The Culinary Medicine Program at George Washington University

Leadership and Faculty

Kofi Essel, MD, MPH

George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Dr. Essel is a board-certified community pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Children’s National and The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (GWUSMHS). Dr. Essel also serves as the Director of the GWUSMHS Community/Urban Health Scholarly Concentration for medical students and is a contributor on the Clinical Public Health Leadership Team. He has over 10 years of experience in nutrition and obesity education. His advocacy work and research revolves around health care training, health disparities and community engagement, with a special interest and national recognition in the areas of addressing obesity and food insecurity in families.  Dr. Essel grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas.  He is happily married, has 2 children and loves cooking and spending time with his family.

Chef Kerri Dotson, RDN, LDN, Director of Operations and Executive Chef - George Washington University Culinary Medicine Program

Chef Kerri Dotson, RDN, LDN

Director of Operations & Executive Chef – George Washington University Culinary Medicine Program

Email: [email protected]

Chef/RD Kerri Dotson has worked in diverse areas of nutrition and foodservice industries including restaurants, critical care, public health, maternal health, outpatient counseling, and community nutrition since receiving her B.S. in Culinary Nutrition from Johnson & Wales University and completing her Dietetic Internship at Tulane University. Kerri Dotson recently joined The George Washington Culinary Medicine Program as Director of Operations and Executive Chef from Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine. She combines her passion for food and nutrition to develop and execute culinary medicine programming for medical students, medical professionals, and the community. Through this revolutionary and interdisciplinary program bridging culinary arts, science, nutrition and medicine, participants learn how to cook food that is affordable, healthful, easy to prepare, and most of all, delicious.

Jennifer Leon, BS, RDN, LN. Dietitian for the GW Cancer Center & GW Culinary Medicine

Jennifer Leon, BS, RDN, LN

Dietitian for the GW Cancer Center & GW Culinary Medicine

Ms. Leon provides nutrition education and counseling for patients treated at the GW Cancer Center. She works within each patient’s health history and current environment to use nutrition as prevention, treatment, and support.

She leads the Nutrition Club support group where nutrition topics are presented and good food is enjoyed. Before becoming a dietitian, Ms. Leon was a management consultant, focusing on higher education institutions and government organizations.

Jodie Balis, RD, Chef-Dietitian of GW Culinary Medicine

Jodie Balis, RD

Chef-Dietitian – GW Culinary Medicine

Ms. Balis and has worked in public health nutrition as a culinary instructor and dietitian for 18 years. She has worked within the nonprofit sector to develop and manage cooking and nutrition education programs for underserved communities.

Ms. Balis developed hundreds of low budget healthy recipes that were distributed throughout Giant Foods in the mid-Atlantic, and she has co-authored a cookbook highlighting healthy-budget friendly meals for the management and prevention of chronic diet-related diseases. She is currently also a wellness consultant, a personal chef, and a writer.

Lawrence Deyton, MSPH, MD; Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Public Health at George Washington UniversityLawrence Deyton, MSPH, MD

Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Public Health, George Washington University

As Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Public Health, Dr. Deyton is creating new curriculum and pedagogy for medical education to teach medical students the principles of public health, population health, and leadership in medical care and health systems decision-making. These are the tools that are required of clinicians who practice in 21st Century health care systems. Dr. Deyton is well-positioned to work with Dr. Harlan and the GW Culinary Medicine team to facilitate, lead, and catalyze discussions on the scalability of culinary medicine across the spectrum of health professional education.

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS, Executive Director - George Washington University Culinary Medicine Program

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS

Executive Director – George Washington University Culinary Medicine Program
Creative Adviser – Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine
Chairman – Culinary Medicine Specialist Board

Email: [email protected]

“Eating well and eating healthy is the same thing,” says Dr. Tim Harlan, aka Dr. Gourmet, who discovered his love of food long before embarking on a successful career as a physician. By the age of 18, Harlan was managing his first restaurant and had learned cooking techniques from some of the finest chefs. He subsequently opened an intimate French bistro at age 22.

Returning to school to pursue a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, Dr. Harlan found his way to medicine. While completing his degree at Emory University School of Medicine, he began writing about the clear link between food and health, blending his extensive knowledge of food and nutrition with his medical expertise.

Culinary Medicine Programming

Medical Student Programming

The Culinary Medicine elective is offered during the fall and spring semester to third- and fourth-year medical students and provides students the skills  to teach patients how to incorporate healthy eating for the prevention and treatment of disease by altering their diets, meal preparation and food choices. The Culinary Medicine elective using the Health meets Food programming.

The eight-module Health meets Food core programming is offered as an elective to 3rd and 4th year medical students during the Spring semester each year.  The course was first offered in 2017.  Two cohorts of 16 students in each two-week elective for a total of 32 students each year.

Media Coverage


Funding is through the Clinical Public Health programming.