“Defining” Integrative Medicine

August 21, 2007

Our manuscript titled Divining Integrative Medicine (authors S Stumpf, S Shapiro and M Hardy) describes issues that must be weighed in finding a suitable and widely acceptable definition for integrative medicine. The mansucript was accepted recently by Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine and will be published shortly. The journal is available online at no cost which is a tremendous advantage and the Web2.0 way. When the manuscript was in peer review the question was posed why I used the term “divining” in the title, a word considered old-fashioned, out of context. I explained I was having a little fun playing with “defining” while trying to make our point about how the absence of definition leaves it to the consumer and medicine in general to figure out what exactly is integrative medicine. Make no mistake about it. As authors we firmly believe integrative medicine is here to stay. We also recognize there will be many changes before the final discipline is established…or should I say before the discipline is finally established? I was pleased to receive my first comment from Sonya Pritzker, a licensed TCM provider and a UCLA doctorate student interested in medical anthropology (she read a pre-pub draft). Words mean a lot to Sonya. I hope you will read what she has to say on the question of not only what exactly is integrative medicine but the importance of methodology in arriving at a suitable definition.

One Response to ““Defining” Integrative Medicine”

  1. Great article! I love the attention it brings to the lack of agreement on definitions and all the practices that emerge from definitions. I’m definitely finding that to be an issue in the education of acupuncture students I am following. Each teacher, for example, presents the students with a different idea of what “integrative medicine” might be, what the bridges between Chinese medicine and biomedicine look like, and how to interpret and act on that. The students are then left to formulate their own notions of those bridges, each of which are specific to the individual. While I absolutely think that it is important to recognize individual perspectives in the anthropological appreciation of integrative medicine, I also think that the development of a more uniform standard, as you advocate, would allow for that individual diversity to be grounded in a safer and more effective baseline definition. The problem then is whose definitions to use?

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