Interdisciplinary Relationship Models for Complementary and Integrative Health: Perspectives of Chinese Medicine Practitioners in the United States

Belinda J. Anderson, Sai Jurawanichkul, Benjamin E. Kligler, Paul R. Marantz, Roni Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objectives: The combination of biomedicine and traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) is often referred to as integrative medicine. However, the degree to which the medical disciplines are integrated varies between medical settings, and it is believed by some to be impossible due to epistemological and paradigmatic differences. Clinicians' perspectives are important determinants of how different medical disciplines are used together. This study explores the perspectives of experienced Chinese medicine practitioners when asked about the most ethical model (opposition, integration, or pluralism) for the relationship between biomedicine and T&CM. Design: Thirty-one Chinese medicine practitioners, undertaking a doctoral upgrade program at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, participated in this study. Participants were asked to read a publication discussing three models (opposition, integration, and pluralism) for the relationship between biomedicine and T&CM and then discuss, via an online forum within Moodle learning management system, the most ethical model. An inductive content analysis of the forum posts was undertaken to identify common themes, followed by member checking. Results: The data were found to contain six major and six minor themes. There was a clear preference for pluralism. The Chinese medicine practitioners expressed reservations about the integrative model, and, above all, cared about the quality of patient care. Much dialogue occurred around issues related to a power imbalance within health care, and possible cooptation issues. Paradigmatic differences and a lack of compatibility between biomedical research models and the practice of Chinese medicine were seen as problematic to the validity of research findings. Interprofessional education was viewed as critical for the development of respect, shared patient care, and referrals between clinicians from different disciplines. Conclusions: This study provides insight into the issues associated with combining biomedicine and T&CM that are perceived by Chinese medicine practitioners. Such insights are important for the development and management of clinical settings that provide complementary and integrative health care, especially as the provision of insurance coverage for T&CM increases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-295
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese medicine
  • acupuncture
  • complementary and integrative medicine
  • education
  • pluralism
  • qualitative
  • traditional and complementary medicine


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