P&S Journal: Spring 1994, Vol.14, No.2
P & S News
Alternative Medicine Center Opens
Second-year students were able to take an elective course in alternative medicine this spring co-sponsored by
P&S and the new Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center for Alternative/ Complementary Medicine.
The Rosenthal Center was established at P&S by a start-up grant of $750,000 over five years from the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation. The center will critically evaluate scientific and empirical data as a resource for physicians and individuals who want comprehensive information on alternative medical practices.
A formal celebration of the center's opening was held Feb. 15. Guest speakers were Dr. Joseph J. Jacobs, director of the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine; Dr. James S. Gordon of Georgetown University, founder and director of the Center for Mind-Body Studies; and Dr. Michael J. Balick, director of the Institute of Economic Botany at the New York Botanical Garden.
Alternative/complementary medicine is defined as diagnostic or therapeutic techniques that are presently considered outside the mainstream of most U.S. medicine but which may enhance standard or conventional medical treatment. People have sought such alternative therapies as osteopathy, nutritional and vitamin therapy, and acupuncture for arthritis, persistent pain, and drug addiction, chronic problems not handled well by Western medicine.
The second-year course, "Survey in Alternative and Complementary Medicine," was a series of 12 three-hour lectures covering several alternative/ complementary disciplines, including mind-body medicine, nutritional medicine, hypnosis, biofeedback, acupuncture, and Chinese medicine.
"Changes in the P&S curriculum are considered within a framework of changes in medicine itself. Because there is increasing evidence that alternative or complementary therapies are more widely used than previously thought, physicians need to know about them," says Dr. Herbert Pardes, vice president for health sciences and dean of the faculty of medicine. "A physician's ability to discuss alternative therapies with patients who have experience or interest in them will enhance the doctor/patient relationship and provide a more complete medical history."
The center is directed by Dr. Fredi Kronenberg, associate professor of clinical physiology in rehabilitation medicine and former Irving Clinical Research Scholar. "It is a challenging opportunity to work with scientists and clinicians whose diverse expertise and access to the latest medical technologies will help us to evaluate 'other' medical practices, some of which are centuries old," she says.
Dr. Kronenberg is a physiologist with expertise in women's health and one of the few scientists worldwide to study the broad range of issues related to menopausal hot flashes. She is planning a clinical trial of Chinese herbal preparations for the treatment of hot flashes in women who cannot or do not want to take estrogen.
Incorporating alternative modes of healing into a traditional curriculum marks a major step in the evolution of medical education, which will benefit patients in the long run, says Dr. Woodson Merrell, associate in clinical medicine and course director for the alternative/complementary medicine class.
"There are sufficient instances of inexplicable extension of life or other significant health benefits for people who pursued complementary medicine that we felt it important to have a major medical institution assess which of these many alternative healing practices are valuable, which are useless, and which may indeed be very harmful," says Richard L. Rosenthal Sr., chairman of the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation and CEO of Citizens Utilities Co. from 1946 to 1989.
"Study of these alternative therapies is the responsible path to take," says Dr. Pardes. "It doesn't mean we are endorsing them. It means that we are trying to understand these forms of therapy and see if they are complementary to traditional U.S. medicine."
The alternative/complementary medicine center will be based in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, where modalities that are typically considered alternative, such as biofeedback, massage, and exercise, have been an accepted part of treatment for many years. When additional funding is acquired, the center will conduct clinical research to evaluate alternative therapies and study the mechanisms by which these therapies may act.