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Italy: Mediterranean Diet in Culinary Medicine
Florence, Italy; Roma, Italy (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Spring
Program Cost Spring
Fact Sheet:
Academic College: Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design Language of Instruction: English
Program Options: Faculty-Led Credits Earned: 3
Faculty Leader: Melissa Olfert
Program Description:


Italy: Mediterranean Diet in Culinary Medicine
IchopHealth is influenced by an array of both controllable and uncontrollable factors. Patients often mismanage the latter, or have limited resources for knowledge and application in areas such as diet, exercise, and substance use, to name a few, that may result in negative health outcomes. Health professionals have the responsibility to address these lifestyle components, by providing information and suggestions, and even lifestyle prescriptions, that promote healthy behavior. While guidelines of recommendations for nutrition, physical activity and other modifiable risk factors are readily available, health practitioners may need hands-on experience in areas such as food purchasing, nutrient knowledge and food preparation skills, to increase confidence in sharing information with their patients. Additionally, culinary medicine has been used for individualized disease treatment and prevention since ancient eras, and, over time, has shown remarkable successes across a spectrum of health complications, including diabetes, celiac disease, cardiovascular problems, etc. For this reason, it is important that health professionals have a foundational understanding of food and nutrition concepts, recommendations, and resources. Nutrition knowledge and application is essential in effective medical interventions across all health disciplines.

iChop2WVU is introducing the Mediterranean Diet in Culinary Medicine course for health professionals, which emphasizes the diet of the Mediterranean region as a useful culinary medicine tool while contrasting it with Appalachian food practices. The course will explore the Mediterranean diet and approach, now a part of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as it provides beneficial behavioral concepts as well as chronic disease prevention. Beginning in January 2018, this course, with a target enrollment of health professionals across a diverse spread of disciplines, will be enrolling individuals in a 3-credit class consisting of 1.5 credits of online coursework and a 1.5-credit immersion experience. Online sessions will cover a multitude of health topics and Mediterranean culture as it relates to culinary medicine Appalachian food systems and practices.

Shortly after the semester ends in May, the group will travel to Tuscany, Italy where we will immerse ourselves into the culture itself.  Beginning in the Tuscan countryside and ending in the city of Florence we will have a full 14-day active learning experience. The group will visit local restaurants, vineyards, and farms to experience the Mediterranean lifestyle first-hand. In order to build both culinary skills and nutrition knowledge, the group will be staying at a local agriturismo (Italian for farmhouse) in two different locations, where we may have the opportunity to tend to bees, hunt for truffles, and work olive trees and vines. Health professionals will participate in daily activities, such as culinary classes hosted by Italian chefs, tours of cheese, wine, and olive oil production facilities, along with free time in every location. As we travel from the countryside to the city, we will be exploring the Mediterranean culinary culture from farm to table. The numerous excursions allow for a detailed look at the processes, and incorporate hands on training for an even deeper understanding of the foods we will study.

The course is going to be a great opportunity to explore the role of culinary medicine in health through learning about a highly beneficial diet, and by experiencing one of the world’s strongest culinary cultures. This experience allows you to gain university credits, which you may be able to submit  for continuing education in your discipline, while empowering you with terminology and evidence-based toolkit, which you can use to counsel your patients in practice.

This course is also a pilot research study called Increasing Culinary Health Opportunities for Professionals (iCHOP): Mediterranean. The study is aimed at examining the use of culinary medicine in practice among health professionals of varying disciplines. Specifically, we are looking at the evolution of incorporating a Mediterranean approach in professional practice before and after education modules and cultural immersion. The goal of iCHOP Mediterranean is to expose working professionals to the nutritional benefits of this diet, and provide them with opportunities to understand through physical interaction. By learning first and practicing second, we hope that the participants will feel empowered to use their new knowledge and share their experiences in practice. Other than a 6 month follow up, all components of the research study will be included in the online coursework and activities while abroad.


iChop3HN&F 493/HN&F 593: SPTP: Mediterranean Diet in Culinary Medicine - 3 credit hours
As previously mentioned, the 3 credit course (tuition included in the cost of the whole program) will be split between online coursework (Spring Semester) and travel activities (14 day travel). The 16-week course will be divided into modules, each focusing on a different aspect of Mediterranean diet and culture while contrasted with the local Appalachian system. For example, the history of the Mediterranean region, Italian and American food systems, the cultural significance of food, the nutritional components of Mediterranean cuisine, etc. Virtually, assignments may include independent interest areas, contribution to discussion forums, completion of case studies, and journal reports. There will be periodic mixers held on the WVU Morgantown campus for you to attend in order to acquaint all personnel prior to embarking on the trip, encouraged but not mandatory.
            While in Italy, the learning will continue through interactive activities. Many will relate to topics covered in class, while others will introduce new concepts. Through hands on learning, the health practitioner will gain a better understanding of the topic focus areas that extends beyond reading facts from a text rather applied experiential learning.
Dates and Deadlines:
Course Dates:
January 8, 2018- May 9, 2018 (conducted online)
Travel Dates: May 21, 2018 – June 3, 2018
Application Deadline: December 1st



Melissa Olfert, DrPH, RDN

Dr. Melissa Olfert is an active researcher in lifestyle medicine incorporating culinary skills and behavioral change to promote health and prevention chronic disease development  Previously she had a private practice in lifestyle medicine and nutrition assisting families to focus on family mealtime, sustainable food practices and patterns of healthy choices and local food advocacy.  She currently holds adjunct faculty appointments in the School of Medicine and School of Public Health and is an Associate Professor in Human Nutrition and Foods in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design at WVU in Morgantown, WV.



Italy NutritionCOST $2,900 *Airfare not included


* WVU Course Credit
* Lodging
* Meals
* Programmatic Academic Excursions
* Comprehensive Travel and Health Insurance

Billing for the programs will occur upon registration into the courses associated with the Education Abroad program in STAR. The payment deadlines for the program will be the same as WVU  Semester Tuition and Fees. Participants will receive correspondence from OGA with registration instructions upon acceptance into the program after the application deadline. All payments are due in full before trip departure. Payments can be made through STAR or by contacting the Mountaineer HUB.


Visa Required for US Citizens? No

Useful Links:
How to Apply for a US Passport
Comprehensive Travel and Health Insurance

Dates / Deadlines: