Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Case Study in Integration

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Morris, Kyle L.
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I have been aware of allopathic medicine and medical philosophies for as long as I can remember. Part of my familiarity with medicine and hospitals is due to the fact that my father is a medical doctor. An even stronger factor has been my continual first hand experience (starting at a young age) with hospitals and medical procedures. Between the ages of 9-15, I had to give myself daily growth hormone shots. On multiple occasions I have been operated on because of serious bone injuries, etc. At this point in my life, I do not know if my interest in maintaining good health was developed out of necessity, due to a general interest, or a combination of both. Regardless, I have spent much time learning about alternative therapies so as to maintain good health and prevent illness. In addition to focusing on diet and exercise, I learned about a wide variety of alternative health maintenance techniques such as yoga, massage, acupuncture/acupressure, Chinese herbal therapy, and polarity therapy. I noticed these techniques take an approach to health unlike anything I had previously encountered. These therapies focused on maintaining health through balance and regulation of energy fields in the body. Not once had I heard any allopathic doctor make reference to energy fields within the body. These alternative therapies stressed patient knowledge of the body and the way it functions. It appeared that the patient had a more active role in their health according these alternative health philosophies. The idea of preventing disease and illness rather than just treating it seemed to be an underlying factor. Yet, my experience with allopathic medicine suggested the purpose of hospital visits is to treat an existing condition, not prevent it. When I heard West Suburban Hospital and Medical Center (WSHMC) was beginning to develop a program for alternative medicine, I was interested in how they were going to integrate such a program with current medical practices. I couldn't imagine how this was going to happen considering the differences in health philosophies. Western medical practice relies heavily on the results of empirically based evidence; thorough investigation occurs before any major change is made. I saw the opportunity to explore the process of transformation in a professional field that does not make major changes quickly. To accommodate these new practices, WSHMC developed a new center, the Center for Integrative Medicine, which is a branch of the larger hospital and is located in a separate building. I used grounded research to discover the pertinent issues regarding the integration of alternative medicine at WSHMC.
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