The Culinary Medicine Program at Penn State University

The Culinary Medicine Program at Penn State University

Leadership and Faculty

culinary medicine penn stateTomi Dreibelbis, MEd

Senior Director, Educational Affairs, Penn State College of Medicine
Instructor, Department of Public Health Sciences
Division of Health Services and Behavioral Research

Reporting and working directly with the Vice Dean for Educational Affairs at the Penn State College of Medicine, Ms. Dreibelbis is part of the Penn State College of Medicine Education Leadership Team.  The Education Leadership Team provides strategic direction for the education mission, defines and articulates the area’s vision and mission to assure integration across the education initiatives.  Tomi oversees, recruits and hires staff; develops and guides strategic relationships and partnerships with internal and external entities and maintains relationships with national and state accrediting bodies to ensure ongoing accreditation.  She provides leadership and support for local, regional, national and international activities implemented by staff and educational partners.

Ms. Dreibelbis is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University with a B.S. in Nutrition Science and a M.Ed. in Health Education. Tomi’s faculty appointment is through the Department of Public Health Sciences. She has a strong background in health education leadership, serving in leadership roles in local, state and national public health education programs.

Dr. Michael Flanagan

Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Penn State College of Medicine
Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine
Professor, Department of Humanities

Dr. Flanagan graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1987. He works in State College, PA and 1 other location and specializes in Family Medicine. Dr. Flanagan is affiliated with Penn State Milton S Hershey Medical Center and Mount Nittany Medical Center.

Chef Dave Gurdus

Manager, Multi Service Operations
Sodexo Health Care Services at UPMC Pinnacle Anesthesia Services LLC

A graduate of the Culinary Arts program at Johnson and Wales (Providence, RI) University, Chef Gurdus began his professional career as sauté chef at the award winning Fox and Hounds restaurant in Colt’s Neck , New Jersey in 1985. After a move to Norwalk then Danbury CT, Chef Dave was named Executive Chef and Food and Beverage Manager for the Holiday Inn, Danbury. A transfer with that organization led him to the Executive Chef position at the Sheraton Jetport Hotel in Allentown PA. After a few years in hotels, Dave took a position as Chef at The Fenwick Tavern and Restaurant in Lebanon PA, where he ran the kitchen for 3.5 years.

Chef Dave’s next assignment was as Executive Chef and eventually Corporate Food and Beverage Manager for an independent restaurant group in Lebanon, SPL Restaurants. During his 9 years there, Chef Dave guided the development of 3 restaurants and a high volume catering operation. Since 2006 Dave has been the Executive Chef and now is the Operations Manager for Sodexo Healthcare Services at PinnacleHealth System, Harrisburg. In this position Chef Gurdus, along with a dedicated team of chefs, cooks, servers and registered dieticians, manages the production and quality standards for the delivery of approximately 900 patient meals each day plus 3 additional retail venues within the main campus of Harrisburg Hospital.

Chef Steve Hall

Highly accomplished and driven Executive Chef with diverse experience in various resorts and five star restaurants. Demonstrated ability to develop and lead strong culinary teams with a track record of streamlining operations and delivering the highest levels of food quality and hospitality.

Culinary Medicine Programming

Medical Student Programming

Fourth-Year Programming at University Park

There is programming available to first and second year students at the University Park campus as part of the longitudinal integrated clerkships.

The Culinary Medicine Student Interest Group partners with the community garden available on campus. The garden helps provide the produce for their sessions.  The Student Interest Group completesthe Culinary Medicine course and then help lead other courses.  They are in the process of launching an organic garden

Fourth-Year Medical Students at Hershey Campus

The Culinary Medicine elective at Penn State began in 2017. It is offered to fourth-year medical students and takes place at the Hershey Medical Center. Medical students register for the course as a fourth-year clinical elective. As part of the programming students also lead the community classes.

Ms. Dreibelbis is also the director of the Health Systems Equity Clerkship. She and other leadership are working with the Food Bank for this elective.

Residency Programming

Ms. Dreibelbis teaches nutrition classes to residents from Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, and Surgery.  Each year an average of 12 opportunities are offered to residents.

Fellowship Programming

None as of yet.

Community Programming

The community programming occurs at the Hershey Medical Center. Medical students lead these community classes.

Media Coverage

Culinary Medicine: Teaching the importance of nutrition in medical school

New Culinary Medicine program helps MD students learn nutrition basics

YouTube:  Penn State College of Medicine Culinary Medicine Course


There is a great deal of support from the Dean’s office. Students, residents, and community participants find the Culinary Medicine elective to be a valuable part of their medical education. Students appreciate having the opportunity to learn how to prepare recipes that meet the guidelines of various diets that they may eventually prescribe.

The combination of hands-on cooking and didactic sessions allows students to deepen their own fundamental understanding of food and nutrition while providing a creative opportunity for the development of practical skills. The culinary medicine team at Penn State has also been successful in publishing their work in this area.


Funding is provided through the College of Medicine as well as a nutrition grant.

Research and Publications

Integrating Intergenerational Mentoring into a Culinary Medicine Curriculum

Low-Hanging Fruit^: Enhancing Culinary Medicine Curricula by Building Intuitive Community Partnerships

An Intergenerational Teaching Kitchen: Reimagining a Senior Center as a Shared Site for Medical Students and Elders Enrolled in a Culinary Medicine Course

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