GSDM students channel “Top Chef,” hone cooking and nutrition skills

There can never be too many cooks in the kitchen—when you’re learning over zoom, that is.

About 60 members of the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) Class of 2023 had the chance to show off their skill in the kitchen —and also learn a few skills—during a cooking class offered as a part of the nutrition section of their oral biology class.

The course, which took place on September 21, 2020, was the first of a four-part lecture series on nutrition, which is a section of Oral Biology II, a course that all DMD students take as part of their predoctoral education.

In the past, GSDM faculty have taught the section on nutrition. This year, however the faculty member who usually teaches the course was not available, so Dr. Yoshiyuki Mochida, clinical associate professor of Molecular & Cell Biology, and director of the oral biology course, contacted Dr. Carine Lenders, medical director of the Nutrition & Fitness for Life Program at Boston Medical Center (BMC), and a team of three registered dieticians—Kate Donovan, Olivia Weinstein, and Sarah Gurney, to teach four two-hour lectures on the subject. As part of the series of lectures, the students had the opportunity to participate in a cooking class.

Donovan and her colleagues usually teach from Boston Medical Center’s teaching kitchen, which is located inside (and on top—they have a rooftop farm!)  the hospital, and offers free cooking classes. Mochida watched videos of the teaching kitchen cooking classes—which now take place over Zoom—and was impressed.

“Someone was on the top of the building and reporting which vegetables were ripe and good to eat and [then] coming back to the kitchen and they talked about what to cook right now,” he said. “They had an activity for medical students…..and then I thought, ‘Why don’t you prepare something for dental students?”

Donovan said that the lecture series was modeled on one they teach to medical students, which pairs an introductory lecture to nutrition with a hands-on cooking class during which students apply the knowledge they learned in the lecture.

During the September 21 lecture, students learned  how to make shakshuka, a dish of poached eggs and vegetables that originated in North Africa and today is strongly associated with Israel.

“Shakshuka is great because it has a base of vegetables, then it has protein mixed in with it andyou can use grains as a side. It’s an easy, quick one that’s delicious,” said Donovan, who noted that they try to pick recipes that are aligned to the MyPlate model, which has replaced the food pyramid as a representation of the different types of food that should be on a plate at every meal.

Students participated in the hands-on cooking session from their own apartments, calling in via Zoom, and received extra points if they made the dish.

“I could tell they enjoyed it over Zoom,” said Mochida. “They were all chatting and eating.”

Ryan Villar DMD 23 made the recipe with his roommates. “I thought it went really well,” he said. “I love cooking, and I didn’t expect BMC had a class like that.”

Donovan said that the course—both the hands-on cooking session and the lectures—touches upon the importance not only of what an individual eats, but also highlights nutritional deficiencies that may affect both their oral health and their overall health.

“The theme that we tried to bring throughout [the four lectures] is that there is this bidirectional relationship between nutrition and dental/oral health,” said Donovan. “If you’re not aware of, or haven’t learned about, one half of that bidirectional relationship, you’re not going to be able to treat your patients well or as well as you could have otherwise.“