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Complement Ther Med. 2004 Jun-Sep;12(2-3):118-25.

An approach to educating family practice residents and family physicians about complementary and alternative medicine.

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CAM Education Project, Department of Family Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd, Galveston, TX 77555, USA.


Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the context of medical education is a controversial topic among the medical community. With the increased popularity of complementary and alternative medicine, medical educators are faced with the need of educating physicians so they would become competent to communicate with patients about CAM. As academic medicine shows more interest in CAM, it is critical to develop initiatives to overcome physicians' attitudinal barriers toward CAM and develop an instruction strategy that can address these needs. An approach to educate family practice residents and family physicians about CAM is described in this article. This patient-centered teaching approach hinges on the belief that CAM and family medicine are closely related. It espouses utilizing critical thinking and basing decisions on evidence-based material. The course covered four main topics in CAM: herbal medicine, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), homeopathy and complementary nutrition. The course had limited objectives of exposing physicians to the common methods in CAM and providing sufficient information, so physicians could provide their patients with an informed, safe and balanced advice. The instructions emphasized the importance of improving physician-patient relationship and enriching the participant both professionally and personally. Results of our study revealed that after the course physicians' referral to CAM became more selective, at the same time, their personal use of CAM also increased. This reflects the increased value of CAM in the physicians' own healthcare, as well as their improved knowledge of appropriate referral patterns. Most importantly, the course increased the physicians' awareness of the psychosocial aspect of clinical problems encountered in family practice and, through the close observation of CAM in practice, gave them an additional viewpoint to better understand the patient-doctor relationship.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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