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Acad Med. 2007 Oct;82(10):934-8.

What should students learn about complementary and alternative medicine?

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  • 1University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington 98105, USA.


With thousands of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments currently being used in the United States today, it is challenging to design a concise body of CAM content which will fit into already overly full curricula for health care students. The purpose of this article is to outline key principles which 15 National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine-funded education programs found useful when developing CAM course-work and selecting CAM content. Three key guiding principles are discussed: teach foundational CAM competencies to give students a framework for learning about CAM; choose specific content on the basis of evidence, demographics and condition (what conditions are most appropriate for CAM therapies?); and finally, provide students with skills for future learning, including where to find reliable information about CAM and how to search the scientific literature and assess the results of CAM research. Most of the programs developed evidence-based guides to help students find reliable CAM resources. The cumulative experiences of the 15 programs have been compiled, and an annotated table outlining the most highly recommended resources about CAM is presented.

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