Integrative medicine education promotes greater patient involvement than traditional medicine. Today alternative medicine is being taught in medical schools.
The progressive educational experience of one Vancouver naturopathic doctor will forever influence his practice and his patients, and reveals the future of medicine.
Dr. Danny Jui (drdannyjui.com) is the first Canadian naturopathic physician to complete a residency in evidence-based integrative medicine at a hospital affiliated with Yale University.
At the Integrative Medical Center in Connecticut (imc-griffin.org), where Jui studied, modern technology and science meet some of the mainstays of natural medicine–nutritional counselling, acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeo-pathy, and vitamin therapy. “With this type of training and exposure, both [types] practitioners learn to appreciate the strengths of the other, and also the areas where we complement each other,” says Jui, who worked alongside a medical doctor (MD) for one year as part of his residency. “Patients get the best of two worlds in one session.”
The physicians in Connecticut were unavailable by phone, but echoing Jui’s sentiments is Hal Gunn, MD, at Inspire Health (inspirehealth.ca, formerly the Centre for Integrated Healing), an integrative cancer care facility in Vancouver with an impressive range of health care practitioners, both holistic and conventional.
“There’s a lot we can learn from each other,” says Gunn of working together. One of the things he has learned is medicine too often focuses on “treating illness” rather than “supporting health.” He feels that the integrative health model is advantageous as it promotes greater patient involvement.
“A patient’s ability to contribute to his or her own health is an untapped resource,” Gunn says–and his position is supported by better-than-average cancer survival rates in the retroactive studies conducted by Inspire Health.
In one regard at least–that of choice–patients are increasingly active. According to a Fraser Institute report (released in May 2007), in 2006, 74 percent of surveyed Canadians said they had tried complementary or alternative therapies at least once. Fifty-four percent had done so in the previous 12 months–a 4 percent jump over the last 10 years.
“We have a more educated public,” explains Angela Nat of HANS (hans.org), a natural health consumer group in Burnaby, BC. “Maybe people used to think in terms of ‘either/or’ medicine. But integrative medicine is becoming the norm, and it’s partly related to consumer awareness.”
Ten years ago, alternative therapy instruction in medical schools was the exception to the rule. Now there’s the Consortium of Academic Health Centres for Integrative Medicine
(imconsortium.org), with 39 member medical schools in North America, including Yale, Harvard, and the Universities of Calgary and Alberta.
For the next generations of doctors, whether they are MDs or NDs, the integrative teamwork model–including a greater number of proactive, informed patients–shows great promise
“One person can’t do everything,” Jui points out. “Ultimately, in collaboration, we can focus on what’s best for the patient and the planet, and we can work from the heart.”