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  May 5, 2003

Medical School Wins Grant To Intoduce
Alternative Medicine Into Curriculum

The UConn School of Medicine is one of three medical schools in the country awarded a grant by a national medical student association to incorporate complementary and alternative medicine into its curriculum for training future doctors.

The American Medical Student Association awarded the school $15,000 a year for four years to include complementary and alternative medicine approaches into its mainstream medical school curriculum. Similar grants were made to the University of Massachusetts and the University of California at Irvine schools of medicine.

"We know that almost half of the American population uses some form of complementary or alternative medicine," says Dr. Mary Guerrera, co-investigator for the grant with Dr. Karen Prestwood. "We also know that people are not using these therapies in isolation. They use them along with treatments recommended by their doctors, although they may not always disclose them. Part of being a good doctor is being able to talk to patients about these therapies - which ones are safe, which are effective, and which might be dangerous."

Instruction on complementary and alternative medicine will be included in all four years of training. Beginning in July, first-year medical students will receive an introduction to mind-body skills, including meditation and guided imagery.

"The students will be able to use these skills to handle the stress of medical school," says Prestwood, "but they will also be able to begin sharing them with their patients."

Some of the medical school faculty are already incorporating information about complementary and alternative medicine in their classes, focusing particularly on topics like nutrition, Ayurvedic medicine, and herbal supplements, Prestwood says. "This grant will help us provide education about these therapies in a more systematic, scholarly fashion," she adds. The grant may also be used to provide electives or internships related to alternative and complementary medicine.

"Increasingly research is providing data about some of these therapies and their efficacy," notes Prestwood, who recently received a three-year, $1.8 million federal grant to establish an Exploratory Center for Frontier Medicine to study touch therapies. "This is a very appropriate time to begin incorporating this topic into training for future physicians."

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