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Acupuncture Today
August, 2000, Vol. 01, Issue 08
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Canadian Institutions Collaborate on Acupuncture Clinic

By Editorial Staff

Scientific interest in alternative forms of care such as acupuncture continues to increase throughout North America. As an example of that interest, Mount Sinai Hospital and the Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences, both based in Toronto, Canada, have teamed up to open an academic acupuncture clinic.

The clinic is believed to be the first of its kind to be based in a Canadian teaching hospital.

"The expansion of alternative medicine has raised many questions from Canadians about the effectiveness of acupuncture," said Mount Sinai president and CEO Ted Freeman. "It makes sense that we join forces with the Michener Institute to pioneer this field in Canadian medicine by exploring the benefits of acupuncture and its potential to improve the health of our patients."

Acupuncture treatments will be offered at Mount Sinai at the hospital's Wasser Pain Management Centre. Patients who attend the centre will be treated for either pelvic pain, headaches or lower back pain. The treatments themselves will be delivered by certified staff and senior students from the Michener Institute.

"Working in a teaching hospital is a tremendous opportunity for our students," said Adam Chen, the coordinator for the acupuncture program and clinic at Michener. Chen added that working at Mount Sinai would give students "a new perspective on the application of acupuncture and the role it can play when combined with modern medicine in a clinical setting."

The two institutions have a history of collaboration dating back more than three decades. In 1965, Dr. Harry Strawbridge became the Michener Institute's founding governor. He later became chief of pathology at Mount Sinai, helping establish and strengthen relations between the two.

In 1997, the Michener Institute established a full-time, four-year acupuncture program, one of the first in Canada to combine the teachings of Eastern and Western medicine. Acupuncturists will begin graduating from the institute in 2002, and today, Mount Sinai is one of the clinical centers used by Michener for programs taught at the institute.

"This clinic will allow us to share our expertise in TCM with one of Canada's leading health care providers," noted Renate Krakauer, president and CEO of the Michener Institute. Krakauer characterized the joint effort between Mount Sinai and the Institute as "an exciting new partnership of the best that modern medicine can offer with the best from thousands of years of Chinese medical practice."

Dr. Allan Gordon, a neurologist, is the director of the Wasser Pain Management Centre at Mount Sinai. He believes there are numerous advantages to having an acupuncture clinic at a teaching hospital, including the chance for Western doctors to witness Eastern forms of care being performed first-hand.

"Introducing acupuncture to a medical setting not only expands the treatment available to chronic pain sufferers, but provides us with the opportunity to study its application," said Dr. Gordon. "We're excited because this can evolve into multiple options for care to our patients. As Western trained practitioners, we need to see it close-hand to appreciate how well it works."

Mount Sinai plans to introduce an endowment for research in traditional Chinese medicine later this year. The endowment will be based out of the Wasser Centre, with funding expected to come from special events and individual contributions from the surrounding communities.

The idea behind the endowment is to help produce valid, evidence-based studies that would add credence to the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture. Currently, acupuncture is not covered under most Canadian health insurance programs. With more research, however, acupuncture could someday be covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), a provincially-funded health program that already pays for most services offered by medical doctors, podiatrists, chiropractors, osteopaths, dentists and optometrists.

"The thrust in acupuncture is trying to understand what it works on and why it works and develop a protocol," concluded Dr. Gordon. "One we have more evidence, the government can take notice of it and include it in OHIP like they do for chiropractors."


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