Sponsored by none other than the American Medical Student Association (AMSA). Founded in 1950 as the student subsidiary of the American Medical Association, the organization severed ties with the AMA in 1967. Although its PharmFree initiative purports to foster professionalism and scientific integrity, AMSA enthusiastically supports unscientific teachings and practices under the rubric of complementary and alternative medicine and receives support from the American Holistic Medical Association.
How do they resolve the inconsistency? By questioning the definition of science, and suggesting an “alternative” scientific standard for CAM. Their general information page on integrative, complementary and alternative medicine contains the statements that for CAM therapies “…the issue of what constitutes a scientific study must be resolved” and “…the type of study necessary and appropriate for CAM therapies needs to be addressed before significant advances will be made in the area of scientific evidence for CAM” and finally “…the type of study necessary to evaluate CAM is unclear.”
In keeping with this fuzzy philosophy of science AMSA is sponsoring HEART---the Humanistic Elective in Alternative medicine, Activism and Reflective Transformation, a nearly month long retreat for 4th year medical students during which students gain credit for a senior elective. Based on a sample schedule from a past retreat the elective will feature studies on the Healing Wheel, Yoga, meditation, naturopathy, Ayruvedic medicine, shamanism, Curanderos and traditional Chinese medicine. What scientific standard will be applied to these modalities during the elective? Perhaps it’s revealed in the slogan at the top of the HEART information page: “It is only with the heart that one can see clearly; what is essential is invisible to the eyes….”