Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark
Director of Integrative Medical Education

Organization: NorthShore University Health System

Location: Evanston, IL

I’m excited to be a Castanea Fellow because… I’m thrilled to gain more tools to disrupt and uplift entrenched systems of healthcare and learning.

What is the challenge your work addresses?

My challenge is to reframe the lens of health to embrace the value and wisdom in using food as medicine. How do we shift the focus of health and wellness to consider food as the most powerful preventative medicine, and to use it along with – and maybe instead of – pharmaceuticals and other medical interventions? This will represent a huge culture shift in the U.S. Most of us are only a couple of generations removed from a culture that treated food with great respect and as a source of healing. It’s possible to bring that tradition back into our culture.

What strategies are you using to address the challenge?

My work currently focuses on education. I teach nutrition and cooking to medical students- culinary medicine! I also teach culinary medicine to elementary school students in food deserts on the south side of Chicago, giving them the knowledge and skills to be powerful change agents of their own lives. I’m involved in improving the quality of hospital foo, and educating doctors and the public about nutrition-based strategies to improve health, by chairing a major symposium in Chicago on Food as Medicine. I do what I can to change my local areas of influence.

What does success look like to you?

Grassroots work is always going to be where change begins, but we need a far more overarching plan that would accelerate the work for all of us regardless of where we are doing it.

Success would be a comprehensive health and wellness plan for the country, a plan that is policy supported to protect community health, informed by public health and nutritional health science, and responsible business practices. There would be a national food plan that would be able to be carried out in such a way that farmers, those working in the food industry, and nutritional science and health care providers would be on same page. A doctor could write a prescription for a patient that ordered a plant-based diet. The patient could go to a grocery store and have those good food purchases covered by insurance, or at least be deeply subsidized. Success would be access to healthy, affordable and sustainably-produced food and a health care system that participated in alliances with grocers and farmers, an alignment of abundance for all.

In the meantime, success for me comes from leaving things and people, better than I found them! Working alongside children and students and patients to access their inner wisdom and innate healing abilities. This is joy and thankfully something I get to experience often.

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