Resolve to Strengthen Integrative and Preventive Medical Education in 2013

Jan 9, 2013, 9:00 AM, Posted by

Jamila Williams, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor and health policy associate at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College, and associate program director of Meharry’s preventive medicine residency program. Sangita Chakrabarty, MD, MSPH, FACOEM, is an associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, and director of Meharry’s occupational medicine residency program. This post is part of the "Health Care in 2013" series.


Often we are asked: “Is preventive medicine a real subspecialty?” Why yes, Virginia, it is real. Preventive medicine is a medical specialty that incorporates population-based and clinical approaches to health care, and focuses on keeping individuals healthy through a holistic approach to patient care.  And to that end, integrative medicine is real and here to stay as well.

According to the Institute of Medicine Workshop Summary, Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public: A Summary of the February 2009 Summit, integrative medicine can be described as orienting the health care process to create a seamless engagement by patients and caregivers of the full range of physical, psychological, social, preventive, and therapeutic factors known to be effective and necessary for the achievement of optimal health throughout the life span. (Institute of Medicine, 2009 and Bravewell Collaborative Report, June 2010).

The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” will authorize funding for activities to enhance integrative medicine and preventive medicine education. Ultimately these enhanced education opportunities will lead to an improved public health workforce. Meharry Medical College’s (MMC) preventive and occupational medicine programs are among the 16 recipients of this funding. It will be used to incorporate evidence-based integrative medicine curricula in its accredited preventive medicine residency program and improve clinical teaching in both preventive and integrative medicine.

As recent recipients of the Integrative Medicine Program (IMP) Grant: HRSA-12-180, our New Year’s resolution is to incorporate evidence-based integrative medicine content into existing preventive medicine residency programs; provide faculty development to improve clinical teaching in both preventive and evidence-based integrative medicine; and facilitate delivery of related information that will be measured through competency development and assessment of the trainees.

MMC plans to use evidence-based integrative medicine approaches in the training of preventive medicine physicians; to participate in interprofessional training and education; and to partner with traditional medical teams consisting of physicians from other disciplines as well as other providers such as physical therapists, mental health practitioners, nurses, physician assistants, and non-traditional integrative medicine practitioners and North Nashville community leaders. 

While little is known about Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) use in ethnic minority populations, surveys shows that Hispanics and non- Hispanic blacks use CAM less often and are less likely to disclose their use to their primary care providers.  MMC, in its role as one of the premier institutions for training minority physicians, looks forward to addressing this disparity in the coming years.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.