Scholarly Concentration in Integrative Health and Contemplative Practices
Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, M.D., Ph.D.
Research Scientist, Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, The Miriam Hospital
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Warren Alpert School of Medicine
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Brown University
Mariah Stump, M.D., MPH
Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Women’s Medicine Collaborative, Primary Care Women’s Health
Medical Acupuncturist, Certified Yoga Instructor
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 of 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 past few decades, the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States has steadily increased. Data from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the National Center for Health Statistics have suggested that 38% of adults and 12% of children are using CAM. With a substantial population of patients seeking CAM modalities for their health and healing, it is imperative that health care providers, including medical students, are educated and informed about these practices.
In the wake of these recent developments in CAM, integrative medicine has emerged as a promising field that draws from the best healing modalities to provide safe and 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 acknowledging the successes of conventional biomedicine, integrative medicine recognizes and attempts to facilitate the body’s own healing response, it promotes the use of less invasive methods where safe and indicated, and it seeks to integrate evidence-based CAM practices with conventional therapies in the pursuit of wellness and disease prevention and treatment.
Integrative medicine rejects the notion of an “alternative” medicine and proposes that all healing modalities that have been proven safe and efficacious based on rigorous evidence-based research have a place in our medical paradigm. Integrative medicine seeks to broaden a doctor’s healing “tool kit” so that he or she is able to apply the most appropriate treatment to a particular patient’s ailments. If a healing modality is safe and effective, it should certainly be included in the physician’s toolkit in order to best approach some of the most common medical ailments such as chronic pain for which the current conventional treatments are often limited and largely ineffective.
Integrative medicine disciplines considered in this concentration will include acupuncture, yoga, tai chi, Qi Gong, Reiki/healing touch, massage therapy, chiropractic, dance therapy, and music therapy. The Concentration on Contemplative Practices will focus specifically on integrative treatments involving mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, and other forms of contemplative practice within specific religious traditions. Although the benefits of some integrative approaches have not been scientifically proven, most practices (i.e., acupuncture, tai chi, yoga, mindfulness training) are supported by robust scientific evidence. Integrative approaches not included in this list can be discussed with the directors on a case-by-case basis.
To facilitate the students’ choice of the best way to deepen their interest in a specific Integrative Health discipline, we have identified three tracks. Within each track, didactics and plans will be tailored to the needs and interests of each student. Coursework is entirely optional.
Once students have selected an integrative health discipline of interest, they will work with the Directors to choose the track that best matches the student’s interest, choose a Mentor, and develop a didactic plan in collaboration with the Mentor. Deliverables will differ depending on the track chosen and can include:
● A scientific abstract or manuscript (track II)
● A written essay describing personal or community work (track I and III)
I. Personal development track
This track emphasizes direct personal experience and training in a specific integrative or contemplative practice. Examples include shadowing an expert in a specific integrative health discipline; undergoing formal personal training in a specific integrative health discipline.
- Online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Training at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School
- MBSR courses at the Miriam Hospital Women’s Medicine Collaborative
- Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health
- Barre Center for Buddhist studies
- Cambridge Insight Meditation Society
- Other resources suggested by the Mentor
II. Research track
This track emphasizes research and methodological approaches to integrative health. Possible projects include secondary data analyses from existing projects and datasets; summer research assistantships on existing projects; conducting systematic literature reviews. Studies involving collection of new data are allowed but have to be discussed with the Mentor and the Directors on a case-by-case basis.
- IRB training (activity combined with other Scholarly Concentrations)
- NCCIH Clinical Research Toolbox: the Toolbox contains templates, sample forms, and information materials to assist clinical investigators in the development and conduct of high-quality clinical research studies. https://nccih.nih.gov/grants/toolbox
- Other resources suggested by the mentor or concentration directors specific to the student research project
III. Community project track
This track emphasizes volunteer work and advocacy in the Brown community and in the Providence and Rhode Island community at large. Projects include, for example, launching a project involving underserved populations who might benefit from integrative health practice; volunteering at the Providence Community Acupuncture Center; offering information sessions on integrative practices or yoga/dance classes at community centers; designing a local sustainable yoga or dance program to underserved areas in Providence in collaboration with RI Parks and Recreation.
Timeline – All tracks
Year 1: Summer project. The project lasts 18 weeks and has to be completed within the summer. Competitive applications for funding ($3,750 per student) are due in February.
Year 2-4: Students continue working on their projects using protected time (Wednesdays).
Year 4: All students will give a presentation describing findings, accomplishments, and challenges encountered during the Concentration.
Resources – All tracks
● Contemplative Studies (COST) courses at the Undergraduate Contemplative Studies Concentration : https://www.brown.edu/academics/contemplative-studies/contemplative-studies-courses
● Monthly Concentrators’ Meetings: – to discuss new ideas, project issues, and schmooze!
● Acupuncture Journal Club (Dr. Stump)
● List of Mentors:
Ellen Flynn, MD. Dr Flynn is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior and a clinical assistant professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Dr. Flynn received a medical degree from University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts. She completed a residency in adult psychiatry at University of Massachusetts Medical School. She trained in psychosomatic medicine, completing a fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and holds a master of theological studies degree from Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Flynn was awarded formal certification as a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) instructor from the Center for Mindfulness, Oasis Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. [email protected]
Robert Heffron, MD. Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, former director of the Scholarly Concentration, Medical acupuncturist and teaches two of the courses as part of the curriculum for the course. [email protected]
John McGonigle, MD. Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, Director of Sage Collaborative Health Clinic. Clinical interests include integrative medicine, homeopathy, natural medicine and mind-body medicine. [email protected]
Donald Murphy, DC. Director of the Rhode Island Spine Center and a practicing Chiropractor for nearly 30 years. Dr Murphy works with the Department of Health to educate primary care physicians across the state regarding low back pain protocols as well as educates residents at Brown regarding Chiropractic and its role in primary care.
Thomas Resnick, MD. Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Providence VA Medical Center. Medical Acupuncturist and Co-Director of Chronic Pain program. Research interests include acupuncture and chronic pain.
Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, MD, PhD. Research Scientist, Centers for Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, The Miriam Hospital; Assistant Professor of Medicine (Brown University School of Medicine) and Epidemiology (Brown University School of Public Health); Senior Faculty, Center for Mindfulness, Brown University; Mindfulness Instructor, Women’s Medicine Collaborative, The Miriam Hospital. Dr. Salmoirago-Blotcher is interested in exploring novel strategies for the promotion of behavioral change and the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Specifically, she studies the role of integrative medicine approaches (mindfulness training, mindful movement) in the promotion of cardiovascular health (physical activity, healthy dietary behaviors, and medication adherence). [email protected]
Mariah Stump, MD, MPH. Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Attending in Primary Care Women’s Health at Women’s Medicine Collaborative and medical acupuncturist. Dr Stump is an acupuncturist and certified yoga instructor. Dr. Stump’s research interests include fibromyalgia and the shared medical appointment model for the treatment of chronic pain as well as acupuncture, movement therapy, dance and yoga and its role in women’s health conditions.