Susan and Henry Samueli have gifted UCI a whopping $200 million to establish a health sciences college in their name. This is the largest donation UCI has ever received, but it is also the most controversial one. Susan and Henry Samueli, strong advocates of integrative medicine, donated in hopes that their funding would be used to establish a integrative health center focused on such non-traditional practices as homeopathy and naturopathy.
To many mainstream doctors, the prospect of teaching integrative medicine, which consist of acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy and other such remedies is preposterous. They believe that these practices are simply not evidence-based. This debate has raised some interesting ideas of the prevailing forms of medicine in the West and East. It seems that Western doctors have always been averse to medicines that rule in the East.
Therapies based on herbal concoctions, which are prevalent in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, have been used for centuries in China and India, yet doctors in the West say that their results are not evidence-based and cannot be taken seriously. In places like India, ring worms, gastrointestinal ailments, and even cancer have been treated with homeopathic and ayurvedic remedies.
Dr. Prasanta Banerji, a famed doctor for his homeopathy treatments, has cured so many cancer patients in India (using the integrative medicine techniques that Western doctors seem to hate) that there has been a cancer treatment protocol named after him. In fact, on a personal level, I have seen family members with autism improve their social skills due to homeopathic remedies.
Of course, correlation does not mean causation, and all scientists know that. But it seems that the integrative medicine that UCI educators and other medical practitioners are worried about have been working in the East for centuries. Acne, flus, obesity and depression, have all been treated by various methods of integrative medicines. In fact, the word “integrative” gives one insight into the holistic approach of these treatments.
Most doctors in the U.S. treat ailments disparately, often believing that the disease is caused by a biological mistake in one part of the body. But out East, each disease is treated as though the whole body is causing the illness—Eastern physicians believe treatment means not only biologically fixing an individual, but also altering their mindset, lifestyles, and habits.
In truth, the reason that integrative medicine has not been embraced in the West is because it is not thoroughly funded. It is a classic case of Western individuals trying to propagate their ideas at the expense of the East. Medicine has always been seen as the invention of the West. However, that is far from the case — we just believe that erroneous statement because the narrative has been formed that way. Modern-day medicine, even the first eye surgery, happened in the East.
Unfortunately, it seems that whenever an individual donates money for the advancement of integrative medicine there is always backlash, so much so that the donation is eventually redistributed to other things. Although universities like Stanford and Johns Hopkins have tried to spearhead the creation of integrative medicine facilities, they have been forced to stay under-the-radar to avoid extreme scrutiny.
UCI should not simply follow the mainstream assumptions in science. Integrative medicine should be given a chance to be researched and valued. Allowing Susan and Henry Samueli’s donation to be used for such purposes would only add to our knowledge of medicine. It wouldn’t hurt us to simply have a better understanding of treatments for diseases. The worst case scenario is that UCI learns, through research, that integrative medicine is ineffective. But I would rather dismiss something after I receive evidence for its dismissal rather than dismiss it simply because it clashes with my perceptions of medicine.
Sharmin Shanur is a second-year cognitive sciences major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.