NPR had an interesting story this morning on a chef turned doctor who’s making it her business to spread the word about healthy cooking and eating to fellow healthcare professionals. CIA graduate Michelle Hauser, who’s now in her third year of medical school at Harvard, teaches courses on fresh, quick and inexpensive ways to prepare healthy meals through a collaboration between the Culinary Institute and Harvard University.
Image courtesy of NPR.
The result of the courses are doctors who are taking the information to heart not only for their patients, but for themselves. So many healthcare professionals that I know don’t have the time or energy outside of work to research and prepare good meals for themselves. And many more doctors simply don’t encourage a healthy diet to their patients that actually makes sense for the patient’s lifestyle and budget, or — worse — barely mention healthy eating habits at all. It’s one thing to encourage wellness, but if you’re not supporting it with concrete and attainable methods (such as working with a patient to develop a health plan and outline a diet for them), then that encouragment will end the moment the patient walks out of the doctor’s office.
Food is such an integral part of who we are and how we live — healthily or not. It’s our fuel. And yet hardly anyone gets asked about their diet — not whether or not they’re ON one, but about WHAT they eat on a daily basis — when at the doctor’s office. It doesn’t take a genius, or even a brain surgeon, to realize that what you put down your gullet each day affects your overall health in ways other than blood pressure or weight gain.
A recent and close-to-home example occurred when my grandfather was put on Coumadin by his physician. The doctor never bothered asking my grandfather about his dietary habits, or warning him about excessive Vitamin K consumption while taking the Coumadin. If he had, the physician would have found out that — as part of our typical Southern diet — my grandfather ate a lot of spinach and other greens, all bursting with Vitamin K. When he started to feel sick after taking the Coumadin for only a few days, we called the doctor, who — again — neglected to ask about or mention any possible interactions and said just to let it work its way through Grandaddy’s system. Thankfully, my mother took it upon herself to research Coumadin and found that it interacted very strongly with any foods that contained Vitamin K. We took all the dark greens out of my grandfather’s diet and all was restored to normal. When presented with this information, his physician was nonplussed.
The NPR website has more information to supplement the story, including some delicious-sounding recipes that Michelle Hausman uses in her presentations. Here’s hoping that more courses like these take off, as a benefit not just to the doctors themselves but also to their patients.
UPDATE: I should mention, before my friend Dr. Q gets here to defend her profession in the comments section, that not all doctors are such schmucks. I feel that’s the way this has come across. Dr. Q, for example, is a very holistically-minded physician and I’m sure that she takes things like this into account when treating her patients. Then again, she’s an ER doctor, so…I don’t really know from squat. If you, too, are lucky enough to find a holistically-inclined doctor — that is, one who takes into account the fact that you are many parts that all work together, not just a foot, not just an esophagus, not just an inner ear — then you stick with that doctor, my friend! They are a rare breed, indeed.