Kendall College and the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine Launch Culinary Medicine Educational Program


Kendall College

The Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine launched a new extracurricular activity to provide first-year students the chance to learn practical knowledge about how food plays a role in health and how to effectively discuss nutrition-related issues with patients. The intensive program will be imparted jointly by physicians from Pritzker and Chef Renee Zonka from Kendall College, using Kendall’s kitchens and facilities, and is currently being funded through a grant from the Women’s Board of the University of Chicago.

“We are proud to launch this program with the University of Chicago and expand the reach of culinary arts education into the medical field, which covers some of the most relevant issues in our society today,” said Emily W. Knight, president of Kendall College. “Food is at the center of the debates related to obesity and healthy habits. This collaboration will leverage Kendall’s strong curricula on nutrition and sustainability, allowing future medical doctors to understand food not just from a medical perspective but also from the perspective of patients’ practical, cultural and emotional relationships to eating.”

The curriculum for the program has been adapted from the culinary medicine program at Tulane University and brought to Pritzker by Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark, a clinical assistant professor and coordinator of integrative medical education, and Dr. Sonia Oyola, family medicine clerkship director. Kendall’s Chef Zonka will teach students how to prepare meals incorporating healthy ingredients and how to present this information to patients through hands-on cooking classes at Kendall. At the end of the extracurricular activity, a final workshop will allow students to teach cooking classes in Englewood community in collaboration with the Sweet Water Foundation.

Dr. Maker-Clark says that there is “already a consortium of other local medical schools interested in integrating the course. Most medical students have not had much exposure to food or cooking at this point in their lives and when they talk to patients about nutrition, it needs to be a two-way street.” She references the hectic lifestyle many doctors lead, especially medical students, and how this can be detrimental to their ability to relate to patients who want advice about how to improve their diets or prepare healthier meals.

Pritzker chose Kendall’s culinary arts program based on its reputation, incorporation of nutrition into the culinary arts program curricula and world-class kitchens in the heart of Chicago. The medical school hopes that the program will expand in the next year to become available to all of its students and offer more community instruction through additional workshops, which will include community-based cooking classes and nutrition advice from students taking the program. “We want our students to become teachers and to go out and work in a collaborative way with the community,” Dr. Maker-Clark said.