Concentration in Integrative Medicine

Concentration Director:

Robert Heffron, MD 
Clinical Asst Professor in Family Medicine 
Phone: 401-578-6345  
Memorial Hospital of RI
111 Brewster Street
Pawtucket, RI  02860


In the past few decades, the public’s use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has steadily increased. A National Health Interview Survey in 2002 revealed that 62% of U.S. adults had used CAM within the 12 months prior to being interviewed, while 54.9% believed that the combination of CAM and conventional medical care would provide added benefit. Despite the major advances of biomedical science during the 20th century, doctors have become increasingly burdened by the difficulties and challenges of treating chronic illnesses, and patients have grown wary of medicine’s over-reliance on technology and the harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals and invasive procedures. These factors, among others, have contributed to the public’s seeking of alternative forms of healing.

In the wake of these recent developments in CAM, integrative medicine has emerged as a promising field that draws from the best of the world’s healing modalities to provide safe, individualized care to patients. Integrative medicine acknowledges the role of mind, body, spirit and community as vital to the healing process and seeks to foster a healing partnership between doctors and patients. While it recognizes the power of conventional biomedicine, integrative medicine also recognizes and attempts to facilitate the body’s own healing response; it promotes the use of less invasive methods where safe and when possible; and it seeks to integrate CAM with conventional therapies in the pursuit of disease prevention, wellness, and the treatment of illness. Integrative medicine rejects the notion of an “alternative” medicine by proposing that all safe and efficacious healing modalities have a place in our medical paradigm. It seeks to broaden a doctor’s options so that he or she is able to apply the most appropriate treatment to a particular patient’s ailments. If there is a healing modality that is safer and more effective than conventional methods, then it should be included in the doctor’s toolkit.

Learning Objectives

The goal of the program is to deepen and broaden students’ conceptual and clinical understanding of CAM, and to incorporate this knowledge into the framework of integrative medicine. 

Students who complete this concentration shall be able to demonstrate the following:

  1. Discuss the core concepts of the integrative medicine model
  2. Identify the strengths and limitations of conventional biomedicine and the various healing
  3. modalities of CAM
  4. Apply an interdisciplinary approach to clinical thinking that incorporates a broad range of
  5. medical worldviews
  6. Consider the role of the mind, body, spirit, and community in illness, health, and healing
  7. Discuss issues and methods of research concerning CAM
  8. Analyze the scientific literature and evidence on CAM
  9. Participate in experiential learning that develops skills in several areas of CAM,
  10. including acupuncture, bodywork techniques, nutritional guidance, and others
  11. Establish a healing relationship with patients
  12. Advise patients in their use of CAM and conventional treatment methods
  13. Understand the importance of physicians and patient self-care in the promotion of health
  14. and treatment of illness

Timeline of Activities

Year I

Those who elect to pursue a Scholarly Concentration in Integrative Medicine will begin to develop a curriculum and plan for an intensive project to complete during the Summer of Year I. Under the supervision of their mentors, students will design an intensive 8-10 week summer project, which may be clinically-oriented, research-focused, or both. 

Summer of Year I

Brown has partnerships with an extensive network of other schools and clinics that feature

programs in integrative medicine.

Year II

After the Summer of Year I, the Director and students’ mentors will evaluate students’ posters at the Summer Showcase. Students will be encouraged to organize workshop events that promote awareness of integrative medicine and spark dialogue within the Brown community. This will mostly be done in conjunction with the student-run Brown Integrative Medicine Initiative (BIMI). Students will also be encouraged to attend the monthly integrative medicine “grand rounds” that take place at the Memorial Hospital at 6:30 pm on the first Thursday of every month during the academic year.

In the fall semester, students will be required to take BIOL3710-J: “Integrative Medicine: From

Alternative to Mainstream,” a preclinical elective. In this course, students will have the opportunity to experience CAM therapies, learn from clinicians who practice CAM, and discuss the scientific literature and research in this emerging field.  Learning in the course is both didactic and experiential.

Mentors will be available throughout the year for monthly meetings to advise students and to

receive updates on student progress. During these meetings, students will be working with

mentors to craft a long-term project that will be completed in the next two years. 

Years III & IV

During this time, students will have opportunities to complete clinical rotations in certain healing modalities at several of Brown’s partner schools and clinics. Depending on the students’ interests, projects may take various forms. Students pursuing research-focused projects may choose to present their work in the form of a paper, poster, and/or a conference presentation, whereas students with clinically-oriented projects may choose a format that enables them to practice and develop their clinical skills.

 Mentors will be available throughout the year to advise students. They will also continue to hold monthly meetings with students to receive an update on their projects.

In early April of Year IV, the Director and the students’ mentors will evaluate students’ presentation of their final projects. Because the format of these projects will vary, each mentor will decide on an appropriate method of evaluation. For projects that are research-focused, mentors may choose to evaluate students’ work in the form of a paper, poster, or conference presentation. For projects that are more clinically-oriented, mentors may choose to evaluate the students’  skills and performance in a clinical setting. Regardless of the format, project evaluations should enable students to demonstrate competency in each of the areas outlined in the Overview section. 

Project Examples

  1. The Acupuncture Clinic at Memorial Hospital, is a potential site for a student project. Students may design a clinically-oriented project, in which they explore how acupuncture is used in a clinical setting while learning the appropriate acupuncture points and needling techniques. Or students may choose a research-focused project, in which they use outcome studies to examine the efficacy of acupuncture for certain medical conditions, such as chronic back pain
  2. Clinical experience in the Ocean State Holistic Medical Collaborative in Providence. At this site students will have the opportunity to work with physicians practicing family medicine, pediatrics and psychiatry, complemented by homeopathy, acupuncture, functional medicine, and bodywork.

Potential Sites

Below is a list of potential sites where students can complete a summer project; students are not required to choose from this list.

Students who choose these sites will have the option of joining an existing project or creating their own.

  • Acupuncture Clinic, Memorial Hospital, Department of Family Medicine, Alpert Medical School (Chinese medicine)
  • Integrative Care Program in Women’s Oncology, Women and Infants Hospital (acupuncture, Reiki, bodywork, hypnotherapy, art/music therapy)
  • Hasbro Children’s Hospital and Bradley Hospital (art/music therapy)
  • Ocean State Holistic Medical Collaborative, 182 Gano Street, Providence, RI (homeopathy, Chinese medicine, mind-body medicine)
  • Way of the Dragon School, Providence, RI (Qi Gong, Tai Chi, mind-body medicine)
  • Pathways to Wellness, Boston, MA (Chinese medicine, bodywork)
  • College of Naturopathic Medicine, Univ. of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, CT (naturopathy)
  • Center for Mind-Body Medicine, Georgetown University (mind-body medicine)
  • School of Classical Chinese Medicine, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, OR (Chinese Medicine, naturopathy)
  • National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan (Chinese medicine)
  • Zhejiang University, School of Medicine, China (Chinese medicine)

Maximum Number of Students

This concentration can currently accommodate a total of 2-4 students per year. However, if there

is significant interest, additional faculty members can be recruited to serve as mentors.

Funding Opportunities  
(alternatives to Summer Assistantships)

1. Students who participate in the five-day training session offered by AMSA’s Leadership and

Education Program for Students in Integrative Medicine (LEAPS into IM) will be eligible to apply for small project grants of $300.

2. Students with interests in art/music therapy may apply for the Student Scholarship ($1000) or various research grants offered by the Society for the Arts in Healthcare.

3. Students who are committed to research in the field of naturopathy may be eligible to apply for funding provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine (INM).

4. The National Center for Complementary Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) may provide research supplements to students who are committed to health-related research.