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Massage School-Med School Educational Integration: Potomac Institute's Experience with Georgetown PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Massage School-Med School Educational Integration: Potomac Institute's Experience with Georgetown

Summary: The NIH NCCAM stimulated relationship building between conventional and CAM schools with their R-25 grants. This article focuses on a pioneering relationship between Georgetown University School of Medicine and the nearby Potomac Massage Training Institute. The impact was felt as profound for students as well as the Institute.

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Image"We have a relatively big mission for a massage school." Cathy McInturff Ayers, LM, the director of education for Potomac Massage Training Institute (PMTI), was reflecting on the range of pioneering education and research initiatives with which she is involved. Components of her own job description speaks to the size of the mission:

  • Member PMTI research committee
  • Guest lecturer, Georgetown University School of Medicine CAM Master's program
  • Lecturer on massage, Georgetown University "Mini Med School" (for the public)
  • Developer and supervisor, PMTI Student Peer Program with Georgetown Medical School.

A good deal of this activity was stimulated by a five-year R-25 grant from the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to Georgetown, with Adi Haramati, PhD, as lead investigator. While the grant period officially ended in April 2006, according to McInturff-Ayers, "the relationship is richer than ever."

Elements of the Relationship

Ayers and Haramati were part of a shared presentation at a 2005 meeting of the National Education Dialogue to Advance Integrated Health Care. The Georgetown grant included development of a masters level program in CAM, in-laying mind-body courses into the curriculum, and, in Haramati's words, helping develop "a peer relationship (between different types of providers) to clarify roles in an integrated care relationship." (For an Integrator look at some outcomes of the mindbody training, click here.)

Haramati's strategic view was that the program with PMTI was a starting place in a step-wise movement toward deeper integration. It was a "focus on the achievable rather than a comprehensive program." Haramati believed that by bringing massage therapists into relationship with medical students that, among other outcomes, the massage students would "quietly instill their caring attitudes" in the medical students.

McInturff-Ayers at at NED reception
The relationship-building between the students focused on juts 4/5 contact hours in two interactive sessions. PMTI's massage students had the option of attending a 2.5 hour gross anatomy lab with Georgetown students. Then Georgetown medical students had the option of a 2-hour sequence of learning about, and experiencing, massage at PMTI. The program is was not mandatory. Ayers estimates that in the 2005-2006 year roughly 70 massage students and 40 Georgetown students participated. (PMTI typically graduates from their 600+ hour training two groups a year of 50-100 each.)

Increased Self-Confidence

According to Ayers, a key benefit of the program for her students has been an increase in self-confidence:

"Our massage students experience incredible growth in self-confidence in their interaction with medical school students. They learn to articulate better. They learn to talk clearer about what they're feeling with their hands. They'll walk out of the room and say: 'We knew maybe the same or a little bit more about the musculoskeletal system than the medical students did.' This is a huge growth process for them." (1)

Ayers notes these additional institutional outcomes:

  • Curriculum Expanding hours in musculoskeletal pathology, body systems pathology and medical terminology. An already existing requirement for a case study research paper has received additional attention.
  • Research  PMTI formed a formal research department and hired Martha Brown Menard, PhD, as research director.

Ayers states that the unusual relationship between the medical school and the massage school "has just blossomed and bloomed, moving beyond personal connections to institutional."

(1)  Ayers made this statement at the National Education Dialogue (NED) to Advance Integrated Health Care: Creating Common Ground, a project of the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium. It is included in the NED Progress Report, which includes reports from other programs, and is available through clicking here.)

: Transforming health care, one student at a time. To integrate practice, we must integrate education. The learning for all parties in this NCCAM-sponsored model of collaboration makes one yearn for an American Association of Medical Colleges that would proactively promote development of such programs. Then again, some CAM partisan would probably complain: Yeah, nice sharing, nice collaboration. We get a cadaver, you get a massage ...

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