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Allied Health: U Mich School of Social Work Proposes Multi-Disciplinary CAM-IM Certificate Program PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   
Allied Health: U Mich School of Social Work Proposes Multi-Disciplinary CAM-IM Certificate Program

Image
Larry Gant, PhD, U Michigan School of Social Work
CAM-IM practitioners who take more time with patients may be expected to have a greater awareness of the whole of the individual's life than do those who move patients rapidly through their clinics, focusing on symptoms or symptom suppression. As such, clinical work with the whole person can carry over into what may be known as "social work."

Yet directly integrating knowledge of CAM practices into the education of social work professional students - those charged in much of medicine to hold this global view of services, connections and decisions which can assist clients - has been slow in coming. The work of Larry Gant, PhD, and a multi-disciplinary team associated with the University of Michigan School of Social Work is developing a model for bridging this gap.

Gant's review of CAM-IM training in other training of social work found "a few electives, plenty of workshops, and just one or two standing, regular courses." The strategy Gant and his University of Michigan team are utilizing is the development of an 18 credit Integral Health Studies Certificate Program (IHS). The program is expected to be  housed in continuing education of the School of Social Work. It's kick-off is scheduled for the 2006-2007 academic year.

While presently getting lift-off from the School of Social Work, Gant's believes that the optimal home of the IHS prorgam will be the broader allied health base of the entire Horace A. Rackham School of Graduate Studies as was originally conceptualized by Sara Warber, MD, and Rita Benn, PhD in the school of medicine. Gant is direct about the value of what he hopes will be the eventual shift in sponsorship: "It's a broader endorsement of the program. Many people would rather have a certification from the Rackham School than from the School of Social Work - even though (SSW) is ranked the #1 school of social work in the United States."

Image The multi-disciplinary direction is appropriate, given the program's origins. The certificate was born out of an R-25 education grant
from the NIH NCCAM awarded to the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine. The co-principal investigators on the grant, Warber and Benn, were the original impetus behind the program, forging a multi-disciplinary team across the University of Michigan. In fact, the certificate program knits together a cluster of CAM-IM classes in a handful of departments at the University. Included are nursing, social work, public health and pharmacy. Core curriculum in the IHS program is proposed to consist of:

  • Complementary Therapies & Alternative Healing (Nursing)
  • Mind-Body Connections for Health and Self-Care (Social Work)
  • Herbs and Dietary Supplements (Public Health)
  • Core Topics in Integral Health (Pharmacy)

To these core courses, the student adds a series of electives. To be eligible to enter the IHS program, students must either be enrolled in, or have completed, at least Masters level training in a health sciences program. Since the preliminary advertisement this past year, Benn reports over 20 inquiries from prospective students ergarding future enrollment. Most of the students are those who wish to return to obtain this certificate. At least a quarter are from students already enrolled at U Michigan. 

Masters Level CAM
Courses Offered at
Other Academic
Health Centers 


 
Masters of Science in CAM

Georgetown
University
 
Graduate Minor in
Complementary Therapies
and Healing Practices

University of
Minnesota
 Holistic Health Care
Graduate Certificate
Western
Michigan U
 
Source: U Michigan IHS
Certificate Program
case statement

 


Making the Case: Reasons for the Certificate

Materials supporting the course Gant personally teaches, on "Mind-Body Connections," make a case for the enhancement this new content will offer for core themes which drive the broader School of Social Work program.

  • Diversity and multiculturalism - Exploring the "subcultures" of healing traditions.
  • Social justice and social change - Mind-body approaches may be "less resource intensive" and their value has been "suppressed by the dominant health system."
  • Promotion/prevention/treatment and rehabilitation - A focus on "chronic illnesses not remedied by allopathic medicine" while also acknowledging the latter's benefits.
  • Social science and behavioral research - The growing body of mind-body evidence.
  • Social work values and ethics - "An underlying theme in the course is that knowledge of mind-body approaches and a general knowledge of indigenous healing systems will enhance the cultural sensitivity of social work practitioners."

