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Why I worked with a chef & doctor to create a revolutionary new program in culinary medicine

A creative dietitian, with a lot of passion and a ton of hard work, helps create a culinary medicine course in a matter of months!

AL-HS1-(1).jpgAngel Luk, BSc, RD is a registered dietitian with the College of Dietitians of BC and a member of Dietitians of Canada and SportMedBC. She has been working as a clinical dietitian within Vancouver Coastal Health since 2012 in a variety of settings. She is the author of You Can't Out-Train a Bad Diet - The Simplest Guidebook in Performance Nutrition for Every Athlete, due to be published in 2016. Since joining the Richmond Olympic Oval in 2014, Angel has worked with athletes at the community, provincial, and national level. While Angel specializes in sport nutrition, she has simultaneously pursued her passion for preventative health by co-creating a hands-on course: The Physician in the Kitchen. The goal of the course is to assist physicians and allied health professionals to provide earlier and evidence based nutrition interventions. Connect with Angel on Twitter @FoodMysteries or LinkedIn.


I know I am “preaching to the choir” here, but for the sake of argument, let me ask this question, “What if nutrition interventions were put into action earlier and more proactively?” If we agree that preventative health is crucial, how do we achieve this to a greater degree and increase our reach? Moreover, why isn’t more being done to prevent the growing number of hospital admissions for conditions with a significant nutritional component in the first place?
I have had the pleasure of working with some of the finest physicians I believe the world will ever know. My experience working with Vancouver Coastal Health has led to a multitude of collaborative opportunities with doctors to provide the best patient care, mostly in inpatient settings.
While working in the clinical world, days turned into months, months turned into years, and before I knew it, three years had passed since I graduated. During the last year or so, I’ve found myself asking the question, “How do we keep more people from being admitted to the hospital?”

I like working with inpatients and there is satisfaction in improving their nutrition status post admission, but so many patients are admitted each year for conditions where the diet plays an integral role. These patients could’ve made positive changes way before landing in the emergency room.
When a member of the general public gets sick, they don’t make an appointment with a dietitian. Most people go see their family physician or specialist for treatment and advice. Physicians are the first point of contact to provide a nutrition intervention, if warranted, before a dietitian ever gets consulted, if at all.
The truth about medical training
The evidence is overwhelming that there is a deficiency of nutrition education in medical training. Only a relatively small percentage of physicians currently use nutrition-related resources in their clinical practices, and continuing education initiatives targeted at physicians to enhance nutrition education are desperately needed.
It wasn’t until a fellow dietitian introduced me to Dr. Karlinsky that I had the opportunity to discuss my concerns with a physician in an intentional and meaningful way. During my initial meetings with him, he was very candid and humble in confirming that, at least in his own experience, there was very little nutrition education built into his medical program. Dr. Karlinsky identified a need for this training that was indisputable.
The only question remaining was: How do we design a program that engages doctors in a fresh and fun way and also provides them with continuing education credits (so there’s more incentive to attend)?
Colouring outside the lines

At our very first meeting on an early Saturday morning back on March 7, 2015, we identified what our individual strengths and weaknesses were and how they would (or wouldn’t) serve the target population’s learning needs and objectives. We also reviewed successful models of the creative approach we aspired to emulate, most notably of all the culinary medicine program at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA.
It didn’t take long before we agreed that in order for us to focus on our strengths (medicine and nutrition), we needed to invite a professional instructor to teach the culinary objectives and deliver the food demonstrations.
We met Chef Tony while looking for a venue that could host our program. He echoed the need for better food and nutrition education for physicians, for both the sake of the greater population, as well as the health of physicians themselves. (Oh, and Tony’s state-of-the-art professional culinary school, the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver, won us over as well.)

The pieces slowly began to fit together and before long, Dr.Karlinsky, Chef Tony, and I had designed an innovative workshop that invites two way communication and discussion amongst the “lecturers” and students. We decided to name the workshop The Physician in the Kitchen. Each session integrates evidence-based nutrition information, chef-led demonstrations, and hands-on kitchen work in a communal and interactive learning environment, with the goal of educating physicians (and allied health professionals and students).
Keep moving forward

After a lot of planning and hard work, our first culinary medicine workshop will be held in mid-November! While it is our sincere intention to create positive change by sharing this concept, no one can tell the future. However, I am very excited to see how this program grows and evolves over time.

