A few years ago, the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine funded a program called the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Education Project. Grantees were 14 medical and nursing schools and the American Medical Student Association, which funded six additional medical schools. Grants were awarded in cohorts of five per year in 2000, 2001, and 2002–2003.
The R25 grant recipients identified several major themes as crucial to the success of integrating CAM into health professions curricula. The rationale for integrating CAM curricula was in part to enable future health professionals to provide informed advice as patients dramatically increase the use of CAM. Success of new CAM education programs relied on leadership, including top-down support from institutions' highest administrators. Formal and informal engagement of key faculty and opinion leaders raised awareness, interest, and participation in programs. A range of faculty development efforts increased CAM-teaching capacity. The most effective strategies for integration addressed a key curriculum need and used some form of evidence-based practice framework. Most programs used a combination of instructional delivery strategies, including experiential components and online resources, to address the needs of learners while promoting a high level of ongoing interest in CAM topics. Institutions noted several benefits, including increased faculty development activities, the creation of new programs, and increased cross- and interuniversity collaborations. Common challenges included the need for qualified faculty, crowded and changing curricula, a lack of defined best practices in CAM, and postgrant sustainability of programs.