Updated: November 5th, 2020

Maryland University of Integrative Health’s Research Symposium is an annual event that highlights the University’s research and scholarship.  We recently interviewed James Snow, M.A., RH (AHG), Assistant Provost for Academic Research and Academic Director for Integrative Health Sciences, about the symposium, the keynote speaker’s research, and the importance of evidence-informed practice in integrative medicine.

The keynote at this year’s symposium will be presented by Dr. Belinda Anderson, Associate Clinical Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Academic Dean at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, titled “Evidence-Based Medicine and the Chinese Medicine Profession: An Exploration of Attitudes and Beliefs in Relation to Education and Cultural Change.” Tell me a little bit about Dr. Anderson and the research she has done within the field of integrative medicine.

We are so excited to have Dr. Anderson as our keynote presenter because she has both a conventional research background and experience in the field of integrative health. Dr. Anderson has a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Sydney, and she is also a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She has some very specific interests that align with current university projects as well, such as finding ways to integrate evidence-informed practice into some of the ancient and traditional systems of care. This is a great intersection with the work we are doing here at MUIH to develop more formal coursework around evidence-based medicine, and her presentation will speak to some of the challenges and opportunities in doing this.

Dr. Anderson’s presentation delves into the “attitudes, skills and beliefs” surrounding evidence-based medicine within the Chinese medicine profession. Can you tell us a little more?

Evidence-based medicine, also known as evidence-informed practice, can be conceptualized as a three-legged stool. One leg is the clinical knowledge and experience of the practitioner. Another leg is the patient-specific characteristics which could be the symptoms or health concerns they’re presenting, but also other things you need to take into consideration when making a decision about treatment such as the patient’s beliefs, lifestyle, etc. The third leg is the modern research evidence.

A key consideration in integrative health is how the modern research evidence is incorporated into decision-making within some of the traditional systems of medicine, such as Chinese medicine,  that have historically relied more on things such as expert opinion and ancient practices. Dr. Anderson’s work has explored the perspectives of Chinese medicine faculty and students in regards to research and evidence-based medicine.  She is currently working on a project investigating whether there are differences in scientific worldviews between students in conventional medical degree programs and those in Chinese medicine programs. The project is also researching the impact of an interprofessional student exchange program on these worldviews. 

The symposium will also include an update on research activities at MUIH, including a pilot study at the Natural Care Center. Can you talk a little about the importance of highlighting research at MUIH, and in the field of integrative health?

Research is so important for a number of reasons. One of the key functions of higher education institutions is to expand the knowledge base within the fields so that we’re not just consumers of research but that we’re also producers of research. New information that is generated through research is of immense value to the broader healthcare community and can help forward our professions. Research is one of the currencies that is used for decision-making in policy and in clinical care, so if we want to promote and move our field forward it behooves us to provide evidence that what we do has value. Another thing that I love about research is that it can potentially challenge our previous beliefs. I think research by its very nature is humbling and promotes the idea that we don’t know everything, so it encourages us to continually learn and ask questions.

What can MUIH students learn about research within their areas of study?

Research literacy is a skill that every health practitioner needs to develop, so MUIH teaches all our students to be skilled research consumers. Research literacy is essentially a specialized subset of information literacy, which has become a key initiative in education due to the current climate of “alternative facts” and similar discussions about what is truth and what is a falsehood. For a healthcare practitioner, research literacy is really about the ability to find relevant research literature, appraise the validity of the study, and then apply research findings appropriately. So we are educating our students to be well-informed and research literate.

Do students ever have the opportunity to participle in research studies?

We are expecting to have a couple of student research assistants in a study that we are about to launch. We’re very much looking to expand student research opportunities. One of MUIH’s key initiatives is to do more research, and as our research infrastructure expands it will increase the opportunity for our students to become more involved in the research process.

You can learn more about Dr. Belinda Anderson’s presentation, and additional research initiatives happening at Maryland University of Integrative Health at the 2017 Research Symposium on March 24, 2017, 5 – 8 p.m. Learn more and register for the free symposium here.