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American Medical Students’ Beliefs in the Effectiveness of Alternative Medicine

Author(s): Erica Frank | Neda Ratanawongsa | Jennifer Carrera

Journal: International Journal of Collaborative Research on Internal Medicine & Public Health
ISSN 1840-4529

Volume: 2;
Issue: 9;
Start page: 292;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Physician | Medical student | Complementary and alternative medicine

Introduction: While the use of complementary and alternative medical therapy (CAM) is common in the U.S., there have been no prior national studies of CAM-related attitudes of U.S. medical students.Methods: We surveyed the Class of 2003 at freshman orientation, entrance to wards, and senior year in a nationally representative sample of 16 U.S. medical schools. Our primary outcome of interest was students’ Likert-scaled responses to the statement “Alternative medicine can often be as effective as traditional medicine.”Results: With 4764 responses overall (a response rate of 80.3%), 9% strongly agreed, 45% agreed, 34% neither agreed nor disagreed, 11% disagreed, and 2% strongly disagreed that alternative medicine could be as effective as traditional medicine. Students became modestly more polarized in their beliefs, moving from 37% of students neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the statement at freshman year to 31% at senior year. Several variables including gender, paternal educational level, ethnicity, religion, political self-characterization, intended specialty, and prevention-orientation were associated with agreement.Conclusions: U.S. patients commonly use CAM, but newly-minted U.S. physicians’ are often skeptical about its efficacy. This disconnect may make it difficult to integrate patients’ CAM use into clinical decision-making.

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