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Patient Educ Couns. 2006 Jul;62(1):5-12.

Integrative medicine: implementation and evaluation of a professional development program using experiential learning and conceptual change teaching approaches.

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The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH, USA.



To meet the increasing patient interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), conventional physicians need to understand CAM, be willing to talk with their patients about CAM, and be open to recommending selected patients to appropriate CAM modalities. We aimed to raise physicians' awareness of, and initiate attitudinal changes towards CAM in the context of integrative medical practice. We developed and implemented a professional development program involving experiential learning and conceptual change teaching approaches.


A randomized controlled study with a pre-post design in a large academic medical center. The 8-hour intervention used experiential and conceptual change educational approaches. Forty-eight cardiologists were randomized to participant and control groups. A questionnaire measured physicians' conceptions of, and attitudes to CAM, the likelihood of changing practice patterns, and the factors most important in influencing such changes. The questionnaire included an embedded control question on a topic that was not the focus of this program. We administered the questionnaire before (pretest) and after (posttest) the intervention. We compared differences in pre- and post-intervention scores between the participant (N = 20) and control (N = 16) groups. We used both groups to identify factors that influenced their practice patterns. The study was NIH-funded and IRB-exempt.


Both groups initially had little knowledge about, and negative attitudes to CAM. The participant group had significant positive changes in their conceptions about, and attitudes to CAM after the program, and significant improvements when compared with the control group. Participant physicians significantly increased in their willingness to integrate CAM in their practices. Physicians (combined groups) rated research evidence as the most important factor influencing their willingness to integrate CAM. They requested more research evidence for CAM efficacy, and more information on non-conventional pharmacology. Participants reflected enthusiasm for the experiential program.


The participants were able to experience the positive effects of selected CAM modalities. It is possible to increase physician knowledge and change attitudes towards integrative medicine with an eight-hour intervention using experiential and conceptual change teaching approaches.


Professional development on integrative medicine can be offered to medical practitioners using experiential learning and conceptual change teaching approaches, with the help of local CAM practitioners.

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