Status of complementary and alternative medicine in the osteopathic medical school curriculum

J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2004 Mar;104(3):121-6.


Reflecting society's interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), most allopathic medical schools in the United States offer instruction in CAM. Pertinent information about the teaching of CAM at osteopathic medical schools is lacking. The authors therefore sought to document the form and content of CAM instruction at osteopathic medical schools and compare their findings with those reported for allopathic medical schools in a recently published survey. Phone conversations with academic officials at each of the 19 colleges of osteopathic medicine revealed that only one school did not teach CAM. With the help of these officials, the authors identified 25 CAM instructors at 18 osteopathic medical schools and sent them questionnaires. All returned a completed form with details about CAM instruction at their schools. The authors found that CAM material was usually presented in required courses sponsored by clinical departments, was most likely taught in the first 2 years of medical school, and involved fewer than 20 contact hours of instruction. The topics most often taught were acupuncture (68%), herbs and botanicals (68%), spirituality (56%), dietary therapy (52%), and homeopathy (48%). Most (72%) CAM instructors were also practitioners of CAM modes of therapy. Few (12%) of the instructors taught CAM from an evidence-based perspective. The authors conclude that the form and content of CAM instruction at osteopathic medical schools is similar to that offered at allopathic medical schools and that both osteopathic and allopathic medical schools should strive to teach CAM with less advocacy and more reliance on evidence-based medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies / education*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods
  • Humans
  • Osteopathic Medicine / education*
  • Schools, Medical
  • United States