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October 2021

Fam Med. 1997 Sep; 29(8): 559-62.

Alternative medicine instruction in medical schools and family practice residency programs.

Carlston M, Stuart MR, Jonas W.

Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, USA. [email protected]

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The use of medical therapies outside of mainstream Western medicine, referred to as complementary medicine or alternative medicine (CAM), is rapidly increasing in the United States. Despite evidence of physician interest and willingness to refer to CAM providers, there is currently little information regarding medical education in these practices. This survey assessed the frequency and nature of alternative medicine instruction in US medical schools and family practice residency programs. METHODS: Society of Teachers of Family Medicine staff mailed a 16-question survey to all US medical school family medicine department chairs and non-university-based family practice residency program directors about existing instruction in alternative medicine, planned instruction, and educational programs under consideration. RESULTS: The overall response rate was 77.9% (364/467), with 29.7% (108/364) of all respondents currently teaching, 6.0% (22/364) starting to teach, and 6.3% (23/364) considering teaching some form of alternative medicine. CAM instruction is most common in the Northeast and Rocky Mountain regions. The instruction is predominantly elective (72.2%). Instructional content and methodologies vary widely. CONCLUSIONS: Alternative medicine has begun to establish a presence in US medical schools and family practice residency programs. Offerings in this diverse subject vary widely in content and format.

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