American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Alternative Medicine Gets Integrated


The number of physicians who support the integration of alternative and conventional medicine is still small, but it’s growing. Part of the problem, say supporters, is not a lack of evidence, but a lack of emphasis. Two doctors trained in both conventional and alternative medicine make the case for integrated medicine. Also on the show: hospital chaplains and their own battle for relevancy in 21st-century medicine.

Listen to this episode.

Alternative, complementary, integrative. Nonconventional medicine goes by many names and covers a broad array of treatments and procedures. A third of the country uses some form of it, but lots of doctors are still uninformed and skeptical of it. And insurance coverage of alternative medicine is spotty at best.

Segment 1 : Making the case for Integrative Medicine, Part [1:02 - 5:52]

Guest: Dr. Russell Greenfield, Alternative Medicine Consultant in Charlotte, NC

Dr. Russell Greenfield was trained in Emergency Medicine at Harbor/UCLA Medical Center and at the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine under the tutelage of holistic health guru Andrew Weil. He has consulted in the development of national model guidelines for the use of complementary and alternative therapies.

Segment 2: Making the case for Integrative Medicine, Part II [5:52 - 11:33]

Guest: Dr. Thomas E. Lobe, pediatric surgeon and founder and medical director of the Beneveda Medical Center in Beverly Hills, CA

While the benefits of complementary-alternative medicine continue to be debated, pediatric surgeon Dr. Thomas Lobe uses alternative therapies like clinical hypnosis and acupuncture to help children recover from surgery, as he’s been doing for over 30 years.

Segment 3: The life of a hospital chaplain [11:33 - 23:30]

Guest: Debra Jarvis, general oncology chaplain at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and author of "It's Not About the Hair: And Other Certainties of Life & Cancer"

As practitioners of alternative medicine continue to struggle for acceptance in a health care system that rightly or wrongly demands results-driven proof for the treatments they provide, hospital chaplains face a similar battle in their own effort to update their image as legitimate and valuable members of today’s health care team.

The fact is, if you’ve spent any time in a hospital recently, you probably didn’t meet the hospital chaplain. If you did, you or a loved one were likely on the receiving end of a terminal diagnosis. Offering spiritual comfort in often the most trying situations, hospital chaplains play an invaluable role in the care of patients who have run out of medical alternatives. But as modern health care becomes increasingly complex and medical staffs have less time to spend with patients, chaplains can play an important humanizing role, whether patients require end-of-life care or a simple, routine surgery. In fact, a recent study has shown that patients who spend time with a chaplain have a better overall perception of their hospital experience.

But hospitals are unlikely to expand the role of their chaplains any time soon for a several reasons, among them, a dispute among chaplains themselves about the best way to prove their effectiveness.

Debra Jarvis has been working as a spiritual counselor for over two decades. She’s currently a general oncology chaplain at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and just published a book about her own recovery from Stage II Breast Cancer called “It’s Not About The Hair: And Other Certainties of Life and Cancer.” Like some of her colleagues, she’s concerned about what it means to be a professional chaplain in an increasingly results-driven era.

Segment 4: Hospital chaplains and 21st-century medicine [23:30 - 27:55]

Guest: Wendy Cadge, associate professor of sociology at Brandeis University and author of the forthcoming book "Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine"

Wendy Cadge has been studying the role of hospital chaplains as part of her research as an associate professor of sociology at Brandeis University. Her forthcoming book is “Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine.”