The multitalented Dr. Juanita Merchant's gastronomy skills span the globe

Dec. 14, 2023

Everyone has to eat, but these UArizona Health Sciences faculty members take their cooking to another level.

A person pulls linguine from a pasta-making machine. She has short gray hair and red glasses and is laughing.

When Juanita Merchant, MD, PhD, threw a recent dinner party, she recreated a meal she’d made in Sicily, complete with homemade pasta.

This feature appeared in the University of Arizona Health Sciences website on Dec. 14, 2023.

They spend their days teaching students, doing research, caring for patients and even running a foundation. But off duty, they swap medicine for mise en place, a fancy French phrase that needs no explanation for these University of Arizona Health Sciences faculty members. (For the rest of us, it refers to the setup and preparation work required before cooking.) 

After a long day at the office, prepping a meal — with its requisite chopping, stirring and sautéing — is the perfect way to destress for many faculty and staff members. Food is more than just a pathway to health, it’s a beeline to relaxation. When it comes to cooking, the doctor is in – the kitchen.

“Food is … therapeutic.” – Juanita Merchant, MD, PhD

Travel and food go together like cherries and chocolate, one of Merchant’s favorite combos.

Woman stirs a pot on a stove in a kitchen.

Juanita Merchant, MD, PhD, grew up on hearty Midwestern fare but loves Italian cooking the most.

Wherever she goes, Merchant, interim director of the UArizona Cancer Center, takes a cooking class if she can. She’s cooked up cactus in Cancún, squash soup in South Carolina and swordfish involtini and fresh pasta in Sicily. 

To her, cooking is an adventure.

Read more of the University of Arizona Health Sciences story The doctor is in––in the kitchen that is.