As an aspiring physician, Loren Brook has years of training ahead of him.
But he gladly signed up for one more last September: a year of training in nutritional sciences, which he says will enable him to better care for those patients in the future.
Brook is the first student in a new dual-degree program between UC’s College of Allied Health Sciences and College of Medicine, offering students an MD/MS in nutrition in five total years of study.
The program enables medical students to earn a Master’s of Science in Nutrition at the College of Allied Health Sciences between their third and fourth years of medical school. In the MS program, students take core nutrition sciences courses, guided electives and complete a master’s thesis.
Nutritional Sciences Chair Grace Falciglia, PhD, says the program is uniquely suited to the current issues in public health.
"Nutrition plays a key role in many of the chronic diseases we see today,” she says. "The combined knowledge of nutrition and medical principles in this program will improve the ability of our students to approach the prevention and management of disease in a more comprehensive manner after they graduate.”
Through a private donor, the college has been able to offer a scholarship providing full-time tuition as well as a stipend for the one-year program.
Brook says the hands-on nutrition classes cover topics he wouldn’t have seen in medical school, including epidemiology and biostatistics.
He also has a personal interest in studying nutrition after successfully losing 80 pounds during college.
"I could feel and see myself transform into a different person,” he says. "It was about losing the weight, but it was also about being healthy, and a lot of that started with proper nutrition.”
Now, Brook wants to pursue residency studying internal medicine and is hoping to earn a fellowship in gastroenterology. He says the knowledge gained with his nutrition degree will allow him to emphasize preventative care for nutrition-related diseases.
"As medical professionals, nutrition is something we don’t get a real emphasis on. We learn how to alleviate disease after symptoms have developed,” he says. "But the trend is moving toward preventative medicine—and nutrition will be a prime factor in that.”
Andrew Filak , MD, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the College of Medicine, says the impact of nutrition on health and wellness presents "a formidable challenge” for physicians.
But he says the dual-degree program helps medical students develop additional knowledge and skills to incorporate into the care of both individual patients and their families as well as the care of communities: "It is an excellent example of an inter-professional program combining the resources of both colleges.”
For his thesis, Brook is working in the lab of Ruth E. Rosevear Chair of Nutritional Sciences Debra Krummel, PhD, studying inflammation markers in obese pregnant women who took the omega-3 supplement DHA during their pregnancy.
Falciglia says the exposure to research methodologies in nutrition sciences will help medical students understand complementary approaches to the study of disease, paving the way for future partnerships.
"Not only will graduates be able to incorporate nutritional assessment, medical nutrition therapy and effective behavioral strategies into patient care, they’ll understand how to work across the disciplines to involve nutrition experts in their practice and research,” she says.
"There are many academic opportunities and public health challenges at the intersection of these two disciplines. We’re excited to provide students an opportunity to be immersed in both during their education.”
For more information on the MD/MS dual degree program, visit cahs.uc.edu or contact Grace Falciglia at 513-558-7505 or firstname.lastname@example.org.