Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, M.D., Ph.D.
Research Scientist, Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, The Miriam Hospital
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Warren Alpert School of Medicine
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Brown University
Mariah Stump, M.D., MPH
Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Women’s Medicine Collaborative, Primary Care Women’s Health
Medical Acupuncturist, Certified Yoga Instructor
Despite the major advances of biomedical science during the 20th century, doctors have become increasingly burdened by the difficulties and challenges of treating chronic illnesses, and patients have grown wary of medicine’s over-reliance on technology and of the harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals and invasive procedures. These factors, among others, have contributed to the public’s seeking of alternative forms of healing.
In the past few decades, the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States has steadily increased. Data from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the National Center for Health Statistics have suggested that 38% of adults and 12% of children are using CAM. With a substantial population of patients seeking CAM modalities for their health and healing, it is imperative that health care providers, including medical students, are educated and informed about these practices.
In the wake of these recent developments in CAM, integrative medicine has emerged as a promising field that draws from the best healing modalities to provide safe and individualized care to patients. Integrative medicine acknowledges the role of mind, body, spirit and community as vital to the healing process and seeks to foster a healing partnership between doctors and patients. While acknowledging the successes of conventional biomedicine, integrative medicine recognizes and attempts to facilitate the body’s own healing response, it promotes the use of less invasive methods where safe and indicated, and it seeks to integrate evidence-based CAM practices with conventional therapies in the pursuit of wellness and disease prevention and treatment.
Integrative medicine rejects the notion of an “alternative” medicine and proposes that all healing modalities that have been proven safe and efficacious based on rigorous evidence-based research have a place in our medical paradigm. Integrative medicine seeks to broaden a doctor’s healing “tool kit” so that he or she is able to apply the most appropriate treatment to a particular patient’s ailments. If a healing modality is safe and effective, it should certainly be included in the physician’s toolkit in order to best approach some of the most common medical ailments such as chronic pain for which the current conventional treatments are often limited and largely ineffective.