Gina Drobena, M.D., DipABLM, and Kathryn Neill, Pharm.D., FNAP, received Certified Culinary Medicine Specialist (CCMS) credentials in December 2022. This is outstanding news not only for the UAMS Culinary Medicine Program, but also for all Arkansans. Dr. Drobena and Dr. Neill are two out of only four individuals who have earned the CCMS accreditation in the state.
The CCMS course provides an in-depth culinary and nutrition foundation. This credential focuses on techniques that address real-world constraints including meal planning, budgeting, and combining nutrition counseling with pharmacological treatment. It is an advanced, intensive course meant to help instructors further the education of Culinary Medicine to students as well as to the public.
An Arkansas native, Dr. Drobena wears many hats on the UAMS Campus. In addition to being involved with the Culinary Medicine Program, she specializes in Transfusion Medicine, Biotherapeutics and Lifestyle Medicine. Dr. Drobena began her training at UAMS in 2000 and subsequently joined the faculty. She is currently the Division Director of Transfusion Medicine and an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology. Dr. Drobena was drawn to the Culinary Medicine Program due to her personal interest and passion for how food can affect the mind and body.
“Teaching culinary medicine skills to our wide array of learners has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career,” Dr. Drobena said. “I obtained certification to translate my passion into an easily recognizable credential that shows we at UAMS are working to move the health of Arkansans forward and are a premier educational institution for culinary medicine.”
Dr. Neill is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at UAMS. She received a fellowship in Neuropharmacology and practiced as a Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist for the UAMS Intensive Care Unit. Currently, Dr. Neill works in the Division of Academic Affairs where she holds the titles of Associate Provost for Academics and Director of Interprofessional Administrative and Curricular Affairs. The Culinary Medicine Program hosts a variety of Interprofessional Education classes, and Dr. Neill has guided the integration of Culinary Medicine as a longitudinal theme in the campus-wide UAMS IPE curriculum.
“As a pharmacist, diet and lifestyle recommendations have always been a key part of my practice. The growth and recognition of Culinary Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine as specialties highlights how essential these principles are to the health of all patients that we serve as well as being key to our personal wellness,” Dr. Neill said. “The Culinary Medicine Program at UAMS provides a foundation to empower students and providers with the knowledge and skills to address therapeutic nutrition planning across the spectrum. I obtained certification to improve my ability to help develop UAMS’ commitment to creating successful interprofessional education and collaboration with culinary medicine as a key component in patient care.”
The goal of the UAMS Culinary Medicine Program is to supply health care providers with knowledge on healthy food choices and culinary skills to enhance their ability to counsel patients on prevention and disease-specific management through food. There is a hope to provide education not only to students and patients, but also to expand outreach to the various communities in Arkansas. Because they received CCMS credentials, Dr. Drobena and Dr. Neill are now even better equipped to spread the message of using food as medicine.