We are a diverse group of volunteer medical students who seek to create a collaborative platform through which to explore the impact of nutrition on public health and our roles as future physicians.
During our studies and experiences as medical students, we began to understand the importance of access to good nutrition, primary care, nutrition education, and most importantly, access to physicians who understand the effects of diet on health and wellness. The field of nutrition and obesity research has grown exponentially over the past decade and science has learned a lot. Researchers continue to investigate the relationship between the many factors — dietary patterns, genetic components, and socioeconomic status — that contribute to the development of obesity, overweight, and poor nutrition.
As we built our community several important questions came to mind: How do we best improve the nutritional health of the public? What types of interventions are already taking place? What role will obesity treatment play in our future practice? What can we as students do to advance the practice of clinical nutrition?
After many discussions dissecting the exact causes of obesity, we pitched various solutions. Some were good, others far-fetched, and many seemed impossible, but none were satisfactory. If a group of medical students who are putting in tremendous effort to understanding the relationship between diet and health were stumped, what would be the experience other medical students? Is there an easier way to unpack these complexes issues?
Incorporating nutrition into medical care is complex, in part due to the interdisciplinary nature of this epidemic. Developing innovative solutions requires sustained collaboration between researchers, health care policy makers, community partners, and clinicians. At times, the challenge of connecting all of these disciplines seems insurmountable.
Our response to the obesity epidemic is to develop a space for collaboration between undergraduate medical students. By creating connections between a large number of medical students, the information and connections they develop will rapidly spread between institutions, accelerating the speed of collaboration.
It is true that clinical nutrition is a part of undergraduate medical education; however it varies from institution to institution. Some have complex nutrition and public health curriculum, complete with teaching kitchens, while others have a few lecture hours dedicated to micronutrient metabolism.
Beyond education, the background that we bring as students when approaching nutrition is varied and valuable. Some have experiences studying or researching nutrition. Others have worked on community projects, governmental policy, or with nonprofits. And many have personally experienced the effect of nutrition on health.
This diversity in education and experience creates an immense opportunity to combine our knowledge and best practices as the field of clinical nutrition continues to grow. As we sought to find a platform for medical students to connect and learn, we realized that none existed. The Palate seeks to fill this void. As we begin to think about our future practice, we hope to unite medical students in an effort to open the conversation and work towards changing the way we view nutrition as part of patient care.
The Palate is a platform created by volunteer medical students designed to bring nutrition education to the forefront of undergraduate medical education. In order to connect the medical student community, we plan to highlight medical-student led nutrition initiatives, interview leading public health and nutrition experts, provide forums to discuss the most recent clinical findings, and create a space for students to share their personal experiences with nutrition and public health.
Through collaboration and engagement, The Palate will begin to shape the medical student nutrition community.