The University of Toronto (U of T) and The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) have launched a new centre dedicated to scientifically investigating the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The Centre for Integrative Medicine will aid the 74% of Canadians who are using some form of complementary and alternative medicine, including Chinese medicine.
“A vast majority of Canadians are using some type of CAM. This includes different practices and products, including natural health products, massage, meditation and acupuncture, to name just a few. And many are doing so without discussing their choice with a conventional health care professional,” explained Professor Lynda Balneaves, the Centre’s inaugural director and the KY and Betty Ho Chair in Integrative Medicine at U of T. “The Centre’s role will be to explore how Canadians are using these therapies, how these therapies interact with other care they are receiving and to communicate our knowledge to ensure they are used safely and effectively.”
The Centre will take an interprofessional approach, bringing together scientists, physicians, pharmacists, nurses, CAM practitioners and others who work in the health care field. U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and Faculty of Medicine will be actively engaged in the scientific research that will ground the Centre’s evidence-based approach. In the future, a clinical hub will be established at TSH’s 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, U of T and TSH will create a living laboratory that will allow us to study ways to safely and effectively integrate evidence-informed complementary therapies and Chinese medicine with conventional medical care.
The first phase of the Centre’s development will focus on consulting the local community to ensure it serves the needs of this area. Already underway, this phase will establish the strong foundations needed for effective clinical care and research. By next spring, the Centre will use the findings from the initial phase to launch a series of pilot projects in the TSH community to address these needs and announce its long-term plans.
To support the Centre and its development, a fundraising campaign will soon be launched.
“From a clinical practice perspective, The Scarborough Hospital is a natural partner for this new Centre. We have a long-standing focus on interprofessional care, innovation and incorporating research and best practice into every aspect of our health care delivery. Our strength in treating and supporting patients with chronic diseases will add significant value to the Centre. Some of our programs, such as mental health, already use complementary and alternative therapies in the treatment of patients – such as meditation, tai chi and yoga. And, perhaps the greatest strength we bring to this partnership is our health care team – one that is open-minded to exploring new ways of delivering care in a holistic way.”
President and Chief Executive Officer, The Scarborough Hospital
“Because an overwhelming number of Canadians are using complementary and alternative medicines, it is critical that we understand how these products and therapies work and how they interact with conventional care practices and medications. By undertaking a rigorous scientific evaluation of these therapies, we will be in a better position to understand what works – and what doesn’t – and provide the evidence necessary to guide their proper use to a patient base that is eager to utilize these products.”
Professor Heather Boon
Dean of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto
“Already, this Centre has attracted considerable interest from our extended community who recognize the important contribution it can make to improving our system of care here at home and around the world. Thanks to the generosity of KY and Betty Ho, we have been able to establish a chair in this important field. But with further support, we can establish a Centre that the Scarborough community deserves and that is representative of the world-class research for which U of T is known,”
Professor Catharine Whiteside
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Vice Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions, University of Toronto