November 2012 John Weeks Integrator Round-up covering the topics of:  Policy, Business, Integrative Centers, Academics, Natural Products, Professions, and People.

NCCAM to announce new grant that “encourages partnerships” between CAM schools and medical schools for training purposes

A new announcement from the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) shared that NCCAM will launch a new program that “encourages partnerships between institutions with demonstrated expertise in training complementary medicine practitioners and institutions with demonstrated expertise and capacity in conducting clinical and translational research.” NCCAM views the initiative as “aimed at improving the capacity of the integrative health field to carry out rigorous research.” The new partnerships “must be committed to create a comprehensive interdisciplinary complementary and integrative health clinical research training program that builds on the existing strengths, expertise and infrastructure of both institutions.” The goal: ” … generate a cadre of research clinicians who are able to participate fully in multi-disciplinary teams engaged in complementary and integrative health research.” 

Comment: Good for NCCAM. Some of the most influential, culture-shifting grants that the agency has promoted in the past are the so-called R-25 and “reverse R-25” education grants that either prompted or required such multi-institutional collaboration across institutional, guild and organizational chasms. Many influential relationships were build, and careers commenced, under programs of the awarded recipients.

A trick in this environment is the nature of the connection that “CAM” researcher will have with the dominant academic medical center. The gravitational pull is first toward the kinds of reductive questions that are the bread and butter of conventional academic medical centers but are not the highest shared priorities of researcher in the licensed CAM disciplines. The second question is long-term. As the best-and-the-brightest of the “CAM” researchers are drawn into these useful and important relationships, many jump to the better-funded conventional schools. Thus there is, as leading chiropractic researcher William Meeker, DC, MPH has named it, a “brain drain.” These programs from NCCAM are terrific. Here’s hoping that long-term outcomes will be infused with whole systems thinking that are infused with interest in developing the research culture in the “CAM” schools.