This article is written by Professor Stephen P Myers, PhD, BMed, ND and Director of the Australian Centre for Complementary Medicine Education. He is also on the editorial board of the journal.
A primary objective of modern health education should be to produce individuals who are independent and critical analytical thinkers. There are a number of forces that run counter to this objective during a student's educational tenure. These include the process where a student is moulded into a specific health professional, and the pressure of conformity they experience during clinical placements. They are expected to demonstrate best practice and to follow the lead of their mentors. Thinking outside the square is generally frowned upon and maintaining the status quo rewarded.
So, according to Professor Myers, the student who goes out on a limb with some wild diagnosis or treatment is to be preferred to the one who follows "best practice". Why should these students even bother with clinical placements if following "the lead of their mentors" is to be frowned upon so much. The problem is not thinking outside the square, the issue is to train students where the square actually lies, and what the range of issues and considerations are within that square. Of course, complementary medicine practitioners are uneasy with critical analytical thinking (even though they claim to utilise it) and following evidence based and proven procedures.
Professor Myers argues for "intellectual innocence".
In the context of complementary medicine (CM), it is essential for both the conventional and CM professions to engage in an open dialogue free from stereotypes and preconceptions. This occurred in June 2005 between more than 70 educators in conventional medicine and the major CM disciplines at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Dr Aviad Haramati, a professor of physiology at the university's School of Medicine and one of the conference planners, said that the goal was simply 'to create common ground across several disciplines that will make a difference in the education of healthcare professionals and thereby lead to improvements in our healthcare system'. John Weeks, project director for the meeting, noted 'those who are educated in silos are likely to practise in silos. To create the kind of thoughtful, respectful integration of healthcare that patients are requesting, we need to integrate the education all healthcare professions' students receive'.
To EoR this smacks of the Intelligent Designist's Wedge Strategy. First, teach the self-created "controversy". Everything else follows from that.
So, it's not important to determine whether alternative therapies are effective or not. Not teaching them indicates "moulding", "conformity", "closed minds" and professionals operating in silos. There's also the call to teach the system that "patients are requesting" rather than teaching what works. And, just like Intelligent Design, were such a call to be acted upon, then students would also, by the same argument, need to be taught such subjects as Witchdoctoring 101, Voodoo Basics 102, and Advanced Aura Manipulation 201. There is just as much 'evidence' for the effectiveness of these as for the (unspecified) therapies that Professor Myers is calling for to be included in courses.
Professor Myers concludes with that strategy beloved of the alternatistas, a call to the wit and wisdom of Albert Einstein:
Bear in mind Albert Einstein's observation that 'education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school'.
Which, presumably, implies that students shouldn't go to university at all. Anyway, they can get all the healthcare professional certification they need at the weekend complementary therapy courses.
The Clinical Application of Chi 1