My hope for this program is that physicians will feel comfortable enough after this training to provide basic diet education to their patients and give them reliable, consumer friendly handouts (e.g. from PEN, Dietitians of Canada, or HealthLinkBC). In the long term, I hope this program leads to more physicians understanding the important work that dietitians, working in all different areas (clinical, community, private practice, food service), do each day. And perhaps, the spotlight on nutrition that this program provides will foster more interest in this area, as well as an increase in physician referrals to dietitians. I’m also excited to see the outcome of this close collaboration between a physician and dietitian.
I can only imagine how different the world will be when physicians are better equipped with nutrition knowledge to use as part of their toolbox in improving the health of their patients. Maybe, just maybe, it will lead to shorter emergency room wait times, fewer hospital admissions, and a healthier population that enjoys a higher quality of life.

Editor's note: For many dietitians, educating members of the healthcare team about our diverse and unique roles is an important part of advocating for our profession. Angel's program is a unique example of this.

Have you taken the initiative to educate other healthcare professionals about our role as dietitians? Tell us about your experience!

Please share your thoughts or question for Angel below in the comments section.


  1. @Tracy - great question! Please visit to see a listing of the nutrition objectives :)

    For this introduction, I've chosen topics based on the most common physician referrals I receive as an outpatient dietitian in Richmond as part of Vancouver Coastal Health. We figured a brief highlighting of these topics would engage the target audience the most.
  2. Definitely an interesting undertaking that is exciting!

    Can I just ask out of curiosity for an example of a topic you will cover? I know you said you will provide evidence based information and so forth, but I'm curious to know what type of information/topic you will teach them about (at least for this initial session). Will you do it by looking at a disease/health issue - for example - managing cholesterol? Or what did you guys decide is most practical in terms of information sharing?
  3. @Jacky - Thank you! Your perspective is definitely a unique one shared by the few who have pursed both dietetics and medicine. It would be so lovely to connect one day with you and Dr.Karlinsky together. Will keep you posted on pursing collaboration with UBC's medicine program. In the meantime, we just want to humbly go through the pilot sessions and improve it for the future in 2016.

    Think big. Start small. Get feedback. Keep moving forward :) I hope it's a mantra that serves us well.
  4. This is really cool! Having been a graduate of the dietetics program at VCH and currently a UBC family medicine resident, I got to see first hand how little nutrition education we get in our training. So far in my residency training (4 months in), there hasn't been much emphasis on nutrition and I am sure that most of my colleagues would be interested in a program like this.

    I agree with Evelyn that this would be a really great way for residents and dietetic interns to team up for their scholar projects (i would personally be interested in learning more about it myself). Currently, I am doing my training in the Victoria site but would be happy to connect you with other UBC residents/faculty.
  5. Wow. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share such lovely feedback! I've since shared this encouragement with Dr.Karlinsky, who echoes my deep appreciation for you all sharing our enthusiasm for this program.

    @ Evelyn - Yes we do have an evaluation form about to be finalized. And absolutely, I'd love to discuss about future collaborations. Perhaps if you don't mind waiting until our initial sessions (Nov 14 & 25, 2015) are complete, so that we have a clearer picture of future directions?

    @Nicole - I would love to collaborate! And as mentioned to Evelyn, would you mind waiting until closer to December? Or in your case, we can wait until next year :) I'm always open to grabbing a coffee for an informal talk during your maternity leave though, only if you want to.

    @Jayne - Thank you for the encouragement! It means so much to me to have colleagues approve of my work.

    @Andrea - Thank you so much! And absolutely! I'll make a request to submit a new post sometime in winter or perhaps spring 2016. :)

    Thank you all again! Feel free to contact me anytime at or visit for updates or comments!
  6. Great idea - from conceptualization, to team development, to implementation, and inclusion of mainpro credits for continuing education! As a person who works with family medicine residency training, and given family physicians are usually the first point of care in primary care, I agree that innovative approaches to nutrition education for physicians is important. I hope you promote your course through UBC's continuing education program along with the other course options for continuing medical training for physicians. Have you considered an evaluation for your program? If interested, perhaps this could form the basis of a medical resident and/or dietetic intern research/scholar project (or team project), as this is a requirement in both program curriculums. I'd be happy to help connect you with others if this is desired Angel. Thanks for sharing.

    Evelyn Cornelissen, RD, PhD
  7. I agree, this is fabulous! Good for you to tackle this important area in such an innovative way. Please keep us posted on how the workshop goes.

    I've just gone on maternity leave but before I left, I'd been working on increasing physician awareness of nutrition resources and supports in BC (including DC, Healthlink and our own BC Dairy general nutrition education resources). My colleague delivered a nutrition talk for the UBC residents just recently and it was really well received. We're hoping to set up another talk soon. There's clearly interest and a need.

    I wonder if there's a way for some of us to work together on this? Although on my end it wouldn't be for another year!

  8. Great article Angel. Good for you for reaching out in a collaborative way to create an innovative program. I can't wait to learn how it is received. Best of luck and thanks for sharing.

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