The Making of a ‘Foodie Gynecologist’

How learning to cook can support lifelong health

Chili peppers

As a physician today, I embrace the modern Hippocratic Oath: “I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure. We are what we eat. Let food be thy medicine.”

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I believe that only by learning the fundamentals of cooking can we craft and build upon a personal plan for lifelong health.

My love of “different” food began in childhood. Growing up, my father worked tirelessly to provide for our family. He worked a number of jobs — so many that I can’t remember all of them — but there is one I’ll never forget: waiter at an upscale Cleveland country club.

Dad’s hard work provided the income to send me to college to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. It also serendipitously ignited my culinary palate. Saturday mornings, I would open the refrigerator simply looking for orange juice and eggs. Instead I would find whole lobsters and crab legs, capers and tapenade, and large wedges of gouda, brie and manchego cheeses.

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These flavors and textures were initially “gross” to me, but I learned to savor the foreign foods in our refrigerator. After some experimentation, my comfort foods became lobster macaroni and cheese, and collard greens with chipotle in adobe sauce. Decades before they were iconic items on fine dining menus, they were my favorite recipes to cook.

As an elected member of an international gynecologic society, I have traveled the world lecturing and participating in conferences — cooking along the way. This led my patients to fondly call me their “foodie gynecologist.” My adage was, “attend a meeting, take a cooking class, and buy a regional cookbook.”

My hands-on culinary education was awakened in the spice markets of Istanbul and in the fruit stands of the West Side Market in Cleveland. My fondest memories include culinary classes in Singapore, Alaska, Turkey, Argentina and New Orleans. Shopkeepers shared guarded recipes and cooking techniques with me in one-on-one classes. I brought home treasured spices and bottled sauces instead of souvenirs.

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The quickest way to understand another culture, language and customs is through food and drink. I’ve learned much about the culture of India by rolling dough with a housewife making samosas. I’ve tasted Italian culture on my tongue through samples of fine wine suggested by a young sommelier. There is synergy between what we eat and who we are.

My current passion involves increasing nutritional literacy and sharing the cooking tips I’ve learned through worldwide travel. My goal is to help people to use flavor over fat to improve their health — “to prevent disease whenever I can,” as Hippocrates bids us.

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Linda Bradley, MD

Linda Bradley, MD

Linda Bradley, MD, Vice Chair of our Ob/Gyn & Women’s Health Institute, embraces Hippocrates' statement: “Let food be thy medicine.”
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