Food is Prevention, Food is Medicine, Food is Community
Food plays a central role in shaping the health of individuals, families, and communities. Our everyday food choices are an essential component of self-care for the prevention and treatment of many chronic conditions as well as the promotion of our physical and mental wellbeing. Yet, few US medical students and providers are adequately trained on how food can be used as a prescription for their own self-care and the care for their patients.
The OU Culinary Medicine Program was established in 2018 as a joint initiative between researchers at the OU-TU School of Community Medicine and the OU College of Public Health thanks to generous support from the Ardmore Institute of Health and the Tandy Family YMCA. The program’s mission is to improve the health of local communities through the power of food by teaching medical students, residents, physicians, and patients essential cooking skills for making healthy, affordable meals and the practice of mindful eating.
What is Culinary Medicine?
Culinary medicine is the utilization of a unique combination of nutrition and culinary knowledge to assist patients in achieving and maintaining optimal health” and was first implemented at Tulane University. The OU Culinary Medicine Program uses the Tulane University Model, which provides evidence-based education through hands-on cooking experiences to teach nutrition self-care for a variety of conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension, cancer, weight management, and mental health, as well as eating for general health across the life course, including preconception, pregnancy, childhood, and adulthood.
Class Registration & Student Learning Opportunities
Classes are available at no charge to OU-Tulsa medical students and residents, physician assistant (PA) students, and OU-Tulsa campus staff. Community classes are also regularly available to Tandy Family YMCA members.
The Culinary Medicine Program is expanding to better meet the needs of the Tulsa community. Please complete this web form if you are a medical provider or employer who is interested in Culinary Medicine classes for your patient population or employee wellness program, if you are an individual who is interested in receiving updates on future classes, or if you are interested in sponsorship opportunities for this initiative.
Student Learning Opportunities
Structured learning opportunities are available for MPH practicum students and the OU-TU Summer Internship Program. Contact Dr. Marianna Wetherill for more information.
Lori Whelan, MD
Dr. Whelan is an Associate Professor and the Vice Chair of Education for the Department of Emergency Medicine at the OU-TU School of Community Medicine. She is a practicing Emergency Physician at Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa. Dr. Whelan is a native Oklahoman and has a B.S. in Zoology from the University of Oklahoma and received her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. After completing post-graduate training in physician-performed ultrasound, Dr. Whelan spent the past 10 years teaching this vital skill to medical residents and practicing physicians through Continuing Medical Education courses. She received 10 teaching awards in recognition of her work, including the prestigious Dewayne Andrews Award for Excellence in Teaching from the OU Academy of Teaching Scholars.
Over the course of her career as an emergency medicine physician, Dr. Whelan has grown to recognize the vital need for nutrition as a central component of medical care. For the past 6 years, Dr. Whelan has developed a personal passion for plant-based nutrition and is an advocate for using food as medicine to prevent and manage chronic disease. She recently completed the Plant Based Nutrition course from Cornell University and is committed to incorporating nutrition education into treatment plans for her own patients, as well as developing evidence-based nutrition curriculum for medical and physician assistant students.
Chef Valarie Carter
Chef Carter is the Lead Chef for the OU Culinary Medicine Program. A Webbers Falls, OK native and graduate of Fort Gibson HS, Valarie earned a B.A. in English from Oklahoma State University and an Associate of Arts in Culinary Arts from the Art Institute of Atlanta. She recently completed the Plant Based Nutrition course from Cornell University and is a graduate student at the OU College of Public Health.
Chef Carter is the co-creator of The Can Do Kitchen, a local initiative that works to make cooking accessible to all persons, regardless of skill level. Chef Carter is a trained chef, educator, food and beverage columnist, recipe developer, food stylist, culinary consultant, Okie, mom, wife, and lover of local food and beverage. Valarie is currently a chef instructor and culinary consultant for Cooking for Kids, an organization tasked with improving the child nutrition programs in public schools across the state. She is former editor of Edible Tulsa magazine and former columnist for the Tulsa World, Green Country Living Magazine and Sheridan Living Magazine. Valarie has broad experience as a personal chef as well as in hotels and country clubs and her skills extend to streamlining food and beverage operations, consulting and catering. She worked as a special events coordinator in Oklahoma City, planning and organizing events for Bricktown Entertainment and was a culinary arts faculty instructor at OSUIT for 5 years. She enjoys using her culinary skills to benefit local, philanthropic organizations and is on the board and currently serving as vice president of the Tulsa Farmers’ Market. Valarie lives in Bixby with her husband and 2 children.
Marianna Wetherill, PhD, MPH, RDN-AP/LD
Dr. Marianna Wetherill is the lead dietitian and evaluator for the Culinary Medicine Program. She is an Assistant Professor with joint appointments in the Departments of Health Promotion Sciences at the OU College of Public Health and Family and Community Medicine at the OU-TU School of Community Medicine, where is also holds the George Kaiser Family Foundation Chair in Population Healthcare.
A native Oklahoman, Dr. Wetherill completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Oklahoma, as well as post-graduate training in dietetics and integrative medicine through the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Wetherill is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with Advanced Practice Certification in Clinical Nutrition from the Commission on Dietetics Registration. With a decade of dietetics practice experience including HIV/AIDS, cardiometabolic disease, and plant-based diets, Dr. Wetherill’s nutrition philosophy incorporates a functional medicine approach to personal healing, with a passion for making healthy eating accessible for low-income populations. She is a member of the Institute for Functional Medicine, Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine practice group, and the American Society for Nutrition.