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UCI’s Samueli Institute Cooks Up Healthy Living

Mussallem-Backed Kitchen Part of Harvard Health Study

A new type of cooking kitchen is expected to open next month at the University of California, Irvine.

The Linda and Mike Mussallem Kitchen will be teaching patients and medical students the latest in nutritional ways to cook.

Patients with diseases like diabetes or heart problems will learn how to cook nutritional meals, said Dr. Shaista Malik, executive director of the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute.

“We do different modules based on the disease” suffered by the patient, Malik said. For example, “in a module for a cardio metabolic disease, a patient will learn how to make healthy foods that are low in salt and fats and incorporate a lot of vegetables.”

“Instead of sitting across the desk from a dietician, you can come here and learn the skill and bill it to insurance. Insurance companies are seeing that this is the way to move forward.”

The institute takes cooking so seriously that it hired an executive chef, Jessica VanRoo, who was previously UCI’s director of culinary education. It also built a nearby garden where herbs like lavender are cooked and analyzed in the kitchen for their medicinal capabilities.

The cooking program has already attracted national attention, as it was recently selected to take part in a study conducted by Harvard Health to focus on obese patients with cardio metabolic issues like hypertension and diabetes. Over an 18-month period, the $1 million study will follow 200 obese patients, including about 50 at UCI’s Samueli Health Institute.

“We’re bringing them in here teaching them these cooking skills that were going to compare them to a group that was just given neutral nutritional education that we normally give in a clinic with a flier,” Malik said.

California Doors

The kitchen is part of the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, which is the 21,432-square-foot flagship clinic within the new Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences’ 110,000-square-foot complex. The facility is a result of the Samueli family’s 2017 pledge of $200 million to support a first-of-its-kind college of health sciences at UCI focused on interdisciplinary, integrative health.

Henry Samueli co-founded and is chairman of Broadcom Inc. (Nasdaq: AVGO), a chipmaker with a $219 billion market cap as of last week.

The institute has 40 exam rooms and 20 treatment rooms, seeing about 80 patients a day, with plans for as many as 300 daily.

Mussallem Gift

The kitchen is a result of a gift from Linda and Mike Mussallem; the former is an integrative health advocate who is on the institute’s advisory board while the latter is
CEO of Irvine’s Edwards Lifesciences Corp. (NYSE: EW), OC’s most valuable public company with a $47 billion market cap.

Mike Mussallem last week announced plans to retire from the CEO position next May; for more, see next week’s print edition of the Business Journal.

Besides cooking, the institute in the coming months will be offering several activities not commonly found in medical clinics, from tai chi to yoga to “technically oriented exercise machines” where an exercise physiologist can monitor cardiac patients.

“It helps build confidence that people after a heart attack or heart surgery, that they can exercise again,” Malik said.

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Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.
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