January 2012 Integrator Round-up on Academics:  integrative approach to hypothyroidism; discussion of the specialty certifications debate in the massage field; Masters of Science in Functional Medicine

University of Wisconsin offers clinician/patient information on integrative approach to hypothyroidism 

This freely access program is entitled “Integrative Treatment of Hypothyroidism: Overview for Clinicians.”
Integrative doctor Surya Pierce, MD created the PDF and video for clinicians and a PDF for patients. In the December 2011 newsletter of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, David Rakel, MD, introduces the resources this way: “There is much controversy about this condition, particularly when the (thyroid stimulating hormone) is mildly abnormal. What happens to endogenous thyroid hormone production if we start hormone too soon? What can we recommend before starting thyroid hormone? Should we treat numbers or symptoms? What should I know about nutrition and thyroid function? What supplements or nutrients may help the body convert T4 to T3? Is there any benefit to prescribing T3 with T4?”

Comment: A naturopathic colleague reviewed the material and said: “Excellent. Looks like someone from the University of Wisconsin took the (Institute for Functional Medicine) training.”


British schools drop degree programs in reflexology, homeopathy, aromatherpay, others 

According to an article in the London telegraph entitled Lie back and relax: reflexology and aromatherapy degree are dropped, “the number of bachelor and masters degrees in subjects such as reflexology, aromatherapy, acupuncture and homeopathy has halved since 2007, from more than 40 to 21.”  Starting this year, the study of homeopathy at a degree level will no longer be available in a British university. Meantime, many of the surviving courses are under review. The termination of the courses is attributed to “rising tuition fees, a decline in applications and campaigns by scientists.” A half-decade ago things were different: “In 2007, when alternative medicine was highly popular, 16 state-funded degree-awarding institutions were offering 42 fully accredited BSc/BA courses in 12 non-evidence-based forms of medicine.” One antagonist is given significant credit: “The closures are partly the result of a campaign led by David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London, and the rationalist pressure group Sense about Science.” Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are reported to be the programs that are likely to have the most staying power.

Comment: This is an important development for integrative academics in the U.S. to observe, especially given the parallel efforts of academics here to shut down integrative programs in academic health centers. A difference in the States is that most education to prepare one for the distinctly licensed natural health care disciplines is through independent, private schools and universities. The issue in this country will be whether we’ll see dropping enrollment and failure of colleges. Over the past decade, chiropractic has shown such reduction in enrollment, and some school closures. (Thanks to Integrator adviser Glenn Sabin for the tip on this article.)


Massage Today offers useful discussion of the specialty certifications debate in the massage field 

Massage Today recently featured a useful pulse-check on the current state of the debate within the massage field over educational standards and the field’s future. The article by Kathryn Feather is entitled Massage Education’s Future: Will Advanced Degree programs Give Therapists Portability and the Respect of the Allopathic Health Care Community? The lead voice in the article in favor of advanced certification programs is Ruth Werner, president of the Massage Therapy Foundation. Werner argues that “having advanced degrees available in massage therapy will open many doors for us in the research world and in the public health policy world.” Consultant, author and business coach Cherie Sohnen-Moe raises concerns that massage therapists may price their services out of the reach of many consumers if the financial barrier to entry into the field is increased by raising program standards. Individual states presently show wide variation in licensing requirements. Texas requires just 500 hours and New York 1000, for example. These variations limit portability of massage licenses from state to state. Sohnen-Moe urges board specialty certifications rather than higher basic standards: “I think the way to go about addressing the education issue is to have specialty national certifications rather than advanced degrees. While I know this is a difficult and expensive process, I really think it’s the way to go.” The article includes additional useful basic information about the current state of the massage field.

Comment from Integrator adviser Jan Schwartz, MA: I asked Schwartz, a past president of the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, board member of MTF, and co-founder of online-focused Education and Training Solutions, for her perspective. She wrote: “Ideally, I would like to see a consortium of schools, or even one school, design an in-depth program for people who already have a bachelor’s degree. That would allow the school(s) to truly teach in an (evidence-informed practice) way from the beginning. The administrators would already know that students had baseline communication skills in verbal and written formats and had some critical thinking/reasoning skills. The school may even require a basic anatomy and physiology course prior to entry. With a strong set of competencies (not hours), students would learn what it takes to be part of the healthcare system. The title Massage Therapist has already been taken and because education is now all over the board, a new title would have to be found, with the word massage in it.  People who want to be massage therapists and work with relaxation massage should be able to do that. But by the same token, those who want to advance should have that opportunity in a way that informs the public about the differences in the scope of practice. Right now we are all perceived to be the same by the public. We need a culture change.

Schwartz adds, regarding a comment of Werner in the article, that “starting a BS degree in schools could work too, but I don’t see that happening because there are too many corporate/investor driven schools in massage therapy where the bottom line trumps education. It’s easier to keep someone in school for a year or less than it is for 4 years.” She sums up: “Currently massage is sitting in the foyer and waiting to be invited to the health care table. Unless something changes in our education, I don’t think that is going to happen except in ‘token’ cases.”


Predominantly chiropractic University of Western States initiates Masters of Science in Functional Medicine 

Starting in April 2012, Portland-Oregon-based University of Western States (UWS), will offer a Masters of Science in Nutrition and Functional Medicine. The program, developed in collaboration the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), is described as a “unique partnership” between the two entities. IFM will directly provide 4 required credits and up to 4 elective credits. Alex Vasquez, DC, ND, DO was charged with program development and will also have the lead in delivering it. According to the website, the program “will be delivered in a distance-learning format using the University’s online learning management system.” The total program consists of 50 quarter-credits of graduate coursework (33 semester credits). UWS notes that a distinctive feature of this nutrition program is that it “integrates standard Clinical Nutrition subject material with the systems biology approach of Functional Medicine.”

Comment: The timing of this program is interesting in the context of the battle over the future of the chiropractic field referenced in the article in this Round-up about the chiropractic accrediting agency. UWS, under the leadership of president Joe Brimhall, DC, prefers the term “chiropractic medicine” to “chiropractic” and “chiropractic physician” to “chiropractor.” It will be interesting to see both how many chiropractors, and non-chiropractors will be drawn to this MS program. Credit IFM for another success in moving its program out into academic centers.