PCOM Chef Manager: Improving Health One Dish at a Time

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Tuesday, June 11th, 2024

In a room full of spices, herbs and knives, 11 second-year medical students came together to learn the benefits of cooking at home from David Green, PCOM Chef Manager, in PCOM South Georgia’s culinary medicine course June 6-9. 

The four-day elective class included nutrition and biochemical topics taught by Joanne Kakaty-Monzo, DO ’97, academic chair of PCOM’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, with Brandy Sreenilayam, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry & cellular genetics and assistant dean of assessments, to go along with the cooking lessons. 

The first class focused on students learning how to prepare taco dishes with different nutritional values to demonstrate how to select healthier food options. 

From chopping up fresh green lettuce and caramelizing white onions to simmering black beans and squeezing fresh lime onto finished entrees, every participant had a full hands-on experience in the kitchen. 

One student’s request to borrow a sauce from a classmate was met with a joking retort.

“Hey, this is a competition,” said Caleb Seward (DO ’27) with a laugh. “We’re not supposed to be sharing sauces.”

Dr. Kakaty-Monzo explained that beef, chicken and beans are all great protein options for tacos, but seasoning the protein can make a difference in a person's day-to-day sodium intake. Although both the store-bought taco seasoning mix and the homemade taco seasoning mix had identical taste, the store-bought mix had significantly more sodium.

After these lessons, Dr. Sreenilayam said she hopes students remember the incremental changes they can use with their future patients to make meals healthier while still being budget friendly.

Student Erin Andrews (DO ’27) chose to participate in this course because she wanted to learn about different ways to help her future patients.

 “I thought it would be interesting to learn how to treat different medical maladies with food, like learning that you can help people with hypertension by reducing sodium, and finding tasty recipes because sometimes people think [healthy food] doesn’t taste good,” she said. 

Sabirah Smith (DO ’27) plans to add some of her new discoveries into everyday life. 

“I definitely see myself incorporating this into my lifestyle,” she said. “Everything you eat doesn’t have to have the highest amount of sodium for it to taste good. You can add dry spices, you can add herbs…It’s easy to eat out fast, but it’s definitely healthier to whip up a meal in the kitchen.”