John Weeks July 2012  Integrator Round-up on Research covering updates on: International Research Congress; Naturopathic doctors report; NCCAM; Briggs’ NCCAM blog on the meaning of “integrative”.

International Research Congress follow-up – next iteration 2014 in Miami

The International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health (IRCIMH) drew over 1000 researchers, educators and clinicians from over 30 countries to Portland, Oregon in mid-May 2012. IRCIMH has now made abstracts and various keynotes available here. The interest in the triennial congress, formerly the North American Research Congress for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, and more importantly the vastly expanding production of CAM/IM research, has led the organizers, led by Adi Haramati, PhD, to move the Congress to a biennial schedule. The 2014 meeting will be in Miami, Florida in mid-May, 2014. 

Comment: I am listening to IRCIMH keynoter Matt Lauer, MD’s powerful presentation on comparative effectiveness research while writing this. This is a tremendous meeting and, increasingly, a multidisciplinary community gathering. My guess is that many drawn to this conference would also be drawn to a dance floor if they chose to have a banquet and music on the last night in Miami, 2012. I wonder, however, if more conservative participants would worry that all of the reported findings would be compromised if researchers showed such enthusiasm. Wouldn’t a conventional medical reporter necessarily reference the in-august demeanor of the sweating participants? Wouldn’t results thereby be tainted?


Naturopathic doctors report positive outcomes from review of whole person, multi-modality treatments

A group of naturopathic physician researchers led by Erica Oberg, ND, MPH and Carlo Calabrese, ND, MPH presented a poster at the May 2013 International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health entitled “Systematic Review of Outcomes Studies of Outcomes Studies of Whole Practice Naturopathic Medicine.” While the team acknowledged that “formal whole practice studies in naturopathic medicine are a recent phenomenon,” they were able to identify 13 that met the inclusion criterion of having at least two modalities. All of the naturopathic studies were on chronic conditions. “Some degree of clinical benefit” was found in each, “sometimes quite strong.” Eight of the 13 used quality of life measures with all showing improvements. While noting many “methodological weaknesses,” the team concluded that the review “provides evidence of effectiveness and cost savings in chronic diseases in the observed or validly-modeled practice of trained and licensed naturopathic doctors.”

Comment: If the so-called “integrative practice” fields never taken on the arts and sciences of evaluating multimodality, integrative practices, these fields will be sentenced to whining about not a  misfit of a reductive research paradigm. I credited these naturopathic doctor researchers in a Huffington Post column entitled How Naturopathic Doctors are Proving the Value of Integrative Medicine. As of July 2, 2012, over 630 had re-posted the piece and over 1600 “liked” it and 43 had commented.    


NCCAM deputy director Jack Killen, MD to step down

The news hit by way of an announcement that the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine was seeking candidates for a new deputy director. The position is presently held by John (Jack) Killen, MD, a veteran of over 30 years in the NIH and a right-hand operator for present director Josephine Briggs, MD since October 2008. I contacted Killen. He responded:

“Yes, I will be retiring toward the end of the year. It has been a really incredible run here at NIH in a number of often challenging but always fascinating and deeply rewarding jobs I never dreamed of when I started it all 32 years ago! I plan to do some part-time freelance consulting; devote a good bit of time to writing and teaching about the intersections of science, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and personal growth (a long-standing personal interest); do some volunteer work; and check off items on the bucket list.”

The announcement is posted here. Applications are due August 13, 2012. 

Comment: Integrator readers will know my bias in favor of NCCAM be led by individuals with depth involvement in, and understanding of, multimodal, individualized, whole person integrative practice. Neither Killen nor Briggs met the criterion (thus my Oops, They Did it Again column that still haunts a Google search of Josephine Briggs, MD). Notably, applicants for this position once again require no such experience. They seek an MD or PhD with “the ability to communicate with and obtain the cooperation of national and international organizations and individuals who represent wide-ranging disciplines and competing priorities.”

While he hadn’t a background in integrative care, to all the accounts that have reached my ears, Killen has exemplified this latter plays-well-with-others criterion. I am pleased, particularly following some exchanges at the most recent International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine, to have experienced his collegiality. That said, let’s hope that the next deputy director is drawn from the growing community of researchers who are already skilled in respecting the real-world complexities, and opportunities, for thinking about and researching whole person integrative health care. 


Briggs’ NCCAM blog on the meaning of “integrative” pulls significant, polarized dialogue

The June 2012 Integrator Round-up noted that NIH NCCAM has created a new blog and than an early offering from director Josephine Briggs, MD, is “Integrative – What Is in a Word?”  The posting has stimulated a dialogue with over 40 comments. At the center of it is Integrator columnist Taylor Walsh, taking on an outspoken, anti-CAM and anti-NCCAM bashers and trying valiantly to keep a steady hand. Early respondent acupuncturists like Stacy Gomes, EdD weigh in again. Then the anti-CAM heavy-weight David Gorski, MD makes an appearance. Take a look. Weigh-in.

Comment: When Walsh wrote to me of the exchange I replied that I always think of the tar baby of Uncle Remus fame (betraying the racist roots of education in the 1950s – but taking nothing from  the metaphor) when I think of engaging CAM/NCCAM antagonists. One hand sticks, then the other, then one leg, then the other. Until before you know it your entire being is caught up in a fruitless effort to convince the unconvincable. My Huffington Post articles sometimes draw a similar ilk.

However, this dialogue, on this NIH NCCAM site, may be the place to have this conversation. It would be nice if the integrative medical researchers and academics who receive the lions’ share of NCCAM largesse would weigh in. It’s ironic that the agency is being defended by a consumer-writer (Walsh) and members of a lightly-funded licensed acupuncture and Oriental medicine community rather than those who have been the apples of NCCAM’s eye. There is something sort of fairy tale-ish about that. Yes take a look. Then weigh in. When I did, I began my substantive remarks with: “While the term ‘integrative’ is useful – and I use it a lot – it is potentially a dangerous estrangement from the roots of what her agency was charged to explore: alternative modalities, systems and disciplines …”