I love the New York Times!  Long, well researched and thoughtful articles continue to make this on and off line publication the best.

Here is an example of just that–an excellent article I saved from last month discussing how weak medical schools are at teaching nutrition:

Teaching Doctors About Nutrition and Diet

By PAULINE W. CHEN, M.D.
Published: September 16, 2010
Toni Cenicola/The New York Times

Each and every time someone posed such a query, I became immediately cognizant of one thing: the big blank space in my brain. After all, even with medical school acceptance in hand, I was no more a doctor than they were.

But I also soon realized that many of their questions had nothing to do with medications or operations, or even diseases. With all the newspaper and television reports about newly discovered carcinogens and the latest diets and miracle nutrients, what my friends and acquaintances really wanted to know was just what they should or should not eat.

Years later, as a newly minted doctor on the wards seeing real patients, I found myself in the same position. I was still getting a lot of questions about food and diet. And I was still hesitating when answering. I wasn’t sure I knew that much more after medical school than I did before.

One day I mentioned this uncomfortable situation to another young doctor. “Just consult the dietitians if you have a problem,” she said after listening to my confession. “They’ll take care of it.” She paused for a moment, looked suspiciously around the nursing station, then leaned over and whispered, “I know we’re supposed to know about nutrition and diet, but none of us really does.”

She was right. And nearly 20 years later, she may still be.

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.


Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill asked nutrition educators from more than 100 medical schools to describe the nutrition instruction offered to their students. While the researchers learned that almost all schools require exposure to nutrition, only about a quarter offered the recommended 25 hours of instruction, a decrease from six years earlier, when almost 40 percent of schools met the minimum recommendations. In addition, four schools offered nutrition optionally, and one school offered nothing at all. And while a majority of medical schools tended to intersperse lectures on nutrition in standard, required courses, like biochemistry or physiology, only a quarter of the schools managed to have a single course dedicated to the topic.

“Nutrition is really a core component of modern medical practice,” said Kelly M. Adams, the lead author and a registered dietitian who is a research associate in the department of nutrition at the university. “There may be some pathologists or other kinds of doctors who don’t encounter these issues later, but many will, and they aren’t getting enough instruction while in medical school.”

For the last 15 years, to help schools with their nutrition curriculum, the University of North Carolina has offered a series of instruction modules free of charge. Initially delivered by CD-ROM and now online, the program, Nutrition in Medicine, is an interactive multimedia series of courses covering topics like the molecular mechanism of cancer nutrition, pediatric obesity, dietary supplements and nutrition in the elderly.

“Physicians have enough barriers trying to provide their patients with nutritional counseling,” Ms. Adams said. “Inadequate nutritional education does not need to be one of them.”

Ms. Adams and her colleagues believe that the fully developed online curriculum helps address two issues that frequently arise: the relative dearth of faculty in a medical school with appropriate expertise and the lack of time in an already packed course of study.

Much, much more at:  Teaching Doctors About Nutrition and Diet.

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat

Leave a Reply