cooking-1013455_1920Culinary medicine is a subset of integrative medicine focused on helping patients make modifications to their diets, as well as learn to cook and enjoy food that is healthy and good for them. The field is not often on the everyday integrative practitioner’s radar. In fact, only 10 medical professionals in the U.S. hold the distinction.

This month, Laura Micek-Galinat, MD, MPH, FAAFP, DABOIM, CCMS, assistant director of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset Family Medicine Residency, and associate professor of Clinical Family Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, was awarded the certification after completing training at The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, according to a January 17 announcement.

Culinary medicine is a movement spearheaded by Dr. Timonthy Harlan, director of The Goldring Center. Medical students are taught about nutrition with an emphasis on cooking, so they can teach patients to maintain healthy diets and make healthy nutritional choices. The program also offers cooking classes and grocery shopping lessons, to help individuals and families improve their own health.

The Certified Culinary Medicine Specialist (CCMS) certification is provided solely by Tulane, and is accredited through the North American Center for Continuing Medical Education. To be eligible to take the CCMS exam and become certified, a candidate must be a physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, registered dietician, pharmacist, or certified diabetes instructor, and must hold an active certification in an American Board of Medical Specialties member board or osteopathic medicine equivalent. A minimum of 60 credit hours of approved nutrition education is also required, with at least 12 hours obtained by live hands-on participation at an approved culinary medicine teaching kitchen event.

Courses offered for the CCMS certification includes disease implications of diet, carbohydrates and nutrition, sports nutrition, and food allergy and intolerance, according to certification’s website. Those pursuing credit hours can choose from live kitchen modules, online learning, on-demand webcasts, live conferences, and online readings.

In 2015, Micek-Galinat was one of the first 100 physicians to become board certified in the discipline of integrative medicine. Additionally, Micek-Galinat completed an Integrative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Arizona’s Center of Integrative Medicine.

With certifications in culinary medicine and integrative medicine, providers will be able to offer integrative health and medicine that focus on each individual’s health needs, including optimizing health, preventing disease, and building resiliency in the process.

“Food is an integral part of our daily lives,” says Micek-Galinat. “As physicians, we realize that when patients are required to make dietary sacrifices because of health conditions, it is not easy for them. Culinary medicine is a practice that helps physicians teach their patients to look at food in a different way. Food should be enjoyed, but there are healthier ways of doing so. I believe it is part of our responsibility as medical professionals to help our patients through dietary change and give them concrete recommendations for leading healthier lives.”