Wayne State University tackles nutrition education shortfall in medical school

By Danielle Masterson contact

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags: Nutrition, plant based, Plant Based Nutrition Support Group

Medical students at Wayne State University recently completed the school’s first mandated plant-based nutrition program.

A new report​ out from Harvard Food Law Clinic calling for greater nutrition education in the medical field found on average, students in medical schools in the United States spend less than 1% of lecture time learning about diet. Neither the federal government or accreditation groups enforce any minimum level of diet instruction.

Another recent study published in The Lancet Planetary Health​ found that doctors-in-training lack the proper nutrition education during medical school to advise patients during their careers.

The study authors wrote, Collectively, it is clear that despite the centrality of nutrition to healthy lifestyle, graduating medical students are not supported through their education to provide high-quality, effective nutrition care to patients—a situation that has gone on for too long.” 

Arming medical students with science

Two groups, the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group (PBNSG) and the Plant Based Nutrition Group (PBNG) are hoping to fill that gap. The organization teamed up with Wayne State School of Medicine to teach first-year medical students about the science behind plant-based nutrition.

PBNSG said the goal of the program is to make sure medical students are learning more about plant-based nutrition and how that diet can help prevent disease. 

The program consisted of videos, lectures, and tests. The students studied evidence-based science behind a whole-food, plant-based diet and learned ways to integrate the new knowledge into clinical practice. The class was also provided comprehensive educational materials from PBNSG and medical group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

But the students didn’t have their nose in a book the entire time -- they also participated in panels, spoke with patients, sampled plant-based food products and spoke with chefs.

“The success of PBNG’s Plant-Based Curriculum Enhancement will have national implications for the future of clinical care and medical education,”​ said Lakshman (Lucky) Mulpuri, president of PBNG. “Armed with a more comprehensive understanding of plant-based nutrition, these future physicians will be better prepared to combat the devastating effects of chronic disease that millions of Americans face every year.”

Carving out awareness 

PBNSG’s founder, Paul Chatlin, told nutraIngredients-USA that he’s been working with Wayne State, which is based in Detroit, MI, for several years now. He is also trying to get the word out beyond the local community. 

“I recently gave a talk at a medical school and there were a thousand students. I said ‘raise your hand if there is someone you care about or love that has heart disease, diabetes, or is morbidly obese.’ Every single person raised their hand. That’s a real problem,”​ PBNSG’s founder, Paul Chatlin, told nutraIngredients-USA. 

PBNSG has been around since 2014, and over the years, Chatlin has witnessed a knowledge shift. “Everybody now knows about Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat, that’s been the big craze the last 6 months. Those types of moments bring awareness and is good for people learning about this,”​ said Chatlin. “This is something that everyone on the planet should know about. So many people don’t know about the benefits of this different way of eating.”

PBNSG isn’t alone in their efforts. Kaiser Permanente encouraged its health care providers to prescribe a whole-food, plant-based diet to all of their patients, especially those at risk for obesity and other chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. 

In their report, “Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets”​ the authors point out that in the HBO documentary The Weight of the Nation​, it was noted that if you “go with the flow”​ in the US, you will eventually become obese. 

Opportunities 

Chatlin told us, “Six years ago nobody heard of plant-based nutrition. And today, here in Michigan, we have over 7,000 members of the PBNSG, along with 42 small groups all over the state.” 

Indeed, more and more consumers are warming up to the idea of plant-based nutrition. The global vegan meat market could hit $140 billion in sales by 2029, according to Barclays, a multinational investment bank. 

For anyone who is interested in starting their own plant-based support group, PBNSG​ is planning to expand nationally.

Related topics: People

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