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October 2021

JAMA. 1998 Sep; 280(9): 784-7.

Courses involving complementary and alternative medicine at US medical schools.

Wetzel MS, Eisenberg DM, Kaptchuk TJ.

Office of Educational Development, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass, USA. [email protected]

CONTEXT: With the public's increasing use of complementary and alternative medicine, medical schools must consider the challenge of educating physicians about these therapies. OBJECTIVES: To document the prevalence, scope, and diversity of medical school education in complementary and alternative therapy topics and to obtain information about the organizational and academic features of these courses. DESIGN: Mail survey and follow-up letter and telephone survey conducted in 1997-1998. PARTICIPANTS: Academic or curriculum deans and faculty at each of the 125 US medical schools. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Courses taught at US medical schools and administrative and educational characteristics of these courses. RESULTS: Replies were received from 117 (94%) of the 125 US medical schools. Of schools that replied, 75 (64%) reported offering elective courses in complementary or alternative medicine or including these topics in required courses. Of the 123 courses reported, 84 (68%) were stand-alone electives, 38 (31%) were part of required courses, and one (1%) was part of an elective. Thirty-eight courses (31%) were offered by departments of family practice and 14 (11%) by departments of medicine or internal medicine. Educational formats included lectures, practitioner lecture and/or demonstration, and patient presentations. Common topics included chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal therapies, and mind-body techniques. CONCLUSIONS: There is tremendous heterogeneity and diversity in content, format, and requirements among courses in complementary and alternative medicine at US medical schools.


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