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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Is political correctness one of the reasons med schools are teaching " complementary Medicine"?

I suspected that complementary and integrative medicine was making inroads into traditional medical schools but the recent blog by Dr. RW is shocking.Go to the University Of New Mexico Medical School site and see the degree to which this is happening. You will learn about the "manala of health" .There is a clinical service associated with the UNM program where the web site informs us prescriptions are not written and tests not ordered and the role of the primary care doctors is not assumed but at least one practitioner will provide a "comprehensive assessment using the principles of integrative medicine".
A similar clinical program can be found at the University of Arizona Medical School. Again no medications are prescribed or tests ordered. The $300 initial consultation fee is payable at the time of the clinic visit. University of Arizona's program is part of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine as are 26 other centers. One of the driving forces in this movement seems to be the Bravewell collaborative which is described as a philantrophic foundation whose mission is to further integrative medicine. For a scholarly assessment of some of the medical school teaching programs this reference is illuminating, thanks to Dr.RW for the citation.
Clearly medical students need to be made aware of various "alternative" practice claims and importantly learn to analyze and assess those claims and practices and theories. However, it seems that although these programs at medical schools purport to critically analyze other therapies and theories that imperative seems to be mixed in with some material that uncritically promotes those ideas. Here's the thing. Medicine is certainly more than science but some aspects of these programs appear to be ignoring the scientific principles in favor of warm fuzzy politically correct nonsense. It is ironic that in this era of evidence based medicine we also have a strange regression to promote the unscientific and unproven even giving some credence to homeopathy.There is some foundation money involved and the NIH also sponsors research into complimentary medicine but I wonder if the current wave of political correctness in universities might not be inhibiting the resistance to this- at times- patent nonsense that we would otherwise expect from scientists. There is almost a prohibition to pointing out for example that some cultures may be better in certain aspects that are others. Scientists on university faculties may be afraid to say things like "western medicine is better than Chinese medicine". There may be the occasional herb or root of true medicinal value but you do not seek out an oriental herbalist if you have a leaking cerebral aneurysm or testicular cancer or childhood leukemia in regard to each of which the western medical track record is a bit better than the best alternative found in homeopathy,chiropractic or relaxation techniques.Medical students need to be taught about various trendy alternative medicine that are out there, but they need to be aware that as to the efficacy or safety of those methods, the scientific methods of inquiry need to be used. And for those that are basically unscientific nonsense, they need to be told so not offered a rotation in alternative clinics recommending education in the manala of health.
I realize that at least some of these programs have as part of their mission ( as judged by their mission statement) the integration of evidence based practices from complementary and alternative medicine into the mainstream.However, what seems to be left out of the mission statements ( which seem well crafted to hurt no one's feelings) is that they will expose other practices as bunk if that is where the evidence and rational analysis points. Yes, there may be some good stuff interwoven ( I recognize that there may be evidence that various forms of meditation and yoga have some beneficial effects) with the mindless junk but these programs seem adverse to pointing out the nakedness of some if not most of these emperors or even if that possiblity exits .The med school sites I sampled for integrative medicine seemed frighteningly similar to some of the less reputable snake oil sale sites for alternative medicine with more hype than evidence displayed. I imagine that alumni of some of the schools with these programs may be a bit annoyed if not angered. Dr. Roy M Poses of Health Care renewal blog called our attention to a partnering of the University of Pennsylvania Med.School with the Tai Sophia Institute which had to have given some alumni of that prestigious school ( here I mean Penn. not the acupuncture school) some heartburn.

1 comment:

Robert W Donnell said...

It's about money and yes, it's about political correctness. I have a follow up in preparation to explain why, but you've already anticipated some of my points. Great post.