Success Story: Regional Rx: Home-cooked veggies

September 13, 2017

NMC chefs Fred Laughlin, Bob Rodriguez and Becky TranchellNMC chefs Fred Laughlin, Bob Rodriguez and Becky TranchellFred Laughlin dreams of a day when doctors will write prescriptions for healthy cooking classes.

As a first step, the director of NMC’s Great Lakes Culinary Institute is hosting the region’s first Culinary Medicine workshop Sept. 22-24, teaming up with Munson Medical Center and the Groundwork Center. About 50 doctors and other health care professionals are enrolled for a packed weekend of classes aimed at combating obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease by teaching patients to live healthier lifestyles.

“This has been a goal of mine, teaching healthy cooking to doctors,” said Laughlin. “Smoking was never bad until your family doctor said it was bad. The same thing for eating. Doctors have to be the people pushing this to their patients.”

Culinary faculty members Bob Rodriguez, Robert George and Becky Tranchell will join Laughlin as presenters, along with nutritionists, dieticians and clinicians, including keynote speaker Dr. David Eisenberg, associate professor at the Harvard School of Medicine. In 2007 Eisenberg founded Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives, an annual conference offered by Harvard and the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, Cal. It serves as the model for Culinary Medicine.

“I read about this, and said we should be doing this up here,” Laughlin said. “Physicians are waking up to the fact that a lot of diseases, and even food allergies, are driven by the bad food and food choices on the market.”

Munson registered dietician Laura McCain is part of the planning team and will teach at the workshop. She said northern Michigan’s top three chronic health issues -- obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes – can all be improved with better diets. The workshop will provide tools, from budget-minded grocery shopping to food preparation techniques to recipes, that the audience, chiefly primary care providers, can then offer their patients.

“It’s helping the physician know there’s a team out there to help them,” said McCain, who is also an NMC culinary alumnus. “The physician gets caught in the middle of this, where they’re expected to help this person get better.”

“There’s a lot of questions out there about what diets are most helpful,” said Dr. Erik Lindstrom, a Traverse City family practice physician enrolled in the workshop. “We look for evidence-based medicine to be able to make educated changes about diet and lifestyle. Those things can really impact their health overall.”

Physicians earn continuing medical education credits for attending. Laughlin said he expects this first year won’t be the last.

“It has a lot of potential to be an ongoing, yearly thing,” Laughlin said.

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