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Cap, Gown and Wand

By Michael Vagg

Are there any good arguments for teaching complementary medicines in tertiary institutions?

Dr Michael Vagg is a Consultant Physician in Pain and Rehabilitation Medicine and a Clinical Senior Lecturer at Deakin University. His Twitter handle is @mickvagg.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Arguments that complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) should be taught in tertiary institutions collectively assert the following:

  1. Universities should be centres of diverse knowledge, with academic freedom to pursue unconventional ideas. Refusing to teach CAM is a type of censorship – impairing our ability to understand human health and disease.
  2. CAM university students are exposed to “the biomedical sciences, epidemiology and population health, differential diagnosis, safe practice and critical appraisal”.
  3. Not teaching CAM in universities will not reduce public demand for CAM, which will instead be met by poorly trained practitioners.

Academic Freedom

Who could possibly disagree with the first proposition? The stumbling block is that not all unconventional ideas are good – or even possible – in the universe as we know it. Friends of Science in Medicine agrees that any and all plausible treatments are worthy of study, but the grounds for deciding which get precious research dollars should be scientific, not ideological.

CAM advocates have a hard time letting go of their theories when their favourites fail to meet scientific criteria of worthiness. They continue with small pilot studies where larger, better studies would have killed off the theory. Misunderstandings of the past are resurrected as “zombie...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.