Teaching Kitchen Staff
Program Director, Center for Culinary Medicine
Chef Leah Sarris
Chef Leah obtained her BS in Culinary Nutrition from the prestigious Johnson & Wales University, who is partnering with Tulane in this endeavor. Besides her schooling, her love of food, nutrition and agriculture stem from her past years spent teaching students and the community in the university and non-profit sectors; her work in agriculture through farming and involvement in the Farm to School program; and her experience working in the foodservice industry, in both the restaurant and manufacturing sectors. She is very enthusiastic and dedicated to the program at Tulane, and excited to be part of such a forward-thinking endeavor. To our knowledge, she is the first chef to be formally employed by a medical school.
As program director, Chef Leah spends a lot of time developing and teaching curriculum for medical students, the community and continuing education for the healthcare and foodservice industry. She is working continuously to build community partnerships with local and national organizations and to get students hands-on experience in community outreach, so they too can also understand the rewards and challenges of nutrition intervention.
Director of Research & Development
Dominique serves as Director of Research and Development for GCCM (New Orleans, LA), Chief Executive Officer for Global System Analytics & Structures (Rome, Italy), and Director of Global Systems Research for UNESCO’s Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights (Rome, Italy). A close family member’s diagnosis of a near fatal disease, worsened by a weak health system, redirected his passion for genetic engineering and artificial intelligence-based machine learning. He now uses Big Data+Business Strategy+Branding to reduce global health inequities by empowering his collaborators and clients on 5 continents to realize their missions. His research in biomedical informatics at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital and bioengineering at Brigham & Women’s Hospital shaped his larger research training in his first PhD in Global Health Management & Policy (Focus: Biomedical Informatics) and his second PhD in Bioethics (Focus: International Law). Dominique is an Ironman 70.3 triathlete and former collegiate rower coached by a 1984 US Olympic silver medalist. He dedicated his latest volume of poetry on poverty and beauty in healthcare, Neuroanatomy of a Lily, to his wife.
Teaching Kitchen Medical Student Club Leaders
President: James Flotken
Jimmy was born and raised just up the river in St. Louis, MO. He attended college at Tulane University where he graduated with a degree in Economics. After taking a year off to travel South America and study their health systems, Jimmy returned to New Orleans for medical school. He is interested in working in pediatrics and hopes that his joint MD/MPH helps him impact health policy and nutrition on a larger scale.
Vice-President: Daniel Birkhead
Danny was raised in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts and received his Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine in 2014. He then worked in clinical research for Prostate Cancer therapeutic trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City for two years before coming to Tulane University School of Medicine with a plan to go into Pediatrics. Danny is happy to call the Big Easy his new home as he is an avid lover of all things food and all things music.
Service Learning Coordinator: Steven Heer
Steven Heer grew up in Southern California, near Los Angeles. In high school, he founded a charity that picked fruit from neighborhood trees and donated it to local food banks and homeless shelters. He earned a degree in Biology and History from Duke University, graduating in 2016. While at Duke, he continued to be involved in food recovery efforts in Los Angeles, spending his summers volunteering with Food Forward. Steven chose Tulane because, when applying to medical schools, he wanted to continue to improve individuals’ diets and the Goldring Institute gave him that opportunity.
Secretary: John Callander
John grew up in San Francisco, CA. He graduated from University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Classical Studies and Mythology in 2013. Later he attended a post-bacc program at Mills College to complete his pre-med course work. While studying there, he created a healthy cooking and nutrition program for the Willie Mays Clubhouse of the Boys and Girls Club of SF. This fostered his interest in preventative medicine and using food as a treatment for illness. He choose Tulane School of Medicine because of its unique Culinary Medicine program at the Goldring Center which provides an amazing opportunity to be at the forefront of preventative care.
Treasurer: Kaley French
Kaley French grew up in Seattle, WA and graduated from Tulane University in 2017 with a degree in Cell and Molecular Biology. During her time at Tulane as an undergraduate, Kaley wrote and photographed for Spoon University, an online publication about food for university students. In her year before starting at Tulane School of Medicine, she volunteered as a youth tennis and literacy coach with the nonprofit organization, A’s & Aces, here in New Orleans. She is interested in the field of pediatric surgery.
Community Outreach Program Coordinator: Kaetan Vyas
Kaetan Vyas is from Philadelphia, Pa and graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Anthropology in 2013. As an undergraduate, Kaetan founded the Karesa Bari Community Garden in East Baltimore. In his year before starting at Tulane School of Medicine, Kaetan worked in high altitude research and worked to pass on the farm to the community. He is interested in pursuing a carreer in OB/GYN.
Kids Programming Coordinators:
Nayha Patel and Ofure Akhiwu
Nayha was born and raised in Hernando, MS, a small town near Memphis, TN. She graduated from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with a BA in art history in 2012. After college, she spent two years at the NIH doing orthopedic surgery research through the Postbac IRTA program and also completed her MS in physiology at Georgetown University before beginning medical school.
Ofure Akhiwu was born and raised in Nigeria. She attended Canisius College in Buffalo , New York for her undergrad where she studied psychology and took a year off to volunteer before starting her MD/MPH degree at Tulane. Ofure is interested in how different feeding behaviors affect health outcomes.