University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston

Leadership and Faculty

Laura S. Moore, MEd, RD, LD, leadership of the Culinary Medicine Program at the University of Texas Health Scienes CenterLaura S. Moore, MEd, RD, LD

Director, Nourish Program
Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
The University of Texas School of Public Health

Laura S. Moore is the Director of the UTHealth School of Public Health Nourish Program and a member of the Nutrition Faculty at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. Her passion for food began with her training at Le Cordon Bleu, and her expertise is in Nutrition and Culinary Arts with emphasis in Nutritional Science, Culinary Training, and Community Garden Education. She is trained in Weight Management for Children and Adolescents with a focus in obesity prevention.

One of Laura’s passions is enabling the next generation of dietitians to have the tools they need to be competitive in today’s workforce. Under her guidance, leadership, and dedicated planning, the UTHealth School of Public Health Nourish Program has undergone significant amplification. The additional components offer students a wide range of hands-on experiences that enable them to help people to live healthier lives. This expansion includes a Research and Demonstration Kitchen (Nourish Kitchen), Medical Nutrition Therapy Simulation Classroom and the Holistic Garden.

J. Wesley McWhorter, MS, RD, LD, CSCS, of The Culinary Medicine Program at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at HoustonJ. Wesley McWhorter, MS, RD, LD, CSCS

Nutrition Faculty, and chef/dietitian of the Nourish Program

Wesley McWhorter is a professionally trained chef, registered dietitian, and certified strength and conditioning specialist. His experience includes corporate wellness, sport’s dietetics, school and hospital foodservice, fine dining, and working as a private chef. He holds degrees in culinary nutrition, dietetics, and nutrition and metabolism additionally he is pursuing a doctorate in public health with an emphasis in Health Behavior. Wesley currently teaches the Culinary Medicine courses at the UTHealth School of Public Health. His research interests are in closing the divide between culinary literacy and nutrition education and policy.

Wesley McWhorter grew up near Mobile, Alabama, where downhome southern cooking reigns supreme, and many locals give healthier dishes the side-eye. McWhorter loved good food just as much as the next guy, but wanted to avoid his family’s legacy of heart disease. So as a teenager, he set out to learn all he could about nutrition — a journey that would take him through culinary school and on to become a dietitian.

Now, McWhorter is a doctoral student majoring in health promotion and behavioral sciences and minoring in epidemiology, and a teaching associate with the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at UTHealth School of Public Health’s Dietetic Internship Program.

Jeann Piga-Plunkett, MD, RDN, LD, of The Culinary Medicine Program at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at HoustonJeanne Piga-Plunkett, MS, RDN, LD

Director, Dietetic Internship Program
Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
The University of Texas School of Public Health

Jeanne M. Piga-Plunkett is the Director of the UTHealth School of Public Health Dietetic Internship Program and a member of the Nutrition faculty at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. Her passion for nutrition began while working in wellness early in her career. She has worked as a Director of Nutrition services for the past 30 years throughout the City of Houston. She has worked in LTC/Rehab, Children’s Psych, School Foodservice, PACE, and Community Settings. Throughout the 30 years, she has taken and worked with students at each facility, sharing and training our future dietitians.

One of Jeanne’s passions has continued to work with the next generation of dietitians. She enjoys working with interns and training those individuals to be competitive in today’s job market. Under her guidance and leadership, the UTHealth School of Public Health Dietetic Internship Program is going through changes that reflect the transition of our field. We have recently added new programs to our internship that include simulation and gardening with a seed to plate focus to enable interns to help their clients and patients lead healthier lives.


Culinary Medicine Programming at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston

The Research and Demonstration Kitchen is available to the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Dietetic Interns and the UTHealth School of Public Health and Texas Medical Center for educational and research purposes. UTHealth Dietetic Interns teach healthy cooking techniques and develop menus based on special diets related to specific diseases. It is a state-of-the art facility which houses the culinary medicine curriculum for UTHealth medical students, and ongoing partnerships and trainings provided to Texas Medical Center institutions and dietetic and community partners in the Houston area

The kitchen is available to the Texas Medical Center and greater Houston community for educational and research purposes and allows UTHealth School of Public Health faculty to teach healthy cooking techniques and  educate students in medical nutrition therapy for disease-specific diets and other diet-related medical issues as well as provide a training kitchen for school educators.

Medical Student Programming in Culinary Medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston

Culinary Medicine programming using the Health meets Food courseware is offered as an elective to fourth year medical students.  Interest is quite high with the ability to accommodate 40 students per year.  There are, however, over 100 students on the waiting list to enroll in the elective.

Because of the work by the team in gardening, food insecurity and Veggie Rx programming the Project Module has been adapted to include an exercise for medical students in vegetable prescriptions.

Dietetics Programming in Culinary Medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston

There are a total of 24 students in the dietetics program: 12 in each year’s class. Basic cooking and Culinary Medicine programming is now a part of their curriculum. The interns also help teach the medical students with one intern per table to help guide the module.

Nursing Student Programming in Culinary Medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston

Programming is offered to the students enrolled in the BS to MSN program as one-off classes. While these have a significant cooking component, they are very focused on the Garden for Health.

Dental Student Programming in Culinary Medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston

One module built into the curriculum for dental students (Module 7 – Carbohydrates). The team at the Nourish Program also contributes to a public health nutrition course for first and second year dental students.

Fellowship Programming in Culinary Medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston

No programming at this time.


Community Programming in Culinary Medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston

Through pilot grant funding and work on Wesley McWhorter’s research platform in food insecurity and vegetable prescription programs selective community offerings have been offered.

The team at The University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston has been instrumental in helping translate the Health meets Food Community Programming into Spanish.


Research

McWhorter, J. W., Raber, M., Sharma, S., Moore, L. S., & Hoelscher, D. (2018). The Nourish Program: An Innovative Model for Cooking, Gardening, and Clinical Care Skill Enhancement for Dietetics Students. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


Media Coverage

Students dish out new approaches to nutrition with culinary medicine program

Promoting Health Through Cooking

 


Funding Sources

Funding for medical student programming is provided by the School of Medicine.