Dr. Melinda RingMy name is Melinda Ring, and I’m the director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern University. In 2016, a partnership between the Osher Center and the nonprofit organization Common Threads led to the creation of Cooking Up Health, a culinary medicine course for health professionals. Culinary medicine blends the art of cooking with the science of medicine, and we’re teaching the next generation of doctors that culinary medicine is a much better alternative to pills and prescriptions.

Three out of five adults in the United States have a chronic disease like arthritis or heart disease, and up to 80% of those diseases could be prevented with a healthy diet and lifestyle. In fact, the number one risk factor around the globe for premature death is an unhealthy diet. In this regard, medical schools can certainly do a lot more. The most recent comprehensive survey of medical schools in the United States shows that 71% of them provide less than the recommended 25 hours of nutrition education, and 36% provide less than half that amount. That means over the course of four years of medical school, a student will have more than 3,000 hours of learning dedicated to allergies, cardiology, pharmacology, and pathology, and less than 20 on nutrition.

Cooking Up Health for Yourself

At Northwestern University, our team is part of an international movement dedicated to making culinary medicine a primary part of medical training.

The good news is that culinary medicine is not just for doctors. It extends beyond a diagnostic approach to dietary recommendations to focus on personalized and practical prescriptions to help patients address the root causes of their illnesses. It addresses the mind-body, or brain-gut, components of mindful eating and the importance of connection and ritual through food. Perhaps, most importantly, culinary medicine views the patient as healers, acknowledging their own culture, preferences, and goals. Instead of simply telling patients what they should eat, culinary medicine gives patients the skills to prepare the food that will make them heal.

I encourage clinicians to explore how they can implement culinary medicine into their practice. Intrinsic to integrative and functional medicine is the idea that providers should model behaviors for their patients. After all, there’s no better way to impress upon patients that you believe in the power of the plate than by swapping the stethoscope for a skillet.

What we’ve learned from teaching more than 500 physicians is that culinary medicine can indeed help patients be their own best first doctor. Here are three easy ways they can use culinary medicine, which I discussed in a recent TED Talk:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. If we don’t eat plants, we can’t help our health, no matter what diet we subscribe to. Plants are rich in phytonutrients that fight all the root causes of disease. Besides fighting inflammation, they support a healthy gut microbiome and help the body fight cancer-causing compounds.
  • Prepare food in advance. Peel and slice fruits and vegetables, or buy pre-packaged, pre-cut fruit and vegetables, then put them at eye level in the refrigerator so they’re the first thing you see when reaching for a snack.
  • Make fruits and vegetables half of every plate at mealtimes, whether at home, at a restaurant, or pulling through a drive-through.

If done daily, these simple steps can deliver a wealth of tangible health benefits, helping patients feel better, recover from illness faster, and live longer.

Melinda Ring, MD, is a Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Medicine® (ABOIM®).


Save the Date
House of Delegates & Annual Scientific Meeting
Innovation & Overcoming Challenges
June 10-15, 2022
Patient Care Is Our Priority

Medical organizations throughout North America understand that our rigorous certification standards prove that ABPS Diplomates are capable of delivering the best patient care possible.

On October 18, 2007, President George W. Bush released Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), calling on our nation, among other initiatives, to “collectively support and facilitate the establishment of a discipline of disaster health”. It is a great testament to the wisdom and foresight of the American Board of Physician Specialties that it immediately set to work and created, within the short span of only one year, an educational blueprint and set of certification examinations, both written and oral, for a new subspecialty of disaster medicine—and it is why I chose to be part this vital initiative and this wonderful organization. This is but one of the many innovative programs initiated by the American Board of Physician Specialties over the years, and why I am proud to support its work on behalf of our nation’s public health.

Art Cooper, MD
Disaster Medicine
When the American Board of Physician Specialties offered to host the American Board of Integrative Medicine, ABPS became a landmark organization working to move medicine into the twenty first century. Certifying physicians who have completed rigorous academic training in Integrative Medicine ensures that the field of Integrative Medicine will continue to develop academically, clinically, and professionally. The leadership of ABPS continues to impress me - they are diligent in constantly innovating to provide certifications for physicians who want to advance their careers and their areas of expertise. I am honored to be a part of this organization.

Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
Integrative Medicine
There are many ways board certification advances a physician career. ABPS Board examination verifies your accuracy, precision, and reflects your mastery of your residency training verifying your expertise. ABPS Board certification demonstrates your level of expertise beyond your practice experience, primary education degrees, and training which are necessary for insurance reimbursement and practice privilege requirements. Attaining your ABPS Board Certification will clarify your purpose, secure your practice growth, and expand into leadership positions. Board certification can serve as an indication of a physician’s commitment to medicine, beyond the minimal standards and competency of training, their measurement to quality of care, and attaining an award for excellence.

Chris Kunis MD
Internal Medicine
When I think historically, advancement in medicine and patient safety and care has been driven by the diversity of people and scientific thought. That’s what I found at the ABPS and more. For over 60 years that is just who we are. I found a physician certifying body that provides a choice and voice to all physicians ensuring that patients are always placed first.

Jerry Allison, MD
Emergency Medicine
When I decided to pursue a full time role as a physician executive it was important to me to obtain additional professional training, education and work experience. Board certification through the ABPS in Administrative Medicine is validation of my efforts and a demonstration of dedication to professional development. We need more physicians to become full time health care executives, knowing there is a board certification option in Administrative Medicine encourages physicians to take the leap from full time clinical practice to healthcare organizational leadership.

Richard Paula, MD
Administrative Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of internal medicine through board certification. As a hospitalist, board certification is an expected credential, and hospitals recognize the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) as one of the three standard credentialling bodies for Internal Medicine. Additionally, the ABPS has helped me develop leadership skills as a Board member and Committee Chairperson. ABPS has also helped me sharpen critical thinking skills as a test question developer and reviewer. The Allopathic (MD) and Osteopathic (DO) physicians in the ABPS are lifelong learners and frequently pursue multiple board certifications. I enjoy the camaraderie of my peers in ABPS.

Loren Jay Chassels, DO
Internal Medicine