Get to Know Center Faculty: Laura Moore

Published: January 3, 2022

Laura_MooreInterviewing faculty can be a great way to get to know more about them! Learning more about faculty research and interests can be helpful to students forming their own interests and career goals.

Laura S. Moore is the Director of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health Nourish Program and a member of the Nutrition Faculty at the UTHealth School of Public Health. Her passion for food began with her training at Le Cordon Bleu, and her expertise is in Nutrition and Culinary Arts with emphasis in Nutritional Science, Culinary Training, and Community Garden Education. She is trained in Weight Management for Children and Adolescents with a focus in obesity prevention.

One of Laura’s passions is enabling the next generation of dietitians to have the tools they need to be competitive in today’s workforce. Under her guidance, leadership, and dedicated planning, the UTHealth School of Public Health Nourish Program has undergone significant amplification. The additional components offer students a wide range of hands-on experiences that enable them to help people to live healthier lives. This expansion includes a Research and Demonstration Kitchen (Nourish Kitchen), Medical Nutrition Therapy Simulation Classroom, and the Holistic Garden.

1. How did your interest in public health begin?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in the health and well-being of others because of my interest in food. Culinary and nutrition training early in my life gave me the skills to prepare foods in healthier ways. My career in food began in the early ‘80s with my business Culinary Resources – offering seminars on cooking and entertaining. Interestingly, these seminars were very similar to the hands-on classes we hold now at the School of Public Health in Houston. Joining UTHealth School of Public Health has given me the opportunity to share my love of growing and preparing healthy food with faculty, staff, students, healthcare professionals and the community. I am very passionate about promoting holistic nutrition education that is sensible, practical, and accessible for all people.

2. What path has your career taken?

Since 2012, my career has moved toward training students, healthcare professionals, and members of the community with critical culinary skills and knowledge helping them address and prevent a range of health issues that are the result of poor nutrition.

3. In your opinion, what are the biggest public health problems in your field of work?

I think one of the many problems would be the societal impact of poor nutrition. Whether it’s under-nutrition or over-nutrition, the negative consequences can be long term. Not only does it affect the individual’s well-being, but also increases healthcare costs and slows down the economy. Another problem would be health inequities – relating to social determinants of health. When individuals do not have access to food (nutrition), housing and community resources (all = social determinants of health) negative health outcomes result and can continue through generations. Many healthcare facilities are now screening for social determinants of health in an effort to find solutions to these issues for individuals.

4. With regards to public health, what do you want to see being done now?

I would like to broaden the understanding and appreciation of food and strengthen the connection between who people are and what they consume. We need to transform eating from a daily act to a lifelong experience in order to make our communities healthier and stronger.

5. Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on, or one that stands out to you?

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas has given the Nourish program the opportunity to build a virtual culinary and nutrition toolkit available for all. This toolkit includes animated videos on nutrition education, cooking videos, training videos for healthcare providers, and so much more. We have been waiting to begin our external work/intervention with the Sanitas clinics’ patient population and utilize this toolkit in combination with our virtual nutrition classes. COVID-19 set us back more than a year and our hands-on classes pivoted to virtual, but we are now moving forward.

6. What are you working on now that is exciting?

Definitely marketing the Nourish Cookbook – How Good Food Works from Seed to Plate that was published in December. Our book launch is around the corner. The cookbook is filled with healthy, delicious recipes, beautiful photography, and helpful cooking tips and information. Proceeds from the sale of our book will go to support the Nourish program and the work we are doing in the community to promote food that encourages lifelong health and well-being.

7. What is unique about your nutrition work in the city of Houston?

We are so fortunate to have the largest medical complex in the world right in our own backyard. My focus in culinary medicine/nutrition provides the foundation for a way to live healthier. We have the opportunity to collaborate and share our curriculum with many hospitals, school districts, and non-profit organizations such as the Food Bank and Star of Hope Mission. Our grant work takes us into many of the underserved populated areas in Houston – teaching nutrition and culinary skills to our community members.

8. What do you like most about working with students and our future public health workforce?

It’s so rewarding to see students progress through the MPH/dietetic internship program. It’s a rigorous program – in addition to their MPH work, the students are required to perform 1,200 supervised practice hours. They gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to move out into the community to teach others how to live healthier. The resources we built for the students – the teaching kitchen, holistic garden, and the simulation lab play a major role in the education process.

9. Is there anything else you would like to add?

I mentioned above - we received our first printed book in December and have already received an award: Gourmand 2021 – Best USA cookbook in the cooking school category as well as Best USA fundraising cookbook. These awards will put the book into the running for Best in the World in these categories! I briefly mentioned our resources; however, I wanted to say that the UTHealth School of Public Health nutrition program has undergone significant amplification. These resources offer students a wide range of hands-on experiences that enable them to help people to live healthier lives. This expansion includes the Research and Teaching kitchen, Holistic Garden, and the Medical Nutrition Therapy Simulation Lab.