Pause and Appreciate: New Academic Integration Modeled by Georgetown with Bastyr and Others

Summary: A model inter-institutional relationship may help bridge the chasm that separates health professions education in conventional academic health centers from institutions educating students for the distinctly licensed integrative practice (“CAM”) professions. Says one leader: “I believe we are poised to make an important advance in how the future training of health professionals may evolve.” The speaker is Adi Haramati, PhD, integrative medicine leader at Georgetown University, describing a new relationship between Georgetown and Bastyr University relative to Bastyr’s naturopathic medical program and Georgetown’s MS CAM program. Haramati and his co-director Hakima Amri, PhD are exploring similar relationships with chiropractic schools and other health professions institutions. The developers “would like nothing more” than to see this bridge-building relationship be used as a model for other academic health centers and CAM institutions.

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MS-CAM program leaders initiate relationships


Student A completes an academic Masters of Science program at a highly esteemed academic health center. He or she is wondering her/his future. The program focused on the science of complementary and integrative medicine. But what does the individual’s future hold? Go on to medical school? Personnel with the program lay out options. Among them, without prejudice: Have you considered this naturopathic medical school?

Meantime, Student B is considering naturopathic medical college. The field of complementary and alternative medicine intrigues. But is he or she ready to make the jump for that 4-year, residential commitment? Is naturopathic medicine or regular medical school or chiropractic medical education what they want?  Personnel with the naturopathic medical program say: You might consider this year-long Masters of Science in complementary and alternative medicine at this academic health center.

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Naturopathic program the focus of the inter-institutional agreement

An inter-institutional relationship such as this is the gist of an agreement recently established between Georgetown University School of Medicine and Bastyr University. Georgetown offers a CAM MS in Physiology program, initiated in 2003 under an NIH NCCAM R-25 grant. Bastyr University offers a naturopathic medical education among its dozen degree programs.

A new threshold of mutual respect

While neither binding, nor formal, the Georgetown-Bastyr relationship marks what appears to be a new threshold of mutual respect between a conventional academic program and a “CAM” school.

The relationship was conceived by Aviad “Adi” Haramati, PhD, co-director of the Georgetown program with Hakima Amri, PhD. Georgetown plans to forge similar relationships with vetted, top-quality schools that train professionals for the distinctly licensed complementary and alternative healthcare disciplines.

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Haramati: Long involvement in building bridges between disciplines

Haramati, previously the PI on the NCCAM grant, has been a major force for inter-professional action and dialogue since he chose to enter the integrative education field roughly a decade ago. He brought Georgetown in as a co-sponsor of the multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary National Policy Dialogue to Advance Integrated Healthcare in 2001. (Interestingly, Bastyr was another co-sponsor.) He threw Georgetown’s support behind the National Education Dialogue in 2005, for an invitational meeting involving integrative practice academics`from 11 disciplines. As the founding vice chair and leader of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, Haramati has promoted closer relationships with the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care.

Breaking down the silos between disciplines

Asked why he is promoting the linkages, Haramati smiled: “I love the idea of a conventional school like Georgetown training people for the broad array of health professions. Ten years ago this would have been unthinkable.” Haramati expanded on his vision:

“These linkages are a way to break down the silos that hold the disciplines apart. We are creating relationships between the disciplines and between the universities. The fact that a student at an academic health center is counseled to consider training as a naturopathic doctor or a chiropractor or a medical doctor or pursue a research career is what will serve to bridge the chasm between the health professions. We’re seeing it happening now. We counsel many of our students to suspend their judgment about their future career plans until they have some more information about the broad disciplines. Increasingly students are comfortable saying they don’t know which of these professions they will choose until they learn more.”

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Amri: Co-chair of Georgetown’s MS-CAM program

The Bastyr linkage and those in discussion with other universities are not a marketing gimmick for Georgetown. The $45,000, 11-month Georgetown program, limited to 30 students, has been full since 2006. They don’t plan to expand it. Rather, the Georgetown team wants these agreements to be a model: “We’d like nothing more than to see similar programs develop in other academic health centers.”

Non-binding, non-exclusive agreements

The Integrator was provided with email from Georgetown to Bastyr and to another potential partner institution which describe the potential value from this agreement. The goals of the Georgetown MS program as described this way:

“The fundamental aim of this program is to provide students with
competencies in three areas:  grounding in science (especially systems
and cell physiology), introductory exposure and understanding of CAM
disciplines and philosophies, and the ability to rigorously assess the
state of evidence regarding safety and efficacy of various CAM
therapies.” 

While some may choose careers in research or even integrative health-related policy work, most will enter a health profession:

“With regard to the health professions, we would hope that exposure to
various CAM disciplines may stimulate some students to pursue a career
in one of the CAM disciplines, including chiropractic, naturopathic
medicine or acupuncture and oriental medicine among others.” 

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Callahan: Point for Bastyr

A letter to Haramati from Bastyr’s senior vice president and provost Tim Callahan, PhD spells out the relationship, affirming it’s non-binding nature. The letter closes simply: “We look forward to this association with Georgetown University.”

The Georgetown team is excited about the potentially beneficial ripple effects of this inter-institutional exchange. Haramati believes that the Georgetown graduates of the MS program that attend Bastyr or another “CAM” program will “possess knowledge, skills and attitudes
that could enhance the environment and intellectual discourse” at these institutions.

He adds: “I believe we are poised to make an important advance in how the future training of health professionals may evolve. I am truly excited by the prospect of working with these relationships to train an excellent cadre of future health professionals.”

Comment: I had the opportunity to work with Haramati and 70+ others on the 2005 National Education Dialogue to Advance Integrated Health Care (NED): Creating Common Ground, noted above. That inter-professional collaboration led to a statement of “Common Ground Priorities.” Among the priorities were to “facilitate inter-institutional relationships” and “facilitate integrated post-graduate programs.”

Academics are famously slow to change.  In the mid-1980s, I was told by a leader of the then Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, the regional accrediting agency, that a joke academics tell on each other is that, despite education’s presumed pursuit of new knowledge, academics “don’t like to do anything for the first time.”

This model program appears to be one such quietly powerful first time. The Georgetown agreement with Bastyr, and those Haramati and Amri are seeking with other schools, are terrific steps, laying scaffolding toward the vision, articulated at NED and embraced by ACCAHC, of “a healthcare system that is multidisciplinary and enhances competence, mutual respect and collaboration across all CAM and conventional healthcare disciplines.” 

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John Weeks Written by John Weeks

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