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Finding the balance in tradition and science: the perspectives of students, educators and professional leaders in naturopathy.


Dr Steel is Associate Director--Research at Endeavour College of Natural Health and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Complementary and Integrative Medicine, University of Technology Sydney. She is also the Chief of Investigator for Practitioner Research and Collaboration Initiative (PRACI) and the Chair of the PRACI Steering Committee. Amie's current research focus includes a diverse area of complementary medicine (CM) including women's health, CM curriculum development and delivery, integration and regulation of CM, and the interface between evidence-based medicine and CM practice.

Introduction: The relative value of traditional knowledge and practice and contemporary scientific research is one of the most controversial aspects of naturopathic medicine. In response to the growing interest in evidence-based medicine across many areas of health, naturopathic doctors have had to develop their own understanding of evidence within the context of a strong history of traditional knowledge and the prevailing dominance of reductionist clinical research models.

Methods: In 2015, a research project was initiated to examine the interface between traditional knowledge and scientific research for naturopathic doctors. The study involved seven focus groups with students of naturopathic degrees (n=29) and semi-structured interviews with naturopathic academic and professional leaders (n=27) in both North America and Australia.

Results: For students, the need for balance between these two differing sources of wisdom and knowledge was identified, although there were some differences in how this balance should and does manifest at the moment. The views of naturopathic academic and professional leaders suggested a need for stronger skills in critical appraisal of research among naturopathic doctors to inform clinical decisions. There was also a view that traditional knowledge offers an opportunity to fill gaps in the evidence-base for naturopathic care, and no obvious interest in critically appraising traditional sources of evidence.

Conclusion: Naturopathic educators and students are facing the challenge of balancing tradition and science and stronger skills in critical thinking may provide the solution to ensuring the continued success of the profession.

Dr Amie Steel (1,2)

(1) Endeavour College Of Natural Health, Brisbane, Australia, (2) ARCCIM, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia

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Title Annotation:10th International Conference on Herbal Medicine
Author:Steel, Amie
Publication:Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine
Article Type:Report
Date:Mar 1, 2017
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