A meaty passion wards off burnout.
You can almost always find Linda Shiue ’93 MD’98 in a kitchen.
She took her first cooking class when she was just 7 years old. As a sophomore at Brown she leaped at the chance to get off the meal plan and cook for herself. Now, as a San Francisco primary care physician, she leads once-a-month cooking classes and shares new recipes on her website, Spicebox Travels.
It’s nothing she learned during her medical training, she says. “Most of my nutrition education came in the form of tube feeding and meal replacement in an acute setting, not how food can be used to prevent disease and improve health,” she says.
A turning point for Shiue came in 2009 when Francis Lam, a prominent food writer, launched a weekly online cooking challenge on Salon.com. Every week, Lam would create a new Salon Kitchen Challenge centered around a food or theme, and readers would submit recipes.
“I was one of two people who entered the contest every single week,” Shiue says. “I ended up winning several times and had the thrill of my writing and recipes featured in a national web magazine. I had never really written a recipe, so that year gave me great practice.”
Spicebox Travels was born in 2010 when Shiue needed a way to archive her recipes. “I really saw it as more of a hobby,” she says. “For some reason I never connected my love of cooking with my patient care.”
That changed soon after, when Shiue attended a continuing medical education conference on nutrition science and health care. Sessions include scholarly presentations on nutrition, cooking demonstrations, and hands-on training at a culinary school. “At this point, I was 10 years into my career and I was burning out,” Shiue says. “But after attending the class, I realized I wanted to do this, and I wanted to tie this into my patient care.”
Just one week after the course, she taught her first cooking class to patients. She loved it, and over the next few years, her offerings grew from three or four classes a year to one each month.
In 2016, before she joined a new primary care practice, Shiue took a sabbatical year and attended the San Francisco Cooking School. “I had always wanted to do it and thought that if I waited, I would never have the chance,” she says. She learned classical French cooking techniques and how to be a better instructor, while picking up tips and tricks for her healthy cooking repertoire.
Now she’s helping create cooking programs at medical centers across the country and working on a cookbook, The Doctor’s Spicebox, which will be released in 2021, as she continues to empower her patients to lead healthier lives.
“I feel very lucky that I get to do this,” Shiue says. “Whatever your passions are outside of medicine and science that have been traditionally seen separate from medicine, are becoming more and more important for your own well-being as a doctor. It’s important to not burn out, and being able to do something you love is one way of doing that.”