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Where East Meets West

Where East Meets WestThrough a partnership with a local school of eastern medicine, Tufts School of Medicine offers a unique approach to the study of pain management.

Boston [01.11.07] When it comes to patient care, pain management is a critical skill that requires caregivers to use every tool at their disposal. Tufts School of Medicine, home of the only pain research, education and policy master’s program in the country, partnered with the New England School of Acupuncture (NESA) to expand its pain education offerings. Last year, the two institutions launched a unique joint program in pain management.

"Upon graduation the students [have been exposed to] both the Eastern and Western perspective," Dr. Richard Glickman-Simon, an assistant professor of medicine at Tufts School of Medicine and chair of NESA's Western biomedicine department, told The Boston Globe.

The Master of Science in Pain Research, Education and Policy program began at Tufts School of Medicine in 1999. Since then, it has offered health care professionals -- including MDs, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, hospice workers and others -- an opportunity to grow their knowledge in the area of pain management. Students attending NESA, the oldest school of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in the country, are now able to join Tufts students in courses such as epidemiology, biostatistics, neuroanatomy and neurochemistry. Students study a broad range of topics, including the psychological, legislative and ethical issues involved in pain management.

Kindreth Olsen, a student in the joint program, has complemented studies and internships in acupuncture with Tufts courses on managing pain with drugs.

"As acupuncture gains acceptance into mainstream medicine, it is necessary for medical doctors and acupuncturists to develop a relationship," she told the Globe.

Part of the goal of the program is to help doctors better respond to patient inquiries about alternative therapies, which are growing more common as physicians become more familiar with their use.

"As far as I'm concerned, if patients are seriously interested in these topics, physicians and other health professionals should be too,” Glickman-Simon told the Globe.

Glickman-Simon knows this first-hand; he became interested in oriental medicine as a physician in private practice a dozen years ago, observing the difficulties his patients were having dealing with illness.

"A lot of the conditions I saw seemed to be stress-related," he told the Globe. "Treating them with medication didn't get to the root of the problem. I figured that there must be another system other than [traditional] medicine, and that piqued my interest."

Glickman-Simon says that patient interest has really driven the renewed focus on Eastern medicine, making programs like the Tufts-NESA partnership possible.

"This program could never have happened 10 years ago, or even five years ago," he told the Globe.


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