The Culinary Medicine Program at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center

The Culinary Medicine Program at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Leadership and Faculty of the Culinary Medicine Program at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Susan Warner, MD, CCMS, Director of The Culinary Medicine Program at The University of Tennessee Health Science CenterSusan Warner, MD, CCMS

Director UTHSC Southwestern Culinary Medicine Program
Culinary Medicine Program Director, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Education, University of Tennessee Health Science Center

As a pathologist, I have spent many years studying disease processes and more recently nutrition as a prevention for many chronic diseases. It was not until 2013 that I discovered the translational Culinary Medicine program at Tulane School of Medicine while attending an alumni event in New Orleans with my husband. It then became my mission to bring this program that teaches evidence-based nutrition in terms of real and delicious food to the University of Tennessee College of Medicine and Memphis.  Culinary Medicine combines medical training, long-term interest in nutrition, and passion for cooking into a unique professional tool set. “Food is medicine, health, and life sustaining,” and I am passionate about sharing this message with medical students, residents, and practicing physicians as well as the Memphis community at large to facilitate better health and lasting change.

Dr. Warner was certified as a Culinary Medicine Specialist July 2016 and graduated from a 13-month professional culinary arts program to become a chef MD in 2018. In 2016, she helped to pilot the Culinary Medicine Program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and was instrumental in bringing the program to Church Health Wellness in Memphis where she has volunteered to teach culinary medicine to medical residents.  Currently, she has an Assistant Clinical Professor appointment with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Medicine and serves as the Program Director for Culinary Medicine teaching second- and fourth-year medical students and residents.

Over the last two years, Dr. Warner has given multiple culinary medicine presentations to both professional and non-profit organizations, taught private classes in the community as SeasonedMD™, and been a part of the teaching staff for the Health meets Food conference and other CME courses.  Because of a strong belief in the importance of giving back to the community, Dr. Warner has been a long-time community volunteer serving on various non-profit boards as well as the advisory board for Culinary Medicine Specialists certification through the Culinary Medicine Specialist Board.

Joan Han, MD, a faculty member of the Culinary Medicine Program at the University of Tennessee Health Science CenterJoan Han, MD

Since my arrival at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in July 2014, I have established a multidisciplinary weight management program at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital for children with common and rare forms of obesity that integrates patient care and research investigations with the aim of developing personalized treatments based on individual genetic and phenotypic characteristics. The goal of my translational research program is to gain insight into the neuroendocrine regulation of human energy homeostasis and cognitive function.

My clinical studies focus on the genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors that influence the development of obesity and responses to obesity treatments. I study both general forms of obesity as well as rare genetic disorders associated with obesity and intellectual, psychiatric, or behavioral abnormalities. During my 10 years at the NIH, I developed expertise in providing clinical care and conducting metabolic/neurocognitive research for patients with Alström, Bardet-Biedl, and Prader-Willi syndromes, hypothalamic injury-related obesity, and monogenic defects of the leptin signaling pathway, including LEPR, POMC, and MC4R mutations. The focus of my laboratory investigations is elucidation of the mechanisms by which these genetic variants alter metabolism and neurodevelopment.

Nancy Kistler, of the Culinary Medicine Program at The University of Tennessee Health Science CenterNancy Kistler

Nancy Kistler is a chef and consummate lover of all things food. Nancy has lived the food life as an Executive Chef, restaurant general manager and partner, director of wine, creator and operator of a pre-eminent catering company, a Founder and director of the Memphis Food and Wine Festival as well as a Viking cooking school director and Food Network and print food stylist. Nancy currently serves as the Catering and Event Director for French Master Chef Jose Gutierrez’s River Oaks Restaurant and as a Culinary Medicine culinary instructor.

Lindsey Grant, MS, of The Culinary Medicine Program at The University of Tennessee Health Science CenterLindsey Grant, MS

Lindsey Grant graduated from Mississippi State University in 2013 with a Master’s in Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion. Lindsey has been assisting within the UTHSC Culinary Medicine Program for 4 years, and has over 3 years experience as a health director in chronic health management of patients and clinical health programming. She is a current PhD. Student at the University of Memphis studying Social and Behavioral Sciences in Public Health with a focus on community nutrition research and worksite wellness. Lindsey served at the 2019 Health meets Food:  The Culinary Medicine Conference in New Orleans, LA, and her passion for nutrition continues to grow and be shared amongst medical students and staff.

Chef Josh House of The Culinary Medicine Program at The University of Tennessee Health Science CenterChef Josh House

Chef House is a graduate of Purdue University and has nearly 20 years of culinary experience serving as an executive chef, owner of a catering business, catering coordinator for a large food services firm, and culinary instructor for a professional school of culinary arts offering both certificate and associate degrees in culinary arts. Currently he serves as the managing chef for Baptist Memorial Hospital – Memphis. In 2017 he was Instructor of the Year at L’ecole Culinaire. His love and enthusiasm for teaching culinary medicine is evident and confirmed by the medical students and residents he teaches.

