Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=111711
Story Retrieval Date: 10/25/2014 1:15:20 PM CST

Top Stories
Features

Chicago conference lifts veil on alternative medicine

by Tara S. Kerpelman
Jan 15, 2009


The Integrate Chicago Conference 2009, scheduled for Saturday at Loyola University Chicago, aims to increase awareness and understanding of non-mainstream therapies. It will provide an opportunity for people to learn the principles behind the practice of such alternative practices as homeopathy, acupuncture and Reiki.

“People can also learn about how people are trained and whether or not there is licensing in Illinois for the different therapies,” said Aaron Michelfelder, a family medicine doctor who is also certified in medical acupuncture.

Michelfelder will be one of the 12 speakers in attendance and is running two sessions at the one-day conference. For “Pathways to Integrative Medicine,” Michelfelder will explain how physicians can use integrative, complementary and alternative medicine in conjunction with conventional methods of treatment. “Integrative medicine is really combining the best of all the available modalities and tailoring [treatment to] each individual,” he said.

Michelfelder uses acupuncture, an ancient Chinese needle therapy, on many patients with chronic pain syndrome, migraines or chronic back pain. He said most of them wanted to try alternative therapies because they felt conventional medicine was either not controlling their problems or because they were experiencing negative side effects from the drugs.

The conference will include hands-on demonstrations, an acupuncture one by Michelfelder, and others by the Horizon Hospice Complementary and Alternative Medicine team on massage, art and music therapies.

Students from different health programs organize the conference in a collaborative effort across Chicago universities. A group of medical students started the event five years ago because they felt that they were not getting enough information about alternative medicine from their classes.

“A lot of people in the population are interested in integrative methods beyond western methods,” said Erin McNeely, a second-year medical student at Loyola and one of the conference organizers. She wants to treat a wide array of people when she graduates so she wants to understand a variety of lifestyles. “So many tribal and indigenous cultures have their own ideas about healing and taking care of themselves,” she said. “I need to understand my patients and see where they’re coming from.”

Although organized by medical students, the program is open to the public, McNeely said. “It’s important for a responsible consumer to know what’s going on in their bodies. This is a great educational opportunity: You don’t need a degree in biology or a [medical degree] to know what we’re talking about.”

People can register online until 5 p.m. on Friday, or in person at the conference starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The cost is $20.