Helping hands

Med student leaders reach out to those in need in San Diego

SOMA and the SOMA Foundation held a culinary workshop during OMED 18 to teach physical and mental wellness through nutrition.

During the OMED 2018 conference, 25 osteopathic medical students from across the country traded in their textbooks for tinfoil and utilized their osteopathic hands for peeling, chopping, boiling and baking to feed 130 people in San Diego who are homeless.

The Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) and the SOMA Foundation held a “Cooking Up Courage” workshop, a culinary initiative that teaches physical and mental wellness through nutrition.

Designed by SOMA Chapter Leader Andrea Weir, OMS II, an osteopathic medical student and former chef with a culinary arts degree, the event fused food with health.

‘Art to medicine’

For osteopathic medical students, cooking and medicine are a natural match. Within the Hippocratic Oath, the physician promises to always “remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife.”

The art of medicine as described by Hippocrates means finding a balance between having the scientific skill to make a correct diagnosis and being able to connect with patients on a personal level. For many, practicing the art of medicine is what it means to be an osteopathic physician.

Justine Lazatin, OMS III

During SOMA’s work with its host, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), participating students had many meaningful interactions with the residents, but one left a lingering impression.

A young woman approached while the meal was being served. She explained that she had recently experienced the worst 36 hours of her life, but that the kindness of the volunteers and the meal had deep meaning for her. Bursting into tears, she embraced each student.

Three-fold purpose

The “Cooking Up Courage” workshop served a three-fold purpose: it provided a nutritious, well-balanced dinner to 130 San Diego residents who are homeless, encouraged SOMA members to bring the program to their own communities and helped students see how to incorporate nutrition into their future practices.

Counseling low-income patients about eating healthy on a budget is challenging, according to the program’s designer.

“Nutrition and food are too often overlooked in health care. Meanwhile, the majority of illnesses our patients present with have large contributions from diet and lifestyle,” said Weir, author of the “Cooking Up Courage” cookbook. “Keeping with one of our tenets in osteopathic medicine, our body is capable of self-healing, and diet is a huge way to influence how the body mends and maintains itself.”

The “Cooking Up Courage” recipe book is specifically tailored toward those in life crisis situations, with easy-to-prepare recipes that are nutritious, delicious and affordable. There are 25 recipes in the cookbook, including cherry chamomile iced tea; pork chops and cabbage slaw; fish sauté; and vegetarian lentil quinoa chili.

Pursue your passions

Activities like this emphasize the vast degree of diverse experiences that osteopathic medical students can offer patients. It also reminds us that we were all people with passions and hobbies before medical school became our identity.

SOMA encourages its members to stay true to their unique backgrounds and continue to find ways to use their passions to influence and improve the practice of medicine as we know it. Email them for more information about SOMA or for an electronic copy of the “Cooking Up Courage” recipe book and resources.

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