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Caring for the Frontline promotes teamwork and self-care

Morning sunlight pours through windows at the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, inviting guests to take a break to focus on their health. A team of six nurses from the UCHealth Outpatient Infusion Clinic, still dressed in scrubs, are eager to spend an afternoon learning about wellness, nutrition and fitness.

They are here for Caring for the Frontline, which AHWC launched six months ago. The program, originally intended to address nurses’ daily stress and challenges, has since given 20 teams of nurses and healthcare professionals at CU Anschutz the tools to manage their health, wellness and nutrition. Although still in its pilot stage, the program is expected to become a regular AHWC offering and will likely expand to faculty and staff.

Lisa Wingrove, RD, CSO, has overseen the program’s development and credits its success to being offered at the AHWC rather than in the workplace, as the separation helps foster teambuilding and self-care. “The program is offered off-site at the Wellness Center and helps address team needs, especially in times of change, stress or burnout caused from the job,” she said.

Half-day of wellness

Participants begin with lunch, giving them time to bond as a team while sharing a healthy meal together. They then learn practical mindfulness techniques from a clinical psychologist.

But teambuilding is not the only outcome of Caring for the Frontline. Self-care is a major theme addressed during the half-day of wellness, where participants learn how to manage stress and take time out of their day to care for themselves.

Healthy meal prep at AHWC
As part of the Caring for the Frontline program participants learn how to cook healthy meals, including recipes that are fast and simple that can be cooked during the week.

A private one-hour yoga class is another part of the program, as well as a 10-minute massage. Finally, participants learn how to cook healthy meals, including recipes that are fast and simple that can be cooked during the week.

“We make recipes easy and affordable to show participants that healthy nutrition is attainable, and we show them how to cook recipes that are realistic, fast, taste good and budget-friendly that can fit within their busy lives,” said Wingrove.

Wingrove incorporates gratitude into every session. Before the team’s arrival, cards are shared with the nurses’ leadership and each session begins by giving the hand-written cards to each team member to show them that they are acknowledged and valued. “Demonstrating gratitude is important,” she said. “Receiving thanks makes everyone feel valued.”

Creating positive impacts

Caring for the Frontline has had a positive impact on participant’s lives, offering them support and resources and demonstrates the value of teamwork and practicing gratitude. “This program made me feel valued as an employee because my team thought enough to invite me,” said one participant.

The program teaches participants how to take care of themselves, which is essential to ensure they provide quality service to others.

“Taking care of themselves is essential if they are taking care of others,” said Wingrove.

Additionally, Caring for the Frontline shows participants the importance of self-care, urging them to take time out of their day to practice what they learned. According to one participant, “[I learned] how important it is to take time for myself, and that really 20 minutes of breathing, mindfulness or cooking a healthy meal is doable in that timeframe.”

Guest contributor: Katherine Phillips

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Wellness Center teaches people how to improve their health through nutrition

Cooking at CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center

When the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center piloted a series of cooking classes to educate the community about the importance of nutrition and health, organizers did not expect it to grow into one of the most popular programs offered on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

The Culinary Medicine Series features weekly cooking demonstrations of recipes that are healthy and nutritious for those with chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Lisa Wingrove, RD, CSO, a registered dietitian who specializes in nutrition for oncology patients, recently led a session on how to make a butternut squash mac-and-cheese dish geared for cancer patients. She shared basic cooking techniques and other methods for cooking for those with cancer.

“When someone has cancer or is going through chemotherapy treatment, sometimes the foods they liked before are not appealing anymore because certain smells become unappetizing,” said Wingrove.

What is Culinary Medicine?

As a new evidence-based field, culinary medicine blends cooking and medicine to help people access high-quality meals that help to prevent and treat disease. The Culinary Medicine Series, created in partnership with the UCHealth Digestive Health Center, the Integrative Medicine Center and the CU School of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine, provides members of the Aurora community as well as faculty, staff and students of CU Anschutz with nutrition resources.

Lisa Wingrove, RD, CS
Lisa Wingrove, RD, CSO

“Many of the attendees of the classes are caregivers, patients or members of the community as well as staff or students on campus,” said Wingrove.

The concept of culinary medicine was created by John La Puma, MD, a physician who recognized a need for further nutrition education for both physicians and patients. According to La Puma, physicians need to learn how to prescribe food as medicine, and patients should become more educated about what foods can help beat disease.

