The CAM in UME Project

 In Education, Funding, Integrative Medicine

The Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Undergraduate Medical Education (CAM in UME) project is a Canadian medical education initiative with its principle objective being the facilitation of educating undergraduate medical students about issues pertaining to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Its development was based on the rationale that physicians should be prepared to practice medicine in an environment where CAM may be used in combination with conventional treatments.

The seeds of the project were based in a Health Canada initiative in 2001-2002. Given the research reports at the time showing a high public use of CAM, Health Canada wanted to know more about the potential role of CAM in medical education – specifically what the barriers and facilitators were regarding present and future CAM educational initiatives. Dr. Marja Verhoef at the University of Calgary was commissioned to conduct several small studies including a workshop with the Associate Deans of most undergraduate medical education faculties. The Deans very clearly identified a need and an interest in developing CAM curriculum in undergraduate medical education. Thus the first national workshop was held in 2003 with 14 of 16 medical schools sending representatives. These representatives all agreed that a collaborative approach would lend credibility to the topic and accelerate the development of suitable curriculum and facilitate addressing specific universally raised questions in medical schools such as ‘Why is CAM important?’, ‘Why is it a national issue?’, ‘Whose support is needed?’, and ‘What are priority topics?’.

The guiding principles of this project include ensuring students have the knowledge, skills and attitude to discuss CAM with patients in a non-judgmental manner, ensuring students are aware of relevant CAM issues in Canada, and ensuring care not to present a wholesale endorsement of CAM. This has been accomplished by providing resources to help familiarize medical school educators about the extent of and the reason for CAM use in Canada, the current evidence base for CAM and the roles of complementary healthcare professionals.

When funding from Health Canada ceased in 2005, the project was able to secure funding from the Hecht Foundation in 2006 to continue its mandate. With Dr. Marja Verhoef’s retirement in 2014, Dr. Michael Epstein at the University of Saskatchewan assumed the leadership of the project and continues to do so today.

The website is a wealth of knowledge and resources regarding CAM and Integrative Medicine education and research. For more information, please see


Adam Gavsie, MD
Medical Director of The Montreal Centre for Integrative Medicine Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McGill University