New clinic to offer alternative medicine

AP, Jan. 5, 2003

PORTLAND — A new clinic at Oregon Health & Science University will combine mainstream medicine with Chinese, chiropractic and naturopathic disciplines to help students learn more about these increasingly popular alternatives.

The clinic will open Jan. 13.

Dr. Anne Nedrow, the program’s medical director, said the clinic is the first of its kind in the nation. Three academic centers of alternative medicine in Portland makes it possible to gather enough expertise to make the clinic work, she said.

Nedrow said the clinic is designed for patients with complex, chronic health problems that have not been successfully treated by mainstream medicine.

In the first appointment, patients will spend about two hours with a group of four practitioners — a licensed acupuncturist from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, a resident from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, an intern from Western States Chiropractic College and a fourth-year medical student from OHSU.

Members of the group will examine the patient and ask questions about the patient’s health history.

Then they’ll return to their institutions, present the case to the appropriate experts and develop a treatment plan, using one or more of the disciplines.

Treatments will not be given at the clinic, which will be used only for consultation.

Nedrow will be the final arbiter if the practitioners disagree on the best treatment.

The clinic is supported by a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The clinic’s chief goal, she said, is to “help train future medical doctors to work with these disciplines in a collegial way.”

Patients, too, will benefit from the clinic, she said.

“It’s a cost-effective way for patients in Portland to get information from experts in their fields,” she said.

Other perspective

Loren Pankratz, a clinical professor of psychiatry at OHSU and member of the board of directors of the National Council Against Health Fraud, said alternative medicine has no place in a medical school.

“Alternative” is just another way of saying “unproven” or “fraudulent,” he said.

“I have great problems with this approach — serious, serious problems … I hate to see a scientific institution getting itself entangled in programs which have no scientific basis with which to approach the health of the individual.”

But Nedrow questions whether modern medicine is as scientific as it claims.

“I think there’s debate about how much evidence is needed to recognize a treatment,” Nedrow said.

Nedrow began her professional life as a skeptic. But she said a diagnosis of systemic lupus brought home the limitations of mainstream medicine. The treatment left her with unwanted weight gain and hair loss and without much therapeutic benefit, she said.

Her plight led her to explore the connection between the body and mental well-being. She recently completed a two-year associate fellowship under Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known proponent of alternative medicine at the University of Arizona.

Her interest in Chinese medicine deepened with her adoption of a Chinese child in 1995.

In addition to organizing the clinic, Nedrow teaches a 10-week course for patients at OHSU in ways of using the mind to alleviate the effects of disease.

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