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iCHOP Mediterranean is a research project focused on increasing the knowledge and skills of health professionals by offering a two week culture immersion course in Italy.


iCHOP Mediterranean investigates the role of nutrition in medicine across a multitude of health disciplines. Using Mediterranean Diet focused education and cultural immersion, this project revolves around building foundational knowledge, inspiring the use of new skills for client empowerment, and promoting exploration based on multidisciplinary collaboration.

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  • Increase knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy regarding nutrition in medicine
  • Compare Mediterranean culture and diet norms to those of Appalachia
  • Equip participants with tools and resources to incorporate a Mediterranean approach in practice

crate of vegetables cooking vegetables in a frying pan


iCHOP Mediterranean stems from the original Pilot iCHOP Study, as well as Dr. Olfert's 2012 undergraduate course Mediterranean Food, Culture, and Health. WVU is reintroducing the course as Mediterranean Diet in Culinary Medicine for a multidisciplinary group of health professionals, that includes a 2-week cultural immersion experience in Tuscany, Italy. The 3-credit online course explores the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, now a part of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as it provides beneficial behavioral concepts as well as chronic disease prevention. Health professionals across the state of West Virginia will enroll in the course for Spring 2018, and embark on the experiential learning trip at the end of May. By way of surveys, journals, and focus groups, researchers will track the individuals' progression after exposure to education and hands on practice. A follow up will be conducted 6 months after the trip's end, to assess changes in knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy, as well as overall use of Mediterranean principles in practice.

Family Meal

Outcomes, Impact, & Future Work

This study is currently in progress, but we anticipate hugely beneficial outcomes. Each participant will have increased nutrition, culinary, and cultural knowledge, as well as tools and resources to implement their new skills in practice. Additionally, individuals will have the opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration, and may acquire basic Italian skills. Overall, this experience will produce cultured health professionals with a wider depth of knowledge to be used in disease treatment and prevention.


Global Affairs Office - West Virginia University

Tanya Horacek, PhD, RDN - Syracuse University

Publications & Presentations

* denotes Research Assistant Trainees in the Olfert Research Lab


Santella ME*, Hagedorn R*, Olfert MD. Developing aMediterranean-focused “learn first, practice second” style intervention toincreasing culinary health opportunities for professionals: iCHOPMediterranean. West Virginia University Davis College Research Day. Morgantown,WV. April 11, 2018.

iCHOP Medical Students Pilot Study

Increasing Culinary Health Opportunities for Professionals (iCHOP) investigated nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and self efficacy among medical students at West Virginia University. Results from a 45-item survey revealed that participants ranging from year 1 to year 4 in their medical education had positive attitudes toward nutrition in medicine, but limited knowledge and low confidence for incorporating nutrition principles in practice. Overall, 70% of medical students had no previous nutrition knowledge in the education curriculum. The results of this study demonstrate a need to increase nutrition programs in the medical school plan of study. It is important that health professionals across many disciplines have some form of nutrition education, in order to best equip a multidisciplinary team for chronic disease treatment and prevention.

Publications & Presentations

* denotes Research Assistant Trainees in the Olfert Research Lab


Baker K*, Olfert MD. Incorporating Nutrition Education through Applied, Hands-on Culinary Elective in Medical School Training, FASEB J 28(1Suppl), 1020.2.

Baker K*, Olfert, MD. Nutrition Education in Medical School Curriculum. Posters on the Hill 2014.Council on Undergraduate Research, January 2014, Washington DC,

Hagedorn RL*, Clark R*, George A, Harris B, Enfonade J, Brubaker D, Olfert MD. Investigation of knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy of culinary skills as they relate to chronic disease prevention in future health practitioners: iCHOP Pilot Study. SNEB Annual Meeting. 2017

Hagedorn RL*, Morris AM*, Clark RL*, Harris BR*, George AM*, Enfonde JA*, Brubaker DQ*, Olfert MD. Knowledge, attitudes,and self-efficacy of culinary skills as they relate to chronic diseaseprevention in future health practitioners: iCHOP Pilot Study. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 49(7):S77, July 2017