Integrated teams of medical professionals might change the face of traditional medicine.
Jennifer Brett, N.D., Dipl.Ac., Director of the Acupuncture Institute, has initiated a research study in conjunction with the new University of Bridgeport Health Sciences Integrated Clinic. As part of the study patients will be seen by four student interns, one from each of the University of Bridgeport’s health science programs with clinical components: College of Chiropractic, Acupuncture Institute, College of Naturopathic Medicine and Fones School of Dental Hygiene. Brett explains that while the main focus of this integrated clinic is to help patients, she is intrigued to research how interns’ attitudes and behaviors change through working in an integrated environment.

A team of student practitioners from each of the four health programs will assess the patient using their specific methods and will complete a general medicine evaluation. The interns will gather clinical evidence to diagnose any health problems, and then develop one integrated plan they have determined to be best for the patient. The focus of Brett’s study is to determine if the integration of all four areas of medicine effects any changes to the students’ abilities to work in groups consisting of practitioners from different medical backgrounds.

If we focus on the patient first, does that change what we do?” – Brett

“The outcomes will be interesting since our students don’t otherwise get a chance to work together professionally. They have to learn to appreciate their own strengths and weaknesses to determine the best plan that will benefit the patient, even if they have to give up their ‘personal favorite’ types of care. If we focus on the patient first, does that change what we do?” Brett asks. Her main concern is whether or not inter-professional education can work in traditional medicine, where no one type of practitioner is “in charge” of the entire patient care.

In addition to her current research, Brett is also developing a grant proposal to study safety and side effects in acupuncture practice. According to Brett, similar research about the risks and the reactions that could result from inserting needles under the skin has been conducted within the past 12 years in England, Spain and Korea but not in the United States.

The consensus of the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is that acupuncture is safe and NCCAM is not certain that a teaching clinic is the best locale for this type of research, so Brett is investigating other sources of grant funding for the study. Laying out the advantages, she explains, “Technically, as a teaching clinic, we can gather more data about effects and adverse events over a shorter period of time than can a group of private practitioners, many of whom see less than 30 patients a week. If we combine the information from our clinic with several other teaching clinics, we can compile data on thousands of acupuncture treatments each week.”