“Many physicians don’t learn about   nutrition in medical school, but it is something that can help people live better with chronic illness,” explained Wingrove.

Learning about nutrition

The Culinary Medicine Series gives anyone the knowledge to eat well and provides a resource to those struggling with chronic illness. “Nutrition is an evidence-based science, so we offer recipes that are beneficial to those living with chronic illness,” she said.

According to Wingrove, the recipes taught are alternatives to classic recipes and are meant to be more palatable for those with additional dietary restrictions.

butternut squash
This butternut squash mac-and-cheese dish is geared for cancer patients.

“One of the goals of the sessions is to provide participants with alternatives while maintaining the flavor of their favorite dishes. A lot of the foods we cook include ingredients that you might already have in your kitchen,” said Wingrove.

The sessions are also intended to be interactive, giving participants opportunities to ask a dietitian questions.

“People come here who have never cooked before,” said Wingrove. “We want to make this an approachable environment where participants can feel comfortable asking us questions so they can learn new skills.”

As medicine continues to advance, so will treatment options. According to Wingrove, it will become more important to incorporate nutrition into treatment plans for patients with chronic illness.

“A lot can be gained from using nutrition as a treatment. For cancer, that means providing patients with a plant-based diet with lean proteins and helping maintain a healthy body weight,” said Wingrove.

The next class for cancer care in the Culinary Medicine Series taught by Lisa Wingrove takes place on March 12. To register, visit the series website.

For the butternut squash mac-and-cheese recipe, click here.

Guest contributor: Katherine Phillips

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Student Health Promotion Committee

For students on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus campus, finding a work-life balance can prove tricky. Between tackling challenging classes and toiling away in the lab, who has time to go to a yoga class, not to mention afford one?

A new student group aims to ease this burden by improving and promoting well-being across campus.

The Office of Student Health Promotion replaced the Office of Student Health Insurance in March 2017, armed with a broader mission of creating a healthy campus culture. However, one key component was missing: student involvement. In response, the Student Health Promotion Committee was formed this past fall.

Finding student voices

“We needed to hear from the people we were serving,” said Jill Collins, RD, Student Health Promotion manager at CU Anschutz. “So, we decided to get a group of motivated students together to brainstorm ideas. We have a member from just about every school and college.”

The group, which is 40-members strong, meets monthly during fall and spring semesters. Members share ideas and create initiatives focused on making a healthy lifestyle accessible for the campus community, whether it’s providing free lunchtime group fitness classes or sponsoring a stress-reduction workshop.

The new Student Health Promotion Committee hopes to bring healthy options to CU Anschutz.

“We’re a campus dedicated to health and medical sciences,” said Kelsey Robinson, a first-year MPH candidate in the Colorado School of Public Health and communications chair of the new group. “We need to take the time to focus on ourselves. This group is a step in the right direction for connecting students to healthy lifestyles on campus.”

Being part of the larger office offers the student committee a centralized location for promoting health-related events on campus, Robinson said. “We are networking with other health groups on campus, and would love to promote any other free, health-related events on campus,” she said, such as peer support groups and charity 5Ks.

Setting data-driven goals

To focus its mission, the group used data collected from the National College Health Assessment (NCHA), a national survey tool created and used by the American College Health Association, to collect precise, current data about students.


CU Anschutz students interested in joining the Student Health Promotion Committee for the 2018-2019 school year should contact Jill Collins at

“We wanted to make sure we provided services and initiatives that students wanted and needed,” Collins said. “The survey overwhelmingly showed that we needed to focus on improving nutrition, mental health and fitness.” Three corresponding committees were formed, each with its own short- and long-term goals. For instance:

  • The nutrition branch set a goal of providing healthy alternatives in the vending machines on campus.
  • The mental health branch made a goal of providing more opportunities for students to receive mental health support and skill development, such as “lunch-and-learn” student-run discussion panels featuring health professionals.
  • And the physical activity branch aims to provide free fitness classes in public spaces on campus. The classes would be drop-in and open to any students on campus looking to get their blood pumping.

“Look for events happening this semester,” Robinson said, adding that news and activities will be promoted on its Instagram page (@anschutz_shpc), its website, and through a weekly feature of the Division of Student Affairs’ “Campus Happenings” emails.  “We’re moving quickly and will be implementing changes on this campus before you know it.”

