"Physician, heal thyself": how teaching holistic medicine differs from teaching CAM

Acad Med. 2001 Jun;76(6):662-4. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200106000-00024.


The term complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been adopted to describe a system of health care not generally recognized as part of mainstream medical practice. It is often conflated with an older term, holistic medicine, which can briefly be defined as the art and science of healing the whole person-body, mind, and spirit-in relation to that person's community and environment. Coursework in CAM is now offered in at least two thirds of U.S. medical schools. There is also a growing number of courses in the medical humanities and in spirituality and health. However, courses explicitly designed to introduce students to the principles and practices of holistic medicine are unusual. The author describes the fundamental differences between CAM and holistic medicine, highlighting holistic medicine's emphasis on the promotion of healthy lifestyles for practitioners and patients alike. He argues that offering physicians-to-be more coursework in holistic medicine could lay the groundwork for future physicians' adopting and modeling healthy lifestyles.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies / education*
  • Education, Medical*
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control
  • Physicians*
  • United States