Weill Cornell Establishes New Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine

Nov 6, 2000


Responding to widespread interest in what is now called integrative medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College has created a Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, and this Center has opened an office for a clinical practice, with specialists in such fields as oncology, cardiology, gastroenterology, and general internal medicine, at 428 East 72nd Street.

To celebrate the opening and to benefit the Center, a reception will be held on November 9 at the opening of Denise Regan's "Recent Works" at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, 506 Broadway, Suite 309, from 6 to 8 p.m. Twenty percent of the sales will go to the Center.

The Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine is a remarkable effort to apply the best of academic medicine to the enormous range of so-called "alternative" or "complementary" treatments that have entered public awareness in recent decades.

The Executive Director of the Center is Dr. Mary Charlson, who is also Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine in the Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell and a nationally recognized leader in health services and clinical epidemiology. The Medical Director of the Center is Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, a well-known oncologist and author of several popular books on wellness. As he and Dr. Charlson explain it, some treatments that have been considered "alternative" or "complementary" in this country have been used for centuries as primary therapies in other countries.

In Dr. Gaynor's view, the label "alternative" dates from a time when rather little academic attention was paid to how and whether these treatments worked. He prefers to speak of "integrative" medicine as a healing art that ministers to both body and spirit and that integrates such therapies as breathing techniques, herbal remedies, and meditation with the best, most tested, and most advanced medical care.

Weill Cornell's Center encompasses activities that go beyond the clinical practice. The Center also conducts basic research and collaborates with Cornell's scientists in Ithaca, operating a biodiversity laboratory at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; participates in professional medical education; and conducts clinical, outcomes, and community epidemiology studies – which means surveying and evaluating the health practices in the city's culturally diverse communities.

Among the Center's objectives is to evaluate and test the outcomes of various complementary treatments and products available, and to disseminate that knowledge to both professionals and the public.

The enormous, unreliable market in complementary products may suggest a need for more government regulation. Dr. Gaynor predicts that will not happen in the short term, but he does see the Center as a source of information and guidance for the consumer public.