Introduction: The National Institutes of Health provided grants to the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and 14 other allopathic academic health centers for the development of curricula in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). A key component of the curriculum evaluation for OHSU was provided by a survey assessing attitudes toward CAM and selected personality characteristics of entering students in chiropractic, naturopathic, Oriental, and allopathic medicine in the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest.
Methods: A survey containing a variety of assessments of attitudes toward CAM and the personality traits of adventurousness and tolerance to ambiguity was administered to students entering four Portland, Oregon doctoral-level health professional schools and an allopathic medical school in the Upper Midwest (University of Nebraska College of Medicine) during the 2004-2005 academic year.
Results: Students of naturopathy (n = 63) and Oriental Medicine (n = 71) were the most "CAM positive," adventurous and tolerant of ambiguity, and Midwestern allopathic medical students (n = 58) the least. In general, chiropractic students (n = 89) and allopathic medical students from the Pacific Northwest (n = 95) were intermediate in CAM attitudes between these two groups (all p < 0.05). Female students were more "CAM positive" in all schools compared to male students.
Conclusions: Students have high levels of interest in CAM upon entrance to their schools. Health professional discipline, geographic location, personality qualities, and gender appear to influence CAM attitudes in entering students.