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Two years ago, the New York Times’ Dr. Pauline Chen wrote a highly-cited column. In it, she called on medical schools to make nutrition education a larger part of their curriculum so that future physicians can better address their patients’ health needs:

Research has increasingly pointed to a link between the nutritional status of Americans and the chronic diseases that plague them. Between the growing list of diet-related diseases and a burgeoning obesity epidemic, the most important public health measure for any of us to take may well be watching what we eat.

But few doctors are prepared to effectively spearhead or even help in those efforts. In the mid-1980s, the National Academy of Sciences published a landmark report highlighting the lack of adequate nutrition education in medical schools; the writers recommended a minimum of 25 hours of nutrition instruction. Now, in a study published this month, it appears that even two and a half decades later a vast majority of medical schools still fail to meet the minimum recommended 25 hours of instruction.

Since Chen’s column was published, several medical schools have taken steps to bridge emerging doctors’ nutrition knowledge gap. Schweitzer Leadership Award winner John McDonough blogged about the subject for Boston.com last week. And today, NOLA.com reported that Tulane Medical School is implementing a new curriculum designed to teach medical students about nutrition:

‘Most doctors like me know nothing about nutrition,’ said Dr. Benjamin Sachs, the medical school’s dean. ‘We lecture our patients to lose weight, and we have no idea how to prepare food. This is designed to teach future doctors about nutrition through culinary science.’

The curriculum for first-year med students—the first of its kind for a U.S. medical school—is an innovative partnership between Tulane and Johnson & Wales University:

Students from the school, which has four campuses, will come to New Orleans to teach medical students how to cook and to learn about some of the medical aspects of cooking, such as cooking for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, lowering the risk of food allergies and preparing culturally sensitive meals that also are nutritious, said Dr. Timothy Harlan, a Tulane internist.

It’s a great step in the movement to develop doctors who understand the crucial linkages between what we eat, why we eat it, and how it impacts our health and well-being. This fall, we’ll be announcing our 2012-13 class of New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows — and as you’ll see, our new Schweitzer Fellows from Tulane will also play a role in that movement. Stay tuned.