Friday, October 15, 2010
Universities are traditionally ground zero for important medical and scientific research. Nowadays, universities specializing in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are no exception. National University of Health Sciences is in the upper tier of CAM institutions in the research field, promulgating important findings in basic science, clinical and educational research, primarily for the chiropractic profession.
In 2003, for example, NUHS researchers documented and measured the actual gap between spinal joints that occurs after certain chiropractic adjustments. Before the NUHS study, such "gapping" was mere speculation. Gapping is considered healthy, presumably because it breaks up adhesions in the spine that are believed to cause limitations in spinal mobility.
Additionally, an NUHS research team was able to document a never before seen ligament structure in the neck that connects to the dura mater, the tough outer coating of the spinal cord. Finding this new structure can mean future advances in the understanding and treatment of neck pain and injuries such as whiplash.
Currently, the university's Department of Research is involved in several federally funded projects. External funding has grown significantly for National's research. In the year 2000, the university received $157,355 in federal grants. Now, for fiscal year 2010, the university will receive $681,659 - a four-fold increase. In total, the university will have received close to $5 million in federal grant funding for research from 1995 until 2010, primarily through the National Institutes of Health / National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
One of the most significant grants NUHS has received is NIH funding for its Evidence Based Practice (EBP) curriculum, which is currently in its fifth year. This initiative provides all professional degree students with training and experience in both evaluating current research and using research findings in more effective strategies for patient care.
"Evidence based practice is not a luxury," says Gregory Cramer, DC, PhD, dean of NUHS' Department of Research for the past 12 years. "People who practice using evidence are the ones that will succeed as health care continues to change, because the policy makers and others who make decisions on health care and how to pay for health care are basing those decisions on evidence."
Both the academic and research faculty at NUHS author articles and research posters every year, and are often invited to give presentations or serve as moderators of research conferences nationwide.
The department also oversees a research fellowship for outstanding current students, as well as a postgraduate residency in research. Dr. Cramer says, "An important aspect of our job is mentoring the next generation of researchers. Residencies, fellowships and research assistant positions give us a means to do that."
For the future, Dr. Cramer and his department hope to do more collaborative research projects that integrate work from the different medical specialties represented on National's campus, such as naturopathic and oriental medicine. The university has already provided important research for the field of massage therapy, with one of its professors, Jerrilyn Cambron, DC, MPH, PhD, currently working under a grant to establish a practice-based research network for massage therapists.
A commitment to solid research is one of the many ways NUHS is providing leadership for CAM professions worldwide. You can visit the Department of Research on the NUHS website for a complete listing of currently funded projects and activities.