The teaching of complementary and alternative medicine in U.S. medical schools

A survey of course directors

James J. Brokaw, Godfrey Tunnicliff, Beat U. Raess, Dale Saxon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

94 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose. The number of U.S. medical schools offering courses in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has risen sharply in recent years. This study gauged the current state of CAM instruction by gathering details about the specific topics being taught and the objectives behind the instruction. Method. Data were collected from questionnaires mailed to 123 CAM course directors at 74 U.S. medical schools. Results. Questionnaires were returned by 73 course directors at 53 schools. The topics most often being taught were acupuncture (76.7%), herbs and botanicals (69.9%), meditation and relaxation (65.8%), spirituality/faith/prayer (64.4%), chiropractic (60.3%), homeopathy (57.5%), and nutrition and diets (50.7%). The amounts of instructional time devoted to individual CAM topics varied widely, but most received about two contact hours. The "typical" CAM course was sponsored by a clinical department as an elective, was most likely to be taught in the first or fourth year of medical school, and had fewer than 20 contact hours of instruction. Most of the courses (78.1%) were taught by individuals identified as being CAM practitioners or prescribers of CAM therapies. Few of the courses (17.8%) emphasized a scientific approach to the evaluation of CAM effectiveness. Conclusion. A wide variety of topics are being taught in U.S. medical schools under the umbrella of CAM. For the most part, the instruction appears to be founded on the assumption that unconventional therapies are effective, but little scientific evidence is offered. This approach is questionable, especially since mainstream medicine owes much of its success to a foundation of established scientific principles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)876-881
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Medicine
Volume77
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2002

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alternative medicine
Complementary Therapies
Medical Schools
director
Teaching
school
instruction
homeopathy
contact
acupuncture
Surveys and Questionnaires
questionnaire
meditation
spirituality
nutrition
faith
medicine
State Medicine
Meditation
Chiropractic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Education

Cite this

The teaching of complementary and alternative medicine in U.S. medical schools : A survey of course directors. / Brokaw, James J.; Tunnicliff, Godfrey; Raess, Beat U.; Saxon, Dale.

In: Academic Medicine, Vol. 77, No. 9, 09.2002, p. 876-881.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Brokaw, James J. ; Tunnicliff, Godfrey ; Raess, Beat U. ; Saxon, Dale. / The teaching of complementary and alternative medicine in U.S. medical schools : A survey of course directors. In: Academic Medicine. 2002 ; Vol. 77, No. 9. pp. 876-881.
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