Jan 4, 2017

MD Student Experience: A Healthy Take on Nutrition

Cooking Class
By Alexandra Majerski

Over two days last fall, first-year medical students took part in an exciting hands-on experience as part of the new Foundations Curriculum in the MD Program at the University of Toronto. We traded our stethoscopes for aprons and put our culinary, rather than clinical, skills to the test by attending a cooking class and grocery store tour at Loblaws.

The Joannah & Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition funded the creation of this in-store workshop and the week of Lifestyle Medicine into which the grocery store experience was integrated.

We were inspired to discuss the basic components of healthy meal planning and how to promote the intake of healthy portions while shaping patties for our lentil burgers and thinly slicing Brussels sprouts for a vitamin-packed salad. A grocery store scavenger hunt encouraged students to read labels and interpret nutrition facts tables, but ultimately highlighted the challenges faced by consumers trying to make healthful decisions for themselves and their families.

The experience afforded students the chance to reflect on their own nutrition knowledge and how to translate healthy messages into their practice as physicians.

The epidemic of obesity is now recognized as one of the most important public health problems facing the world today. The reality is that all physicians will care for a significant number of patients in their practice who experience weight-related health issues.

In undergraduate medical education, an appreciation of nutritional science is an important cornerstone for the understanding, prevention, and treatment of obesity. A physician must not only be knowledgeable of the physiological mechanisms inhibiting weight loss, but also skilled at the task of breaching the topic of weight.

A particular challenge facing current and future physicians is the mitigation of weight bias and stigmatization among medical professionals, which reflects similar attitudes in the general public.

We need patient-management plans amenable to the values and goals of each patient — in the same way that drug regimes can only be effective by incorporating the medical history, lifestyle and social context of individuals.

Lifestyle Week in the Foundations Curriculum and the in-store nutrition workshop were  steps in the right direction for addressing these complex and sensitive topics with our future patients.  

This student experience article expresses the views of first year MD Program student Alexandra Majerski and is not meant to represent the entire student experience, nor represent the MD Program.  

View a video about MD students' cooking class and grocery store tour: