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Future doctors support integrated therapies

January 20, 2010 |  7:41 am

Acupuncture It has taken a long time for complementary and alternative medical practices to gain acceptance in traditional Western medicine. But future doctors appear to be much more open to CAM therapies.

A national survey of medical students published today shows three-quarters of the students think conventional Western medicine would benefit by integrating more CAM therapies. CAM includes such treatments as massage, herbal medicine, yoga, acupuncture and meditation and encourages a mind-body approach to healing and prevention of illness. The survey was performed by researchers at UCLA and UC San Diego. They gathered 1,770 surveys from students at 126 medical schools throughout the country.

The survey also found some hesitation, however. Few students said they would recommend or use these treatments in their practice until more scientific evidence is gathered.

"Our research suggests that persuading doctors to integrate CAM will require investment in the types of clinical research that form the backbone of Western medicine," said study author Ryan Abbott of the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine.

The study is published online today in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: An acupuncture treatment. Credit: Jung Yeon-He  AFP/Getty Images

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Comments (5)

The problem is that, by definition, alternative medicine has no proof that it is effective. That what makes it "alternative". The NCCAM has spent $2.5 billion and has, to this point, found no alternative medicine that actually works. When the study author says "Our research suggests that persuading doctors to integrate CAM will require investment in the types of clinical research that form the backbone of Western medicine," I'm not sure what he is talking about, because this investment has already been made.

I think its great to encourage people to be more healthy, but things like herbal medicine have no proof of efficacy and no adequate testing to ensure they are safe. This sounds like a big step backwards to me.

OK, I just looked at the actual study. It looks like the types of things the students would like to integrate are promoting healthy habits, the idea that one's mental state affects one's health, that doctors should lead a healthy lifestyle to be a good role model, etc. These things are already taught in medical school, though. (Well, maybe except doctors being healthy.) They don't so much see alternative "therapies" as being useful, unless they are proven scientifically. (Which would make them just plain old "medicine" anyway.) This makes sense to me.

As the article points out " It has taken a long time for complementary and alternative medical practices to gain acceptance in traditional Western medicine" but better late than never. A clinic near where I live now provides acupuncture, that would have been unheard of a couple of years ago. The public can now have a greater choice with regards to their health treatment.

I think this is good news-- there's a lot of back-and-forth between people on both sides. Skeptics of alternative medicine lump it all together as placebo, even though research is being done and has been done into much of it in places like China and Japan, while the more extreme skeptics of Western medicine find a Big Pharma-government-health industry conspiracy a little too easily. I welcome anything that means better treatment with a range of options available that address the whole person.

(I just I hope I won't be dead by the time these young doctors are finally out there! So far so good)

I teach medical students. I also teach them about alternative medicine so that they are aware of the unscientific, ineffective practices that are out there and can advise their patients accordingly when questioned about these practices by their patients. I also teach my students about the placebo effect, the reason why any alternative medicine practice such as acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki, etc. might appear to work.



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