Using complementary and alternative medicine curricular elements to foster medical student self-awareness

Acad Med. 2007 Oct;82(10):951-5. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318149e411.


Purpose: To determine the value that the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)-funded Education Project leaders placed on self-awareness objectives among their curricular activities, to identify projects' rationales for inclusion of self-awareness activities, and to describe curricular elements used to teach self-awareness.

Method: A survey was distributed to the NCCAM Education Project grantees in October 2006. Survey items sought to identify project directors' perceived importance of self-awareness activities in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) curricula, rationales for inclusion of self-awareness activities, and activities to foster self-awareness. Invited reports described in more depth the specific activities in three of the projects.

Results: Fourteen of 15 reporting NCCAM educational projects rated activities to promote self-awareness as highly or very highly valued components, and all projects incorporated numerous strategies to enhance self-awareness. Learning objectives ranged from basic knowledge about mind-body relationships and psychoneuroimmunology, to evidence and indications for mind-body interventions, to training in self-application, to training for intervention with patients. Specific strategies that increase students' self-awareness included evidence-based CAM activities to help students recognize personal biases that may impair critical thinking; personal health experiences to expand definition of health beliefs; and mind-body medicine skills groups to personally integrate the use of mind-body techniques for wellness and stress management.

Conclusions: Incorporating some of these CAM curricular activities, didactically or experientially, may be a unique way to foster student self-awareness and personal growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Awareness*
  • Complementary Therapies / education*
  • Curriculum*
  • Ego*
  • Health Surveys
  • Holistic Health
  • Humans
  • Psychophysiology
  • Students, Medical* / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires