I frequently foil physicians against persuasion principles, demonstrating the dynamic tension between science and persuasion. Physicians, or health care workers in general, combine persuasion and science badly. When their science is weak, they strain toward persuasion. When they seek change in the Other Guys, they miss the science of persuasion and instead do things like this.
To confront the obesity problem, the Harvard School of Public Health is wisely stealing a page from the celebrity chef persuasion play. Harvard has partnered with a cooking school to create a continuing education program aimed at teaching front line physicians about healthy cooking. The argument is that physicians may know a lot about obesity and maybe even nutrition, but they don’t know anything practical about good and healthy cooking. In a three and a half day seminar, physicians attend numerous sessions typically run by both a chef and a Harvard researcher who demonstrate the interplay of the basic science and the applied cooking.
Sounds persuasion smart, doesn’t it? Take the celebrity chef play, combine with standard lecture presentation, mix in a dog and pony show and you’ve got persuasion and science in happy marriage. A little sizzle with the steak, so to speak. And, you’ve got that Two Step Flow wherein Harvard trains physicians who return to their practice and they train other physicians, but more importantly, the real Other Guys, patients.
Now. The details. Persuasion is always in the details.
To participate in the program, folks have to pay $1200 for registration plus travel and lodging expenses . . . to Napa Valley, CA at the Culinary Institute of America. Physicians earn continuing education credits the same way they can with, say, pharmas holding research conferences in San Juan in February.
What do we cook?
. . . a stir-fry with perfectly browned shiitake mushrooms and a heavy dose of sake . . .
Rice wine to you is sake to me!
In a place that celebrates perfect pairings (say, a riesling with a spicy chicken Madras) . . .
Make mine a Piesporter! Auslese.
. . . Dr. Fox said as he chopped rosemary for a mustard-crusted seared lamb loin . . .
Dr. Fox? Hmmmm.
A sold-out session called “Wine: The Latest Research on the Health Impacts Plus a Guided Tasting,” taught by John Buechsenstein, a winemaker, and Eric B. Rimm, a cardiovascular epidemiologist from Harvard, preceded a tasting of a Washington State gewürztraminer and other wines accompanied by a geeky PowerPoint presentation.
Gee, those are popular dishes and drinks in Marshall, MO and Beckley WV, and on and on with all those flyover shtetls in the sea of Red that surrounds urban Blue. Nothing with Miracle Whip? Bacon? Fried twinkies? Where’s the beer pairings seminar? Bud with burgers, Keystone with casserole?
And, if you think about it, 1200 bucks is actually kinda cheap for this kind of training firepower. The CIA is a world class operation and Harvard’s pretty good, too. That much content from those kind of instructors is expensive. Wonder how they make it happen on 1200 dollars?
They have partners, of course.
Aetna, Compass Group of North America, SPE, Legal Sea Foods, B&W Gourmet Farms, Chobani, National Peanut Board, Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics, Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission, Ameriflax, Avocados from Mexico, California Olive Ranch, Northern Canola Growers — USA, and Northern Canola Growers Association.
They provide additional funding and helpful exhibition booths . . .
. . . to the 400 or so pediatricians, endocrinologists, dietitians and other health practitioners who were spending three and a half days in the Napa Valley learning how to cook.
While most of the NY Times story on this persuasion play rivals the fawning PR for James Cameron, the writer does hear the dissonance.
In a place that celebrates perfect pairings (say, a riesling with a spicy chicken Madras), the combination of James Beard Award-winning chefs with heavy guns from the Harvard School of Public Health, including Dr. Walter Willett, an epidemiologist and international authority on the health consequences of food choices, could at times feel surreal.
Surreal? Like Dali?
Or surreal like Orwell?
Everyone involved in this operation thinks they are doing a smart persuasion play, mixing science with persuasion principles when all they are doing is making a yuppie getaway into an elitist tax break and resume builder. All the participants and the partners will take tax exemptions on this. The participants will buy CEUs for their medical credentialing. The partners will do some business with either the CIA chefs or some of the participants. And, maybe a few participants will bring this idea back to their own clinics. The writer notes at least three successes.
For instance, Dr. John Principe of Palos Heights, a Chicago suburb, said that he seriously thought about quitting medicine, fed up with “a pill for every ill.” Fantasizing about a second career as a chef, he attended “Healthy Kitchens” five years ago and realized that he might be able to combine the two. He now holds a culinary boot camp in the 2,400-square-foot kitchen and lecture room he built below his medical office, where he teaches people how to whip up cauliflower crust pizza and other dishes. (The sessions qualify for insurance under the group medical appointment model.) “Instead of being in the downtrodden mode, it’s given me a zest for life,” he said.
Hmm. The guy was gonna quit the profession, but because now he can cook and see patients, he stayed. With insurance coverage! Not exactly a big win for the program.
At the Baylor College of Medicine, Jasdeep Mangat, a 24-year-old medical student, was a founder of Choosing Healthy, Eating Fresh (CHEF), enlisting a chef from a local bistro to teach classes for 20 students using five portable gas burners in the student lounge. “We need to walk the talk,” he said.
Gee. A med student. Student. And twenty other students learning to cook for themselves.
And seven years ago, Dr. Daniela Connolly, now 40, and her husband, Patrick, bought a farm in Chester, N.H., to feed their five children healthy and reliable food . . . After three days of “Healthy Kitchens,” she is now convinced she needs to teach her patients healthy cooking. “In a perfect world, I would have my patients meet me at the farm,” she said. “That would make me a really happy doctor.”
So, somebody who’d already bought a farm attended the class and likes the idea. And imagine that she’d be really happy if all her work came to her farm rather than her having to go to her work. Harvard counts with Rare Pride!
Neither the Harvard crew behind this or the program participants have any inkling of how bad this looks. Read the article or the Harvard website for the program. The snobbish elitism leaps off the page. Foods and cooking practices and beverages that have absolutely no contact with the great mass of Other Guys the program proposes as targets for change. One exclusive location and only once a year. Significant time, money, and travel costs. Manufactured CEUs. Hey, we’re doing seminar here. Really.
While the program aims to change all those fat slob Other Guys, it clearly will have no measurable impact on national waistlines or kitchen practices. Yet, under the imprimatur of Crimson CEUs everyone can authentically parade around as persuasion mavens when they are just pretense on the prowl.
Why would any maven devote the resource this program requires, yet make no countable change in Other Guys?
Mull that over your gewürztraminer and let me know.
P.S. They’ve got a Dr. Fox? Guess they’ve never read the research on the Dr. Fox effect.