Student Corner: Medical students PAIR-up with local high schoolers

“Has anyone tried pumpkin pie? We’re going to make it today – you can try it!” announces Sohini Bandy, a medical student at Baylor College of Medicine. She’s speaking to a group of excited high schoolers in the PAIR program – the Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees.


Baylor medical students in the CHEF elective prepare food for their program with students from the Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees.

The organization improves the lives of refugee youth through mentoring, tutoring and college access programs. Since 2007, it has assisted young refugees in the Houston community in achieving cultural inclusion, academic success and self-reliance.

Medical students in the CHEF program have invited them to the Baylor campus to learn about healthy holiday recipes, including pumpkin pie.

The CHEF (Choosing Healthy, Eating Fresh) organization at Baylor College of Medicine seeks to raise awareness about nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits among medical students, patients and high school students. Medical students can learn cooking skills and the application of nutrition into clinical practice through the CHEF elective offered during their second year of medical school.

This spring, they were invited by PAIR to teach students about healthy eating. They visited the schools and taught them about the USDA MyPlate Initiative and made wraps and trail mix with the students. This time, students were invited to Baylor to learn more about healthy recipes for the holidays.

The lesson began with a quiz, where students were asked to match unhealthy foods with their healthy substitutions. For example, plain Greek yogurt as a substitution for sour cream or wheat bread for white bread. Then, it was time for the cooking. On the menu that evening was a turkey salad wrap, fruit and yogurt parfait and pumpkin pie in a mug.

Students learned healthy substitutions, healthy eating tips and about how to read nutrition labels.

“I learned that there are so many healthy foods to exchange,” said one student in the PAIR program, who moved to Houston from Botswana four years ago. “It was fun. I learned a lot of things today.”

“I learned that sugar is no good and I enjoyed good food today,” said another student, who moved from the Democratic Republic of Congo two years ago. “I like Houston, it’s fun and I’m making friends.”

“I’m so happy that the CHEF-PAIR partnership is continuing so strongly with this second round of classes in 2015,” said Bandy. “It is very exciting for the CHEF organization to teach this group of refugee students – their needs and palates are very interesting for us to adapt our curricula to. Introducing them to traditional American food – like pumpkin pie – has been exciting for both of us. As these students continue to adjust to life in the States, I hope that CHEF can continue to empower them to make healthy, nutritional choices and teach them cooking skills they might not get elsewhere.”

Students from Rice University who volunteer with PAIR also were in attendance.

“It’s always good to instill healthy habits,” said Shaina Carroll, a senior at Rice. “Many of the students come from big families, so being able to cook is helpful for helping around the house.”

“I like this building and I like the school. I think I’m going to come here,” said the student from Congo.