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Medical students who attend schools that do not offer courses on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) do not have sufficient knowledge about the safety of the most common CAM modalities, according to a survey by researchers at the University of South Florida (USF). The study included 78 third-year USF medical students who were asked to complete a survey assessing their personal knowledge and opinions related to CAM use. The medical student curriculum at USF does not contain either formal or informal CAM courses.1
Although most of the study participants agreed that conventional medicine could benefit from ideas and methods associated with CAM therapies, at least two-thirds of the students reported they had a basic understanding of the principles of only four of the 10 most commonly used CAM modalities: massage, herbal medicine, meditation, and chiropractic.
Fewer than one in four students would refer a patient for the most common CAM modalities, including herbal medicine and acupuncture, and 39% said they would actively discourage their patients from using chiropractic. "Most of the students had insufficient knowledge or understanding of the safety" of CAM modalities, the study’s authors conclude. "Including CAM topics in the medical school curriculum would better prepare physicians to respond to patient inquiries about CAM and thereby to fulfill their role as patient advocates."
1. Chez RA, et al. A survey of medical students’ opinions about complementary and alternative medicine. Am J Obstet Gyn 2001; 185:754-757. t