Culinary Medicine Programming at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Culinary Medicine was originally offered to a group of 16 medical students without credit in 2016 (second-year students only) and again in 2017 (first- and second-year students) under the direction of Dr. Joan Han and Healthy Lifestyle Clinic team. Together with three second-year medical students, “the heroes of starting the program on campus,” they held the first series of eight classes in a donated space teaching kitchen space in the Junior League of Memphis Community Resource Center. Students were so enthusiastic that there was nearly perfect attendance at all the classes (the only reason one student missed one of the classes was for his own surgery). In 2017, with some private funding, the teaching kitchen at Church Health was used for UTHSC faculty to teach a second group of first- and second-year students as well as a community series where the trained students and faculty together taught community members.

In 2018, the Department of Medical Education offered a month elective with credit for a limited number of fourth-year students which consisted of students completing the online eight basic modules with faculty review, volunteering in the community classes offered by Church Health, and learning hands-on culinary skills around the Dr. Warner’s home kitchen island. This was the first time that Culinary Medicine was offered for academic credit.

The program has been well received by the students with waiting lists for spots and has grown to the current state listed below:

Second Year Medical Students

With a team of culinary instructors, registered dietitians, subspecialty faculty and chef MD, a group of 16 medical students are taught technique based Culinary Medicine using the Health meets Food curriculum. The guest faculty helping to lead the modules with a schedule of visiting sub-specialists adds richness to each of the module’s topics. The stated goal of the program is to raise nutrition and culinary skills for medical students’ own health and well-being, and to equip them with the ability to communicate nutrition principles in terms of real and healthful food. “We are trying to train the trainers, who can then become as healthcare leaders and force multipliers for better health across Tennessee and practicing role models of healthier lifestyles themselves.”

The course consists of 8 modules, six of which are hand-on and taught in the on-campus refurbished “ex-cafeteria” kitchen of the Student Alumni Center. For the other two modules in the basic series, the online components are completed, and the course ends with dinner in the home of faculty for discussion and case exercise review. Since only sixteen slots are currently available, a lottery had to be used because so many students wanted to take the class this past fall.

An additional 3 hours credit may be earned by the students who have completed the second-year basic elective and wish to sign up for a more community-based elective facilitating culinary medicine and healthy cooking and nutrition classes in the underserved community. This is UTHSC College of Medicine faculty supervised Culinary Medicine in the community at various partner sites.

Fourth Year Medical Students

As stated above, in 2018, the College of Medicine Department of Medical Education began offering Culinary Medicine as one-month elective to fourth year medical students. This current year (February – April 2020) the number of spots in the elective has grown from two to four per month session or block. The students will complete the eight core modules of the Health meets Food curriculum and spend time in the Healthy Lifestyle Clinic with Dr. Han and her team. In addition, they will help teach and facilitate the community class series which is being offered to the UTHSC faculty and staff (see Community below for more details). They are now taught in the on-campus Student Alumni Center kitchen.

Residency Programming

Culinary Medicine programming using the Health meets Food Curriculum has been offered to multispecialty medical residents by the UTHSC Graduate Medical Education Office since 2017 and has been a joint effort of the Culinary Medicine program faculty and Church Health. Going forward in 2020, Culinary Medicine classes will be offered twice a month during the academic year with more basic core modules in the fall and condition and disease specific modules following in the spring.

The UTHSC Culinary Medicine Program will provide the oversight and teaching team for the residents with the support of Church Health in their beautiful state of art Teaching Kitchen at Crosstown. Limited additional on-site classes will be available on a smaller scale in the Healthy Lifestyle teaching kitchen at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital for those residents rotating there.

Fellowship Programming

None as of yet.

Intercollegiate Programming

Quality Enhancement Program (QEP) is a multi-year commitment that will focus on the Social Determinants of Health and student training. Knowing that social and economic factors can interfere with a person’s ability to remain healthy and access to healthy food is an important factor, culinary medicine training has a role in training students. QEP and Culinary Medicine Program will offer an intercollegiate basic culinary medicine program on campus to interested students from different disciplines.

The classes will be taught much like those described for the second-year medical students in fall of 2019. The goals include teaching students to take better care of themselves, intercollegiate interaction, and training them to take the knowledge of healthful food choices and better food access to the community as service to those in areas of food insecurity.

Community Programming

Beginning in February 2020, the culinary medicine community curriculum will be offered weekly not only to medical students and residents, but to faculty and staff of the university at no charge.

These classes filled within about 24 hours of the online offering and will be taught by faculty, culinary instructors, and the fourth-year medicine students training in culinary medicine. They are being offered as part of a campus-wide wellness initiative that includes a new UTHSC Mind Body Wellness Center.

Media Coverage

Culinary Medicine Program Builds Nutrition IQ for Med Students; Now Extended to Faculty and Staff


There is growing interest and support for Culinary Medicine at UTHSC reflecting a global movement for food, cooking, and wellness. Getting to this point has taken much team effort.

Presently using a commercial cafeteria kitchen that has been adapted and located in the center of heart of campus. This has been made possible by the generosity and vision of Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, UTHSC’s executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer.


State Tennessee Department of Health, Project Diabetes – $30 K over two years which covers the costs of support staff, culinary instructors, small equipment and supplies including food for all medical student and community classes.


The Culinary Medicine Program has been well received with more demand than spots available. The challenge is growing the program quickly enough to meet the demand of faculty, staff, and students with limited kitchen availability and funding.

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