Response: Why Would an Academic Health Center Support Homeopathy?

Drs. Frank Cerra and Aaron Friedman have asked for an opportunity to respond to my original post: Why Would An Academic Health Center Support Homeopathy. I am pleased to do this.

Guest Post:

Dr. Frank Cerra, former Vice President, University of Minnesota Academic Health Center and Medical School Dean

Dr. Aaron Friedman, Vice President, University of Minesota Academic Health Center and Medical School Dean

In a February 4, 2011 blog post-turned-editorial, University of Minnesota associate professor Bill Gleason openly questions why a University with an evidence-based medical school would dedicate resources to a Center for Spirituality & Healing (CSH).

We thought that was an excellent question, so are pleased to have an opportunity to respond.

The Center for Spirituality & Healing was established in 1995 during a period of time when medicine and the health professions in general were coming to terms with the idea that what we don’t know about improving human health is far greater than what we do know within the confines of our traditional, Western-based practice. The original concept was to develop a program that provided faculty, students, and the community with an entry point to what’s now called integrative medicine, or integrative health care.

Since its inception in 1995, the Center for Spirituality & Healing has helped push health care forward.  Students have been and continue to be one of the major drivers for the growth of CSH by crossing disciplines to expand their field of study and adding integrative medicine insight to their scope of study. The Center’s growing number of faculty educates health professionals on new models of care and positions consumers at the center of their health care. Most importantly, the Center helps patients more effectively navigate the health care system, a benefit to any health provider.

The field of health care is undergoing profound change.  Today, patients more frequently combine a complementary treatment approach to traditional therapies. They’re also taking a more active role in the health care decisions that impact them and to do so, are seeking care from providers who are able to safely and effectively integrate these two types of therapies. Such a shift is an asset – not a threat – as we look to treat the entire patient.

The operating principle of the CSH is to have an evidence-based approach to complementary approaches to health, and also to promote comparative, evidence-based research between complementary and traditional therapies—knowledge that providers need to best serve the patients coming to them for integrative care. So in charging the University with wasting its resources in supporting the CSH, Gleason couldn’t be further from the truth.

In actuality, only a small percentage of the Center’s funding comes from University resources. The rest, it earns through tuition revenue, philanthropic gifts, and extensive research funding.  Integrative medicine is an internationally recognized area of study, including by the National Institutes of Health, and our CSH has been very successful in competing for NIH funding.

For all of these reasons, the CSH is a great investment with incredible returns. In fact, for every University dollar invested in the CSH, it leverages such funding to generate ten more dollars. If all University Centers, Institutes, and faculty functioned as efficiently or as productively as the CSH, our University would be on very solid footing indeed.

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality & Healing was founded on the assumption that Western medicine may not have all the answers.  In 2011, what we don’t know about improving human health still exceeds that which we do know.  Perhaps this will always be the case.

But either way, it would be the height of arrogance to think that one line of thinking could possibly supply every brush stroke needed to complete the overall scene.

In its short 15 year tenure, the CSH has established a model curriculum, hired faculty, and developed a graduate minor as well as a post-baccalaureate certificate program. And for 15 years, the Center for Spirituality & Healing has enriched health and well-being by providing high-quality interdisciplinary education, conducting rigorous research, and delivering innovative programs that advance integrative health and healing.

We look forward to discovering what the next 15 years holds for not just our Center, but the field of integrative medicine as a whole.

It’s critical to remember that our University is a state-wide resource and its mission is to serve the whole patient, the whole state, and the nation.

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