CAM at Medical Schools

Survey: Half the medical schools in the US offer CAM courses

Three surveys of CAM classes at medical schools have been conducted in the United States. The first survey from 1998 concluded that 64% of medical schools offered a CAM course. The second survey from 2002 found that there were 84% of such schools in the US. Another survey was conducted between 2012 and 2013. It was more extensive, and hence more accurate, than the previous two and analyzed the curricula of 96.2% of the medical schools in the US. The survey only included schools that awarded a Doctor of Medicine degree, not osteopathic or naturopathic colleges. According to the study, half the medical schools in the US offer at least one CAM course or CAM internship. In some cases, the CAM therapy courses focused primarily on self-care (rather than patient care). Some courses were theoretical, while others provided opportunities to watch CAM practitioners at work or try techniques either as a client or a practitioner (210). The thematic composition of these courses in terms of CAM modalities is shown in Table 7. We cite the abstract of the article Complementary and Alternative Medicine in US medical schools from 2015, where the results of the survey were published:


An analysis of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in US medical school curriculum was undertaken. Websites for 130 US medical schools were systematically analyzed for course listings and content. Half of the schools (50.8%) offered at least one CAM course or clerkship. A total of 127 different course listings were identified, embracing a range of topics and methods of instruction. The most frequently listed topics were traditional medicine, acupuncture, spirituality, and herbs, along with the general topic of CAM. Nearly 25.0% of the courses referenced personal growth or self-care through CAM practices, while only 11.0% referenced inter-professional education activities involving interaction with CAM providers. The most frequently reported instructional methods were lectures, readings, and observation of, or receiving a CAM treatment. The findings of this analysis indicated fewer medical schools offered instruction in CAM than previously reported and a wide range of approaches to the topic across the schools where CAM is taught.” (211)

Topic Number of courses containing topic %
CAM 40 31.5
Traditional medicine 25 19.7
Acupuncture 22 17.3
Meditation 21 16.5
Spirituality 18 14.2
Herbs 17 13.4
Massage 14 11.0
Energy medicine 14 11.0
Chiropractic 10 7.9
Osteopath 10 7.9
Yoga 9 7.1
Biofeedback 7 4.7
Hypnosis 5 3.9
Creativne arts therapies 5 1.6
Tai Chi 2 3.9
Naturopathy 2 1.6

Table 7 – 
CAM therapies which were part of medical school courses in the US – according to a survey from 2012–2013, which included 96% of medical faculties in the US
Source: COWEN, V.S., CYR, V. Complementary and alternative medicine in US medical schools. Advances in Medical Education and Practice [online].