Teaching complementary and alternative medicine in undergraduate medical education: a scoping review

Int J Med Educ. 2021 Jul 27;12:140-149. doi: 10.5116/ijme.60e2.f3ed.


Objectives: This scoping review explores the extent to which undergraduate medical education have incorporated complementary and alternative medicine in their curricula and evaluates the teaching, delivery and assessment approaches used.

Methods: ERIC, Ovid Medline and Pubmed databases were searched with keywords related to "complementary and alternative medicine" and "undergraduate medical education" for relevant articles published until August 2020. Data extraction included the presence/absence of complementary and alternative medicine integration, program duration, instructor background, and assessment methods.

Results: Of 1146 citations, 26 met the inclusion criteria. Complementary and alternative medicine teaching in undergraduate medical education was widely inconsistent and not well aligned with clearly identified aims and objectives. Various complementary and alternative medicine disciplines were taught, demonstrated or observed, and several programs included teaching on evidence-based medicine. Educational outcomes mainly assessed student satisfaction and learning through self-evaluation and rarely assessed for effectiveness with regards to changing clinical practice or impacts on patient outcomes.

Conclusions: Inconsistencies in complementary and alternative medicine teaching and assessment in undergraduate medical education reflect the lack of defined graduate competencies. An evidence-based medicine component of an educational program is a potential solution to overcoming breadth and content challenges. Curriculum developers would be better guided with research that determines if complementary and alternative medicine program design, content and assessment influence clinical practice and/or patient outcomes.

Keywords: complementary and alternative medicine; curriculum design; evidence-based medicine; medical students; undergraduate medical education.

Publication types

  • Review