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CU Medical & Dental Students Trade Lab Coats For Aprons In Kitchen Classroom

By Kathy Walsh

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - Medical and dental students in Colorado are getting a shot at cooking in a course that gets them out of the classroom and into the kitchen. Why trade their lab coats for aprons? They're getting a taste of nutrition so they can teach their patients healthy eating.

Blending, slicing, and salad tossing are not traditional skills for future doctors and certainly, a departure for aspiring dentists. But on Fridays for eight weeks, a kitchen at Johnson and Wales University is their classroom.

Culinary Medicine
(credit: CBS)

Bryant Elrick and a dozen other University of Colorado medical students are enrolled in a course called Culinary Medicine and getting a hefty dose of nutrition.

"Guiding our patients to live the most healthy lifestyle they can is our goal," Elrick told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Seven CU dental students, including Gabriela Andrade, are also in the mix.

"Today we're learning about all the different types of fat," said Andrade.

Culinary Medicine
(credit: CBS)

The students prepare dishes with healthy ingredients. They learn portion control and how to counsel patients.

"Nutrition has been characteristically a neglected part of health care education. We're trying to bring it back in," explained Dr. Mark Deutchman, Professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine and School of Dental Medicine.

The addition of dental students makes this class the first of its kind in the country.

"Oral health is where everything starts. What you put in your mouth makes all the difference," said Dr. Tamanna Tiwari, clinical instructor at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine.

Culinary Medicine
(credit: CBS)

Johnson and Wales' nutrition students render advice.

"It's a win-win for all three groups because they learn from each other," said Marleen Swanson, Culinary Nutrition Chair for Johnson & Wales University.

The belief is "you are what you eat" and prescribing nutrition is good medicine, a recipe for doctors and dentists to better serve their patients.

Culinary Medicine
(credit: CBS)

The curriculum for the class comes from Tulane University where it started. The Culinary Medicine course is now in about 15 percent of medical schools in the United States.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4's Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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