How the Certified Culinary Medicine Specialist Program Improved My Health and the Health of My Community
The Certified Culinary Medicine Specialist (CCMS) designation was established by the North American Center for Continuing Medical Education (NACCME) and the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine (GCCM) at Tulane University to provide clinicians with the comprehensive knowledge and unique perspective to deliver the most informed, practical, and effective nutritional counseling for their patients. Certification as a culinary medicine specialist recognizes physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, registered dietitians, and diabetes educators in the US and Canada.
Consultant360 recently spoke with Susan Warner, MD, who is a clinical pathologist at the Pathology Group of the MidSouth/Trumbull Laboratories and clinical associate professor at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis, Tennessee, about her experience with the CCMS program.
Consultant360: What was the deciding factor for you when enrolling in the certification program?
Susan Warner: I pursued this certification program because I wanted to establish credibility in culinary medicine professionally. I have always had a passion for cooking and a long-term interest in nutrition, and I wished to connect these interests to my work as a physician. Culinary medicine is the link I needed between my professional knowledge in disease processes and in nutrition and culinary arts. It also serves as the means to promote better health in my community by teaching me how to clearly translate this information for a patient’s benefit.
The desire to integrate these areas of expertise and interest began quite a few years ago, but I had no idea where to begin. Nevertheless, I discovered the culinary medicine program at Tulane while attending my husband’s medical school alumni meeting in 2013. The program gave me a direction to pursue, so I became a regular attendee at the CME modules offered at GCCM. Seeking certification was simply the next step and level in bringing this message of “food is health and medicine” to my community.
C360: How would you describe your overall experience with the CCMS curriculum and certification process?
SW: The experience has been very positive. The process and expectations were clearly outlined and communicated, and the curriculum was purposeful, useful, and organized. The principles of the Mediterranean Diet are the cornerstone of the curriculum, and this curriculum contains exercises and readings that are academic, practical, and helpful in translating difficult scientific facts into plain and understandable talk about food and how to eat it in daily life.
C360: What was the most valuable educational piece of the CCMS curriculum?
SW: Overall, I would have to say the final exam for certification. There is a wide range of material covered in the CCMS curriculum. I found studying for this exam to be incredibly valuable because it helped me solidify and connect the extensive material of the curriculum. I was able to organize what I had learned in a way that could be communicated to patients.
C360: What new opportunities has the CCMS certification opened up for/to you?
SW: I began the program with a mission to learn how to improve the health and well-being of the community where I live. CCMS has opened the door to allow me to do just that through revealing the connections between diseases and nutrition and through teaching how to prepare food that is not only nutritious, but also delicious. It has enabled and empowered me to teach people about how food can either bring health and healing or how it can bring disease. I now have the knowledge and confidence to bring and introduce these practices to my community and have been doing so through teaching medical students, residents, practicing physicians, as well as community groups, organizations, and businesses. Finally, it has served as the launching pad for my life-long learning and investigation into the union of culinary art and medicine.
C360: How has your education/daily practiced changed/improved since becoming certified?
SW: I have changed quite a bit since becoming certified beyond getting rid of everything in the kitchen cabinet and exchanging them with their healthy counterparts. CCMS inspired me to take my education to another level by beginning culinary school to further enable me to teach others how food can be healthy in a delicious, plant-forward manner.
I have also undertaken passing on this education and introducing it to my community. In 2016, I had the opportunity to help establish the culinary medicine program at the University of Tennessee for medical students and at Church Health Wellness, a nonprofit health organization providing health care for the working uninsured. Both institutions have now licensed the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine curriculum. I have also become a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine and am now sharing just how food is health with medical students and residents.
C360: Why would you recommend this program to other healthcare professionals and colleagues?
SW: We all know of the association between diet and disease. Even the Greeks knew about it thousands of years ago. However, this association is increasing rapidly in importance as we continue to learn about the nature of chronic diseases that are an epidemic in the US. Currently, over 70% of chronic diseases are linked to diet and lifestyle. These are diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Over half of the top ten causes of death are linked to eating habits. Two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese increasing the risk for life-threatening diseases. These are growing trends, yet trends that we know are reversible with proper diet and healthier lifestyle.
However, we as physicians have not been taught the details of this complex association and never in a manner that is applicable to our daily eating habits, let alone that of our patients. Telling patients “Eat more fruits and vegetables” and “Don’t eat processed food” is not enough to change these trends. Rather it will take the knowledge base that is taught in this program. We need culinary medicine to teach us what food is healthy, how to convey this to patients, and how to make it delicious! Today is the time to begin.
C360: If you could summarize your CCMS certification experience in one (or two) sentences (or statement), what would that be?
SW: Certification in Culinary Medicine has allowed me to combine my medical training, long-term interest in nutrition, and passion for cooking into a professional tool set. For me, Food is medicine, health, and life, and my hope is to use what CCMS has given me to bring better health and lasting change to my community.
To learn more about CCMS or apply, please visit www.culinarymedicinecertified.com.