The case Gant makes for the broader Integral Health Studies program rests also on a blunt, national recommendation from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences. The IOM's January 2005 IOM report entitled Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States provided anchor language in the program's case statement:
"Health profesisons schools (e.g., schools of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and allied health) (should) incorporate sufficient information about CAM into the standard curriculum at the undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels to enable licensed professionals to competently advise patients about CAM." (p. 254)
The certificate program, by building this CAM-IM presence throughout the allied health professions education, helps these schools meet this IOM recommendation.

The Academic Gauntlet to Getting a CAM-IM Course Approved


Image
NIH R-25 grant co-principal investigator and IHS developer team member Rita Benn, PhD
Gant notes specific benefits the School of Social Work might derive from its sponsorship. These include the potential to attract students, by differentiating from other social work professional schools, and the possibility of attracting donations from philanthropists and funding agencies with a passion or interest in the CAM-IM field.

The hurdles Gant describes on the road to acceptance and inclusion are instructive to
anyone who has wondered what it takes to move any part of an academic health system toward greater inclusion of CAM-IM in the curriculum. Reveals Gant: "There are two kinds of politics here - financial and pedagogical." The financial has to do with the flow of cash and the credit that goes to an individual department. Some of the elements and considerations include:

The hurdles Gant
describes on the road
to acceptance and
  inclusion are instructive
to
anyone who has
wondered why the
uptake of CAM-IM into
  educational practice can
be a lengthy campaign.




  • First pilot the course as an elective.  Show interest of students and faculty.
  • Transition the elective to a required course. Gant's mind-body course, which he has run for two years, is up for approval in the social work department in September 2006. The IHS program core is a patchwork of courses, some of which are elective, and some core, for students in different departments. Says Gant: "The fact that we have regular courses under-girding this makes it stronger."
  • If one department sponsors (such as Social Work), gain approval for the course to be elective an for students in other departments.
  • If a course has been developed for one discipline, re-shape it to fit a multi-disciplinary student group. Gant noted that nursing had offered mind-body content, but it was nursing specific and not appropriate for social work students and a multi-disciplinary offering.
  • Train the faculty. Gant notes that he's had four SSW faculty members complete a UM-Michigan Integrative Medicine Faculty Scholars Program in Integrative Medicine. A fifth will enter the 2006-2007 cohort. He also notes that the pharmacy-sponsored course benefitted from one faculty member with a passion for natural products, who, unfortunately for the program, is retiring. Another instructor of a "very popular course" in the nursing school died recently, also unfortunately spelling the likely end of the instruction of that course.
  • Gain stronger sponsorship. Gant hopes that by 2007 the IHS certificate will be from the Rackam School, giving it "a broader endorsement."

The certificate program anticipates attracting 6-10 students in the first year, and "no more than 20 per year" in the years following. Some will be attracted for clinical reasons, such as assisting clients with "integrating CAM into their health plans and facilitating whole person healing." Others will be attracted to expanding their research skills. States Gant: "Professionals who have completed the certificate will be better positioned to develop translational research grants that may uncover how internal and external healing systems work to promote health and prevent disease."



Inclusion of CAM-IM
content in allied health
education can enhance
cultural-political
  understanding between
the disciplines. There
is a good deal that is
common in their battles
to be appropriately
respected and used
in the dominant system.


Comment:  The direct benefits of the Integral Health Studies program -- to enhance clinical care and research skills -- may help produce a useful indirect benefit as well. The inclusion of CAM-IM content in allied health education, exemplified here, can create political and cultural understanding between the disciplines.

  • Most of the allied health fields and CAM-IM share a global, whole person view of the human being.
  • Most share a struggle to be respected for their full value in the tertiary care/specialist MD-dominated mainstream system.
  • Most have, like CAM-IM fields, required mandates to establish appropriate inclusion in the third-party payment system, typically despite the opposition from the AMA and its affiliates. (See IBN&R article on allied health and CAM-IM disciplines in coalition to save state mandates.)

Hopefully this historic certification program will advance this political-cultural understanding by ensuring that training about the CAM-IM disciplines is not forgotten amidst the exploration of CAM modalities.



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