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Our students don chefs’ hats to further their education

Students from the Culinary Medicine/Culinary Dentistry present a meal they prepared
Students from the Culinary Medicine/Dental Medicine present a meal they prepared

On a recent Friday, Gabriela Andrade, a second-year dental student from the CU Anschutz School of Dental Medicine (SDM), was putting the finishing touches on a group project. She stacked sandwiches on a platter, and her group lined up to explain to their instructors and classmates about an extra ingredient they added to the hummus: chipotle peppers.

Because of a program funded by Delta Dental of Colorado to support interdisciplinary education among health professionals, called the Frontier Center, the classmates, 17 CU dental and medical students, join culinary nutrition chefs side-by-side each week in a Culinary Medicine/Dental Medicine elective course. The class is a venture of the School of Medicine (SOM), the SDM and the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University (JWU). Every Friday the students gather in JWU’s production kitchen to talk about and taste food—for academic credit.

As Andrade’s group described how the peppers contributed a pleasing heat and flavor, as well as added nutritional benefits, their instructor chimed in with suggestions for ingredient substitutions. Then the class heard the words they had been waiting for all afternoon: “let’s eat.”

Gabriela Andrade, a School of Dental Medicine student, practices her knife skills
Gabriela Andrade, a School of Dental Medicine student, practices her knife skills

An interdisciplinary education in nutrition

The class, which will meet for eight Fridays, consists of a two-hour discussion and quiz on nutrition, followed by hands-on training in cooking techniques, including knife skills, working with fresh produce, and making healthful substitutions in recipes. Students work in small groups to produce different parts of a complete meal: appetizers, salads and a main course. Clinical nutrition students from JWU are on hand to provide guidance and experience.

Tamanna Tiwari, a clinical instructor at the School of Dental Medicine
Tamanna Tiwari, a clinical instructor at the School of Dental Medicine

The interdisciplinary focus of the course is one of its primary benefits, according to Tamanna Tiwari, MPH, MS, BDS, a clinical instructor at the SDM. “As the first School of Dental Medicine to offer an elective for Culinary Dentistry, we are adding to our innovative, interdisciplinary curriculum,” she said. “Our dental students work as a team with medical students. They take ownership of projects together.”

The course aims to fill a gap in medical education by providing students with the latest research on clinical nutrition and instruction on how to communicate lessons about nutrition to their future patients. “Diet has a huge effect on the whole person,” said Mark Deutchman, PhD, SOM professor. “This class fills in a knowledge gap. It will make our students better practitioners and help them to address all aspects of a patient’s health.”

Adding tools to their toolkits

For medical student Nick Stephanus, the class is an opportunity to add more tools to his toolkit. “In primary care, many illnesses are chronic, and can be managed by careful monitoring of one’s diet,” he said. “This class teaches us how to give good advice to future patients, so that physicians can say more than just ‘manage your calorie intake.’”

Mark Deutchman, professor at the School of Medicine
Mark Deutchman, professor at the School of Medicine

Andrade, too, plans to use the skills she gains in the class to help her future dental patients. “I plan to work with Hispanic populations and with patients with a lower socio-economic status,” she said. “They may not have had a lot of education about nutrition, and this class will help me to better communicate tips for a healthier lifestyle and oral health.”

Although the Culinary Medicine/Dental Medicine course focuses on skills that students can use to help their future patients, the class agrees that they are already benefiting by taking their work home. The skills they are learning have allowed them to cook meals that are more nutritious for themselves. They’ve also cultivated camaraderie with the nutrition students from JWU, who will go on to work in the medical field as dietitians and clinical researchers.

“The JWU students enjoy the interchange of information with CU,” said Marleen Swanson, RD, the department chair of the JWU Culinary Nutrition program. “They glean a better understanding of the medical world through case studies that they review with CU students.”

School of Medicine students like Nick Stephanus learn cooking skills and how to communicate nutrition tips to their patients
School of Medicine students like Nick Stephanus learn cooking skills and how to communicate nutrition tips to their patients

Following their taste buds

With a growing awareness of the important role nutrition plays in preventive care, and the lack of nutrition education in medical and dental schools across the country, the Culinary Medicine/Dental Medicine course will make a significant contribution to medical education. The interdisciplinary approach at CU Anschutz, along with the partnership with JWU, are producing medical and dental professionals who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about healthy eating.

For good reason. The smells wafting from the kitchen classroom every Friday are mouthwatering, and the energy in the room is contagious. Both Andrade and Stephanus look forward to the class each week. “Cooking is an experiment,” Andrade said. “I’m learning as I go, but I’m also following my taste buds.”


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