The Need for Educational Reform in Teaching about Alternative Therapies


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Abstract

Advocacy and non-critical assessment are the approaches currently taken by most U.S. medical schools in their courses covering what is commonly called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM). CAM therapies are anomalous practices for which claims of efficacy are either unproved or disproved. The author's research indicates that most medical schools do not present CAM material in a form that encourages critiques and analyses of these claims. He presents the reasons for the unwarranted acceptance of CAM. These include the CAM movement's attempt to alter standards of evaluating therapies. A survey of CAM curricula in U.S. medical schools in 1995-1997 showed that of 56 course offerings related to CAM, only four were oriented to criticism. The author's course at Stanford University School of Medicine approaches CAM with the skepticism and critical thinking appropriate for unproven therapies. The author concludes by calling on all medical schools to include in their curricula methods to analyze and assess critically the content validity of CAM claims.

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