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  • Published November 12, 2014

    It’s estimated that nearly three quarters of Canada’s population has used some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in their lives. This can include many different practices and products, such as chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, herbal remedies, or traditional Chinese medicine.

    At The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) we know that many of our patients use these alternative medicines, and in many cases they choose not to disclose this information to their health care team. This can present challenges for our team as some alternative medicines can interact or impact treatment regiments – and in many cases, we don’t know why or how.

    On October 17, TSH and the University of Toronto (U of T) launched the Centre for Integrative Medicine, a first-of-its kind initiative in Canada that will help to answer these important questions and will allow us to better understand how these alternative medicines work.

    The Centre brings together researchers from U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and Faculty of Medicine alongside health care professionals at TSH to provide evidence-based practices so health care providers and patients can make informed choices about the safe and effective use of CAM therapies as part of their health care.

    This exciting, new venture harnesses the considerable expertise of both organizations. U of T will lead the scientific research and TSH will establish a “clinical hub” at our Birchmount campus that will help patients manage their day-to-day health with an emphasis on disease prevention, health promotion and chronic disease management. Together, this approach will ensure that the knowledge gained in the research lab is put into action in clinical practice, and that the lessons learned from patients’ use of CAM inform future research.

    Our hospital is a natural partner for the new Centre. We have a longstanding focus on interprofessional care, innovation and incorporating research and best practice into every aspect of our health care delivery. Many of TSH’s programs have patients that use CAM into their health practices, such as nephrology, diabetes, mental health and cancer care. Indeed, some of our programs, such as mental health, already incorporate complementary therapies in the treatment of patients, such as meditation, tai chi and yoga.

    Perhaps the greatest strength that TSH brings to this partnership is our health care team – one that is open-minded to exploring new ways of delivering health care in a holistic manner.

    We are also most fortunate to have U of T as our partner in the Centre. It is consistently ranked among the best public universities in the world and has an international reputation for excellence in health research. What’s more, leading the Centre will be Professor Lynda Balneaves, a talented and award-winning researcher who has been investigating complementary and alternative medicine for 20 years.

    I’ve often remarked that a community hospital should be a city within a city – a true reflection of the community it serves. As a public service, we have a deep obligation not only to meet our community’s health care needs, but also to respond to the desires and practices of our patients. When it comes to CAM, these obligations could not be more urgent.

    If these alternative practices are to be truly complementary, and if we are to provide the best health care to our global community, then we must bridge eastern practices with western medicine. The Centre for Integrative Medicine will be the link that will help us get there.

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