By Amy Locke
This blog is an extension of the article, which is out now in our print edition and online, about the Integrative Medicine Program at University of Michigan.
I just finished reading over 100 essays by the first year medical students, written after their fall CAM visits. I was again struck by their enthusiasm and appreciation of the program. The insights they shared about their visits and the contrast with the time they spent with M.D.’s during that same week were thoughtful.
As a part of the essay they are asked to reflect on how they might alter their future practice based on their experiences. Students frequently spoke about creating a healing environment for patients, spending more time with each individual and looking at patients in the context of their families and lives. They are already beginning to appreciate the hustle and bustle that is conventional medicine in the United States and think about how they might create a different future for their own practices.
Whether or not students were excited, or bought into whatever modality they had the opportunity to learn about, they all could appreciate the value that clients found in the practices they visited. They now have a better understanding of why individuals might choose one type of practice over another. And even more importantly, they are beginning to see the benefits of an open dialog with their future patients.
We are extremely grateful to the community for allowing our students to shadow so many practitioners. This experience is invaluable. The conversations that begin after these visits, and continue through the rest of their training, help future physicians understand where patients are coming from. They begin to understand health and healing outside of the traditional paradigm, broadening the idea of wellness beyond simply the absence of disease.
The community visits were followed by another session in December, during the musculoskeletal sequence, where local providers come into the medical school to teach about their modality and about the musculoskeletal system. The pictures accompanying the article are from last year’s session. In these demonstration/lectures students get to hear about the fields of chiropractic, acupuncture and massage. This means that not only do these providers take time out of their busy schedules, but they also have to lug massage tables and equipment through the maze of the medical center. That definitely shows serious dedication!
Now that this year’s lectures, community visits and the musculoskeletal sequence are finished in the medical school, it is time for me to turn my efforts towards our annual March conference. The University of Michigan, in partnership with the Michigan Academy of Family Medicine, hosts a continuing medical education conference each spring designed to educate health care professionals about Integrative Medicine. We bring together some of the same community providers that host our students, with physicians and others in health care to learn about how to optimize comprehensive care. Our course, called “Creating a Space for Wellness: Integrative Health in Primary Care,” is designed to foster interdisciplinary teams. We will focus on the Foundations of Health, such as nutrition, physical activity, sleep, interconnectedness and optimal mental health, as well as how to manage various disease manifestations. Check out our line-up at https://integrativehealthinprimarycare.wordpress.com/.
Thank you again to all of the community volunteers for making the first year medical school program so successful. I hope these visit continue for many years to come. Bridging the gap between conventional medicine and the worlds of Complementary/Alternative and Integrative Medicine is the way of the future.
Amy B. Locke, M.D., is Assistant Professor and Director of Integrative Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Director of the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine Fellowship, Integrative Family Medicine Clinic. She has been on the faculty at the UM since 2002 and has practiced at the Integrative Medicine Wellness Clinic since 2007.