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Scalpel or spatula? Medical students have new required cooking course

Culinary medicine
Future doctors move out of the classroom and into the kitchen 02:41

NEW ORLEANS -- Medical school is no joke. Not with classes like anatomy, neuroscience, cell biology -- and cooking.

Yes, cooking.

Cooking is a required course for first year students at Tulane Medical School in New Orleans.

Tulane is leading the way in the booming field of “culinary medicine.”
“It seems like Tulane has a really good idea about not just making us good doctors, but making us like good at overall health and I think that’s important,” said one student. 

Leah Sarris is the first chef in the nation on a medical school faculty. 

“I think there is part of it, there is a revolution in the way physicians are talking to their patients and including food in that conversation,” she said. “And some of it started here at Tulane with our culinary medicine courses. We are now in about 15 percent of medical schools in the United States, they have licensed our curriculums.” 

Leah Sarris with medical students in her cooking class at Tulane.  CBS News

The secret is convincing students that food that’s good for you is also good.

“They think that it is going to taste like cardboard so I think we pleasantly surprise people,” said Sarris.

Chef Leah Sarris.  CBS News

In the evening, the medical students become teachers, helping community members like Susan Bouchon and Cynthia Edwards learn the secrets of healthy cooking. 

Cynthia said her whole family is eating healthier now. 

“Yes, they eat tofu, they eat quinoa, they are eating whole oats, they don’t know,” she said. “They like it.

“My overall cholesterol dropped by like 20 points. My triglycerides dropped by like 17 points,” said Bouchon. 

At Tulane Medical School the proof is not in the pudding -- it’s in the whole wheat pasta with lentils and veggies.

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