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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Spring 1994, Vol.14, No.2

The following exchange of correspondence relates to the new Center for Alternative/Complementary Medicine at P&S. The letters are reprinted with the permission of the letter writers.

January 5, 1994
Dr. Herbert Pardes
College of Physicians and Surgeons
Columbia University
Dear Herb,
I read with some dismay the announcement of the establishment of a Center for Alternative Medicine at P&S. The concept has some merit, but caution would be advised long before co-sponsoring an elective course on alternative/ complementary medicine beginning January 12th for second year students at P&S. It seems unfair to expose our medical students at a most impressionable stage in their career development to totally unproved fringes of medicine which have often attracted charlatans. In the same vein, although there is a cyclic call to reduce the number of medical specialists, and now indeed to reduce the total number of practitioners of medicine, it seems unwise to divert P&S's long standing goals of educating the most outstanding health care professionals for all fields. Furthermore, the movement to reduce exposure to specialties is detrimental to the career development of many of our students. The entire question of primary care will be dissected over the next decade and I predict that there will be few if any primary care physicians; their role will be replaced by the clinical nurse practitioners. It should be evident that the reason medicine is so advanced and effective (as well as expensive) is because of the startling advances in technology requiring specialists and sub-specialists and sub-sub-specialists to deliver critical health care. I realize that my personal opinions do not necessarily reflect policy but in the past when medical students have been in the crucible of change it has not been always for their benefit.
Most sincerely,
Edgar M. Housepian, M.D.
Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery

January 14, 1994
Edgar M. Housepian, M.D.
Department of Neurological Surgery
Dear Ed:
Many thanks for your thoughtful letter regarding the alternative medicine questions. We were approached by a donor who was concerned that there was much out there about alternative medicine and no clear authority to discriminate what makes sense and what does not. As a result, we have launched an effort which is focused on trying to help put in place authoritative information.
The interest of the American public is extraordinary. As you may have seen, a recent article showed that well over a third of American people have been to some kind of alternative medicine practitioner for some reason or another. It is important for our students to know whatever we can tell them about purported medical techniques which are oversold or enormously portrayed as effective, and on the other hand, where there may be unsettled questions regarding therapies currently not in the mainstream. It is also clear that occasionally some legitimate techniques emerge from other than traditional streams of thought.
I am no protagonist for alternative medicine and I feel strongly about people who practice medicine in a charlatan fashion.
However, given the importance of the issue and the recognition by the NIH and other institutions around the country that this is an important area and the fact that our students are inevitably going to be confronting it, we felt that it was important to have some attempt to acquaint them with it and also for us to help the public by making some sensible discrimination.
As usual, I value your thoughtful attention and concern about Columbia's positions and policies. I hope you understand that this attempt is well intended and should have beneficial effects in making all of us better educated. Sincerely,
Herbert Pardes, M.D.
Vice President for Health Sciences and
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine

Dear Editor,
In 1991 six Russian medical students arrived at P&S in the first exchange resulting from the Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy-P&S collaboration arranged by Dean Pardes. As part of their experience, my late wife Audrey and I arranged for them to be hosted by P&S alumni in the Washington, D.C., area and accompany them on office and hospital rounds. A second group followed in 1992.
From my talks with the students, it became clear that they had no access to a medical library with recent books and journals. I was challenged by their intensity and their struggle to prepare for medical careers in the face of the turbulence, ongoing to this date, in their country. I had many books and journals that I no longer used and could think of no better way to ensure their being read and valued.
I discussed my observation first with Dean Nolting and then with Dean Pardes for whose support I am grateful. I have had three trips to Moscow, both professional and to visit my son taking a junior year semester there. I met with the Sechenov faculty each time.
From my most recent visit (June 1993) a proposed P&S Medical Library at the Sechenov took shape. Professor Dr. Sergei V. Gratchov, Vice Rector, identified separate library space in their now under construction Research Institute. They will also provide staffing and are working on a transporting capability.
I first presented this idea at the Regional Representatives meeting (May 1993) with the support of co-Chairs Gerry Turino and Dick Pierson. I now have the green light to set a plan before our alumnae/alumni body. I would ask those interested to write or fax me a list of books (major texts no later than 5 years old). As the P&S Alumni Association will be the recipient, the tax deductibility of books, journals, packing, shipping, etc., would follow. The Human Behavior Foundation (tax-exempt and not-for-profit) would provide staff support and warehousing. Contributions to it to offset these costs would also be tax-deductible.
If there is sufficient interest we can proceed. I will also need several volunteers to select out the books and journals to be sent in each specialty.
This may be an overly ambitious project. However, it affords an interesting opportunity for us to reach out from our offices throughout the United States in a physician-to-physician spirit rather than just count on our government to support the progressive changes under way. Join P&S and Dean Pardes in a mission to share our science and our largesse with a medical faculty and student body seeking the tools to improve their ability to provide upgraded health care for their citizens.
H.L.P. Resnik'55
President and Medical Director
Human Behavior Foundation Chtd.
7315 Wisconsin Blvd., Suite #1300 West
Bethesda, MD 20814-3202
FAX: (301) 907-8637

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