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Mini-Medical School from UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine

University of California San Francisco faculty members and other experts discuss current issues in health and science. Presentations from the last five years are available online. Some of particular interest include:

Coping With Stress

Brain, Mind and Behavior

Complementary & Alternative Medicine

UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine runs the mini-medical school program.

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Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Evaluating Success Rates

Evaluating any medical claim carefully is crucial, no matter the source. With so many false or overblown claims about alternative and complementary treatments, I’m pretty skeptical. Alternative Medicine: Evaluate Claims of Treatment Success from the Mayo Clinic can help sort fact from fiction.

The section on avoiding internet misinformation is a must-read. Other topics in the article beware of health care scams and fraud, looking for solid scientific studies, evaluating providers and dietary supplements, and integrating Western medicine with complementary treatments.

Related articles from the Mayo Clinic include:

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The Appeal of Nontraditional Therapies

The longer someone lives with a headache disorder, the easier it becomes to recognize that there will never be a magic pill to alleviate your pain. Without that miraculous concoction from a pharmaceutical company, Western medicine provides meager solutions for headaches. Some docs do address potential trigger foods or relaxation therapies, but often as an afterthought.

It’s no wonder that nontraditional therapies have such a strong appeal. Whether the treatments are diet and relaxation, practices of Eastern medicine, or too-good-to-be-true promises of healing, any sense of hope is all that we need.

Perhaps more important than the therapies themselves is the promise of establishing an emotional connection with the practitioners. We want to be listened to and cared for as individuals. We are not headaches attached to bodies, but are people for whom headaches are just one part of our multifaceted lives.

In When Trust in Doctors Erodes, Other Treatments Fill the Void, The New York Times explores why so many people are drawn to alternative medicine.

“In interviews and surveys, patients [who use nontraditional therapies] often described prescription drugs as poisons that mostly mask symptoms without improving their underlying cause…”

“From here it is a small step to begin doubting medical science. If Western medicine is imperfect and sometimes corrupt, then mainstream doctors may not be the best judge of treatments after all, many patients conclude. People’s actual experience — the personal testimony of friends and family, in particular — feels more truthful…”

“In recent years, people searching for something outside of conventional medicine have increasingly turned to naturopaths, herbal specialists who must complete a degree that includes some standard medical training in order to be licensed, experts say. Fourteen states, including California and Connecticut, now license naturopaths to practice medicine. Natural medicine groups are pushing for similar legislation in other states, including New York.”