s called Culinary Health Education for Families, or CHEF for short.

"While a lot of people have a lot of different hobbies and passions, everybody eats," said E.B. Ghazali, MD. He’s a second-year Baylor College of Medicine pediatric resident.


Ghazali is one of the first physicians to train in this kitchen designed by the Culinary Institute of America.


Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
E.B. Ghazali, MD, chops up chicken in the CHEF kitchen.

"Prevention is the best medicine," Ghazali emphasized. "If we can somehow help our families by getting them a way to get healthier food at an affordable price, hopefully we can see them in the kitchen and then we don’t have to see them in the hospital."

Only 1 in 4 medical students in this country gets the recommended 25 hours of nutrition training in med school. That’s changing, though, said Julie La Barba, MD, who heads up this new program at the CHRISTUS owned hospital.


"We feel like we’re part of a movement and a trend," La Barba said. "People are lacking cooking skills. They don’t know what to do or where to start. We’re actually taking people by the hand and saying 'You don’t know how to do that? Come on. We’ll show you.'"

Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
Fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins are staples in the CHEF kitchen.

Soon there will be children and their parents learning about healthy cooking here. Funded by the Goldsbury Foundation, the CHEF kitchen will be available to any family referred here by their pediatrician free of charge. It’s an attempt to fight the growing trend of childhood obesity.

Pediatric resident Lauren Sadovsky is 30. She says most people of her generation simply lack experience in the kitchen.

"I think we lost a lot when we took just home economics out of high schools. I mean, we should all know how to cook," Sadovsky said. "Cooking has an enormous value. You can control the ingredients. Going out to eat ,you have no idea how much fat did they cook it in? Did they cook it in something that I’m allergic to?"


As the future pediatricians get their hands dirty chopping and baking and mixing, they are learning techniques that will give them credibility when they try to convince their families to choose healthy home cooking. Call it food as medicine.”

Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
Advocates of more nutrition training for medical school students say the trend is not a flash in the pan.

Baylor College of Medicine is one of 17 medical campuses trying out this new curriculum for future pediatricians who are in a unique position to influence families’ eating habits, according to Dr. La Barba.


"Pediatricians see children 20 times before they are 5 years old. And so if you think about the kind of leverage that they have, they may be the only person who’s talking to a family about their diet and lifestyle," La Barba said.


Studies have shown that more than two-thirds of all chronic disease is preventable through diet and lifestyle. This kitchen will provide a practical way for San Antonio families and future doctors to brush up on the basics that can lead to good health.

Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
Some Baylor College of Medicine pediatric residents train at the Children's Hospital of San Antonio.