Photo: Roasted Asparagus Salad
Studying for medical school board exams gave NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) student Jacqueline Segelnick a great deal of anxiety, so to cope with her stress, she turned to cooking. To her surprise, many of her ingredients resembled a number of the objects she was studying in class, and ended up aiding her studies. The third-year medical student decided to start an Instagram account—@cookingforboards—in hopes of helping fellow students manage their stress as well. Her page quickly gained popularity and even caught the attention of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), who asked her to contribute to their website.
Segelnick recently sat down with The Box to talk about her Instagram, her recipes, writing for the AOA, and how she’s doing now that she’s discovered cooking as a stress reliever.
Why did you decide to start @cookingforboards?
I decided to start my Instagram in hopes that other busy med school students would see my recipes and see that it is possible to cook and study. My first post was in August 2016.
You often incorporate what you are learning in your posts. Was that always your intention? For example, in one post, you compare skinning an onion to “primary sclerosing cholangitis” (a disease that slowly damages the bile ducts).
It was not. At first, it was just easy recipes, and it still is, but since I’ve been studying so much for my boards, I had to find a way to continue cooking even with such a time crunch. So, I started integrating materials into my dishes.
For me, the process is that I make a dish and then I notice that a certain ingredient reminds me of something I learned in school and then I study that information. For example, I’ll make something with strawberries, and the cut-open strawberry reminds me of a hypertrophic heart. Then I’ll review that pathology when I’m studying.
Have any of your fellow students reached out to you since starting @cookingforboards?
A bunch of my classmates have told me they like my posts. Someone told me they got a question right on their Comlex [Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination] because of one of my posts!
Three Ingredient Meatballs
The best part about this recipe is not only that it has three ingredients, but that they freeze well and can be made in advance when your schedule is a little lighter one day.
1 jar of chili sauce
1 jar of grape jelly
1 lb. of chopped meat
In a large sauce pan empty the jar of jelly and chili sauce on medium heat and mix. Then with your chopped meat roll into balls and carefully place into the sauce. Do not mix! When all the meat is used up give the pot a few shakes until all the balls are covered. Lower the flame and let them simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve over spaghetti or for a lighter option roast spaghetti squash in the oven with olive oil and salt for 40 minutes at 350. Fork the squash and serve the meatballs over the spaghetti squash.
For all of Jacqueline Segelnick’s recipes, follow her on Instagram
What are some of your more popular recipes?
My crockpot brisket has the most likes right now on Instagram. Cauliflower pizza, falafel chicken, and zucchini pizzas are also popular.
How did you begin writing for the AOA website?
They messaged me on Facebook. They said they stumbled upon my Instagram page and loved how I approached the balance between school and home. It’s been surreal. I really just did this because I was doing it anyways and thought, “Why not share it? Maybe one or two people will see it.” But now it’s reaching so many more people. AOA also made a video of three of my recipes, which is posted along with my article. Last time I checked the video had over 2,000 views.
What are your stress levels like now?
Cooking has really helped me manage my anxiety. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s best to disengage from your studies. My anxiety decreases and I end up with a delicious meal for my husband and me to eat. It’s an easy way to ensure that you take care of yourself.
Will you continue with the page after you graduate?
I think so, because I'll always be “cooking for boards” since you have to retake them every ten years! I might not continue making correlations between cooking and medicine, but I can imagine as a full-time physician (and hopefully one day I’ll also have a family with my husband) that I’ll always need quick, easy, and delicious recipes.
Your page began as a way for you to manage your stress in medical school. Would you say that finding a way to help with stress also applies to all college students?
Yes, because even though the page started in medical school, my cooking did not. I was really into baking during my college years, and I used that as an escape, but now there’s much more studying needed and I can’t bake for hours. With cooking, you can make dishes in 20 minutes, which is more feasible. I also do cake decorating as a hobby, which I find extremely therapeutic.
What advice do you have for fellow stressed-out students?
You can’t study 24/7. It is just as important to take breaks and take care of yourself, but don't use that as an excuse not to study. It takes time to find this balance … look for things that relax you—take up a hobby or go to the gym. It will make going through all your studies easier and more enjoyable. I hope that when people see my page they can see that it really is possible to have a school/life balance. Mental health is a really important topic in medical school, and I think this can inspire more people to look for hobbies to help them manage their stress.
This interview has been edited and condensed.