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Data Profile of Integrative Medicine in an Academic System: Wake Forest's 2006 Annual Report PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Data on an Integrative Medicine Program in a Conventional Academic System: Wake Forest's 2006 Annual Report

Summary:  Now 38 North American medical schools are members of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. But what exactly is going on in these institutions? How far is the internal reach? What role do these integrative programs have in their communities? The 2006 Report to the dean from the integrative medicine program at the Wake First University Medical School provides Integrator readers with a detailed insight into the shape of a robust IM programs: faculty involved, the relevant committees, research funding, top priorities and clinical and educational services. Thanks to Kathi Kemper, MD, MPH, the center's integrative medicine leader for making the report available ...
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Wake Forest University Medical Center
Integrative pediatrician and author Kathi Kemper, MD, MPH traveled from Seattle and through a stint at Children's Hospital Boston before landing at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine to head up the schools integrative medicine program. Kemper is
Caryl J. Guth Chair for Holistic and Integrative Medicine and joint positions in the departments of pediatrics, public health sciences, and family medicine. She shared with the Integrator her team's 2006 report to the dean of the medical school. The data are instructive:

  • 160+ faculty are pursuing academic work in complementary and integrative medicine.
  • 34 departments have involved faculty.
  • 9 standing committees guide the work.
  • $17.5+ million in research funding was received.
  • 82 peer-reviewed manuscripts we published.
  • 42 presentations were given locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
  • 3 newsletters were published for consumers.
  • 6500 hits (visits?) year on the program website.

Funding sources include a half dozen NIH institutes, private foundations and industry.
Research on herbs and dietary supplements were the top grant getters with over $6 million, followed by cancer ($4.4 million), lifestyle and mid-body ($3.2 million) and spirituality ($2.8 million).

The medical school infrastructure for this work includes 9 standing committees and task forces (N=9). Each has its own list serve of from a dozen or so to over 200. These, listed by date of their founding, are:
  • Nutrition Epidemiology Research and Applications Journal Club (Cancer Center - 1996)
  • CAM in the Community Committee (Family Medicine - 10/01)
  • Committee for Holistic and Integrative Medical Education (IM and Pediatrics - 04/03)
  • Herb and Dietary Supplement Task Force (Peds, Cancer Center - 2003)
  • Consortium for Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (2004)
  • Council on Mind-Body Medicine (Neurology - 2004)
  • Subcommittee on PhD Program in Integrative Medicine (Peds, Pharm - 2005)
    Kathi Kemper, MD, MPH, WFUMC integrative medicine leader
  • Collaborative on Heart Rate Variability Research (Bioengineering - 2005)
  • Spirituality and Healing (Pastoral Care - no year noted)

The report also noted that clinical services at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center include massage therapy via the physical therapy and rehab departments, plus music and art therapy "and more."  The website
received 6500 hits.

: The breadth and reach throughout the Wake Forest academic health center is significant, a testament to Kemper's work with her various teams. Tremendous lift off for a relatively young program.

I am struck by the robust energy around research, combined with the apparently limited penetration into medical education and patient care, the other two legs of the
tripod which supports academic medicine:

  • While the description of services reads "massage therapy, music art and more," clinical services remain thin. (See Integrator story on the massage program.) 
  • Nor did the report dwell at length on the penetration of educational content into the medical or allied health curricula. Little about education which might enhance relationships with distinctly licensed practitioners was evident.

The relationship with the local community appears to also be lean, yet. The website had just 6500 "hits" (this must be "visits") a year, which would
seem to be low, and just 3 newsletters were sent out highlighting the program's developments. Only a few of the 42 presentations noted focused on outreach into the local community.

My guess is that this imbalance typifies activity at most medical schools with strong IM programs. The conservatism reflects the antagonism which utterly controlled these institutions until a decade ago. And the argument might be that this is as it should be: Shouldn't research lead the way for a new field?

But, as has been commented about complementary and alternative healthcare practices elsewhere - I first heard the idea attributed to Susan Folkman, PhD, chair of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine - CAM and IM are different than new drug development or investigative medical procedures in that the community is already using them. Research is post-facto. Different rules should reasonably apply, unless one is in utter denial of what is in front of one's face. One might then reasonably move concurrently with educational and exploratory clinical initiatives in order to teach now, and learn now, about what the public medical schools are supposed to be serving are already doing.

That aside, the extent of this program is profound, when one remembers where we were 10 years ago.
Thanks to Kemper for making it available and for AmericanHerbal Pharmacopoeia executive director Roy Upton for bringing the report to my attention. And to the NIH, of course, for god-fathering this and most all of the other IM programs, allowing academics like Kemper - whose own leadership in the field predates significant federal funding - to thrive.

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