Teaching Medical Students How Diet Affects Health

Saint Luke's Food As Medicine Everyday (FAME) program has extended its program to teach medical students from University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. 

When it comes to diet, most people know the basics.

Whole foods, including fruits and vegetables, are more nutritious than candy and chips.

The links between diet and disease are well documented, decisively showing that the incidence of cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease is generally higher in people who consume an unhealthy diet.

It adds up to billions of dollars a year in health care costs—and a sicker population.

Saint Luke's Food As Medicine Everyday (FAME) program was created to address these challenges through community-based nutrition education. The program was developed with the Food As Medicine Institute (FAMI), of which Saint Luke’s Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center is a founding member.

For many decades, nutrition has been treated as an afterthought in health care. Diets have traditionally been targeted at losing weight—not staying healthy. Perhaps most challenging is learning how to incorporate healthy eating into everyday life so that it’s not a chore, but a habit.

FAME teaches students the effects of nutrition on health, and how to make eating choices tailored to individual needs. Cooking demonstrations and hands-on activities allow students to put those principles into practice.

The program now is being expanded to include educating medical students.

As part of its partnership with University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, Saint Luke’s has broadened the FAME program to include a class aimed specifically at medical professionals. This newly expanded program is fully funded by the Saint Luke's Foundation.

During the course, students take an in-depth look at the effect of nutrition on health, practice adapting recipes using the FAME principles, and implement those principles in various case studies.

They also learn techniques and strategies for communicating effective nutrition information to patients.

With more than $500,000 in philanthropic support for this initiative, Saint Luke’s is currently the only organization offering such a program.

Students have given the course high marks.

"As physicians, our job is not only to treat disease, but also to prevent it,” one student said after taking the class. “The earlier in our careers that we can understand this concept, the sooner we will see change in the focus of our current health care system and disease prevention.”

The class is well-timed: In 2022, recognizing the overwhelming evidence of the connection between nutrition and health, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution calling to improve nutrition education among medical professionals, making them better equipped to treat patients holistically.

Learn more about how you can donate to this program.