Tue | Jun 19, 2018

Medical schools a disappointment - doctor

Published:Saturday | November 22, 2014 | 11:40 PMEdmond Campbell
Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson

POINTING TO Ivy League universities in the United States, Britain and Canada that have introduced various programmes of study in complementary medicine, a public health specialist in Jamaica says it?s time the country?s local universities incorporate established research outcomes in alternative medicine in local medical schools.

Dr Sonia Davidson, who also is wellness oriented, specialising in ?Mind and Body Medicine?, a form of complementary/alternative medicine, says a lot of research is being done at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Scientific Research Council (SRC) but the information is not being used in the medical schools.

?We are pseudoscientists in Jamaica. I am disappointed in the medical school I graduated from, the standard is enormously high, or used to be, but we have lingered with some prejudices and have fallen behind in our progressive approach,? Davidson contended.

For example, Davidson said students in medical school should know about moringa that is being researched and what it is being used for. She said medical students should know about the outstanding body of work in research for more than 20 years carried out by Dr Lawrence Williams, a research consultant at SRC, into guinea hen weed and its use in the treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer.

research for promotion

She suggested that the motive for carrying out various types of research in alternative medicine, particularly at the UWI, has little to do with development but is mainly concerned with promotion. ?The university is so regimented that if you don?t do this and don?t have that you can?t get promotion,? she said.

However, the experienced general practitioner said a raft of potentially viable products in herbal medicine that have been produced through extensive research at the SRC and UWI are awaiting intervention by prospective investors, but insisted that the Government must lead in the process by setting up the parameters for a properly regulated industry.

Dr Davidson said that standards have been set for health tourism in Jamaica but the Health Ministry has been lethargic in establishing benchmarks for people who will work in this area. ?They keep on separating from the institution and from the products you have to put them together simultaneously,? she added.

The public health specialist said she has made a submission to health minister Dr Fenton Ferguson on the age-old issue of a properly regulated complementary medicine sector but is yet to receive a response.

?I believe that if we are going to set up standards for these things and get people registered it has to be done outside the Ministry of Health bureaucracy and I think the best place is the Bureau of Standards with its national certification body,? she recommended.

Dr Davidson told The Gleaner that in recent times there appears to be a glimmer of hope, with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller signalling a joined up approach by government ministries to save and utilise the country?s indigenous herbs.

?The Ministry of Education has to be involved in getting these people trained, the Ministry of Agriculture has to get involved to save our indigenous herbs and to train the farmers that they plant it properly, reap it properly and transport it properly. The Ministry of Industry has to get involved to help investors get proper factory space, the Bureau of Standards has to be involved in the standards, the Ministry of Health has to say who can do what with these things,? the general practitioner outlined.

She said there is a five-year course sitting on the desk at UWI in herbal studies. ?We need people who are trained so we can take advantage of our indigenous herbs. We have 30 indigenous herbs plus couple hundred others. You want scientists, you want people to come out as scientists, some may be working in the planting area, some working in the field and reaping, others in processing, product development and some may be involved in clinical research,? she explained.

courses written for utech

Additionally, Davidson has written three degree courses for the University of Technology and 12 short courses in alternative medicine, including for health professionals.

At the same time Dr Davidson said she wrote to the Ministry of Health asking if it would support some training for health professionals through short courses in alternative medicine.

Davidson even left her practise to work full time at UTech, having crafted a Masters Degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine. She said 14 persons started the programme but it later dwindled to seven due to financial challenges facing students. The institution suggested that Davidson work part time to complete the programme, but she indicated that she could not agree to the new arrangement and subsequently left. She has since re-established her practice offering services in ?Mind and Body Medicine?, having completed a course in the discipline at Harvard University.

Explaining Mind and Body Medicine, Davidson says it has to do with the ?effect of mental processes on physiological states - the mind is like the pilot and the brain is the plane but you have direct control over mental processes - all of the different mental processes that you can employ to get the mind in such a state that you can get a cascade of good chemicals released to the body that can assist in reducing blood pressure and putting the body in a kind of state that it is unlikely to become sick.?