Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to healing modalities that don’t fall into conventional Western medical philosophy, including bodywork, acupuncture, herbology, homeopathy and mind/body techniques. CAM is becoming a more familiar term as approximately 125 million Americans suffering from chronic illness — arthritis, back pain, hypertension, and depression — look for solutions that conventional medicine can't provide.
“Complementary” modalities are used together with conventional medicine, such as utilizing aromatherapy to lessen a patient’s discomfort following surgery. “Alternative” modalities are used in place of conventional medicine, such as using herbs to treat stomach upset rather than taking pharmaceuticals. And the merging of alternative and conventional medicine is referred to as “integrative medicine,” connoting the idea of combining the best of both healing philosophies.
CAM is continually gaining the respect of the Western medical system, as indicated by the nearly 100 medical schools now offering courses in alternative therapies. The University of Arizona is an exceptional model of such a school, offering the nation’s only postgraduate, two-year Program in Integrative Medicine (PIM). Founded in 1994, PIM is designed to teach small groups of physicians how to integrate holistic modalities into their practices. These doctors are committed to a fundamental redesign of medical education including such principles as:
--Appropriate use of conventional and alternative methods to facilitate the body's innate healing response;
--Consideration of all factors that influence health, including mind, spirit, and community;
--A philosophy that neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative medicine uncritically.
For more information and research about CAM, visit the nonprofit Alternative Medicine Foundation’s website, www.amfoundation.org.