event gabriella ganugi

Judge for NYU Nutrition Students Competition

© DavidAndreWeiss

On Jan. 23, 20 students–ten studying to be speech-language pathologists and ten who are aspiring nutritionists–competed in an Iron Chef/Top Chef-inspired cooking competition to close out their interdisciplinary winter session course, “Case-Based Management of Dysphagia.”  The class, developed by Lisa Sasson and Erin Embry, professors of nutrition and speech-language pathology respectively, is a unique opportunity for two sets of graduate students from different departments to work together on cases to experience collaborate learning and practice.

“The course was founded in the belief that although individuals may have limitations in their diets, they should not be deprived of the joy and satisfaction of healthy, delicious food,” said Sasson.  ”People who eat better have better overall health outcomes.”

This interdiscipilinary course also reflects NYU Steinhardt’s values, cutting across two disciplines and departments.  ”Similar to a health care setting, the departments and people within Steinhardt also have varying backgrounds, but share a common vision related to enhancing and improving human development through creative, innovative and collaborative efforts,” added Embry.


Embry and Sasson serve as facilitators of the course, while students work to build goals for their case study patients.  The group meets twice in a classroom setting, once at Rusk rehab center for resident rounds with patients, and, finally, once in the kitchen for the cooking competition.

The class has generated tangible results outside of the classroom and kitchen.  Last year, NYU Langone Medical Center modified its dysphagia menus and now offers patients chef-inspired meals and uses food molds to improve taste, consistency and presentation. In addition, students in the hospital’s culinary academy will learn how to enhance textured foods for people with swallowing disorders.

For this year’s final session, students created dishes ranging from gefilte fish and carrots to bite-sized burgers to mini meatballs, the latter of which was selected as the best dish, with sides of bright vegetables, rice noodles and a curried soup.  The case study focused on a young Korean man with a traumatic brain injury who had difficulty swallowing, a common side effect for someone with his affliction.

Judges for the competition included Krishnendu Ray, chair of the Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health Department; Dr. Steven Flanagan,professor and chair of the Department of Rehabilitative Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center; Katharine Alford, VP of the Food Network; Gabriella Ganugi, president of Palazzi-Florence Association for International Education; Dr. Matina Balou, speech-language pathologist at NYU Rusk Medical Center.

NYU Blog

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