Barriers, Strategies, and Lessons Learned from Complementary and Alternative Medicine Curricular Initiatives

Sierpina, Victor S. MD; Schneeweiss, Ronald MB, ChB; Frenkel, Moshe A. MD; Bulik, Robert PhD; Maypole, Jack MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31814a5092
CAM Education

Fifteen U.S. academic programs were the recipients of a National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine R25 Education Grant Program to introduce curricular changes in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in their institutions. The authors describe the lessons learned during the implementation of these CAM education initiatives. Principal investigators identified these lessons along with discovered barriers and strategies, both those traditionally related to medical and nursing education and those unique to CAM education. Many lessons, barriers, and strategies were common across multiple institutions. Most significant among the barriers were issues such as the resistance by faculty; the curriculum being perceived as too full; presenting CAM content in an evidence-based and even-handed way; providing useful, reliable resources; and developing teaching and assessment tools. Strategies included integration into existing curriculum; creating increased visibility of the curriculum; placing efforts into faculty development; cultivating and nurturing leadership at all levels in the organization, including among students, faculty, and administration; providing access to CAM-related databases through libraries; and fostering efforts to maintain sustainability of newly established CAM curricular elements through institutionalization and embedment into overall educational activities. These lessons, along with some detail on barriers and strategies, are reported and summarized here with the goal that they will be of practical use to other institutions embarking on new CAM education initiatives.

Dr. Sierpina is the W.D. and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and professor of family medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas.

Dr. Schneeweiss is professor of family medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Dr. Frenkel is associate professor and medical director of integrative medicine, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.

Dr. Bulik is associate professor of family medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas.

Dr. Maypole is assistant professor of pediatrics, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Sierpina, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-1123; telephone: (409) 772-1847; fax: (409) 772-4296; e-mail: (

© 2007 Association of American Medical Colleges