UCSF Receives $10 Million Gift For New Integrative Medicine Center

June 16, 1998

The University of California San Francisco recently received a $10 million gift from The Bernard Osher Foundation to establish the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine (OCIM). The UCSF School of Medicine has committed an additional $1.1 million to the center and UCSF Stanford Health Care has matched the school's financial commitment, bringing the center's total gift to $12.2 million.

"When I first discussed the idea of a center for integrative medicine with UCSF Dean Haile Debas, it became clear that he and his colleagues recognize the challenge of applying appropriate methodologies to treatments that have been outside conventional medicine," said Bernard Osher. "The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine will perform a valuable function by disseminating its objective research findings through a much-needed program of public education." Barbro Osher, president of the Bernard Osher Foundation, praised UCSF for establishing the new center. "We have great confidence in the professional skills and integrity that the UCSF faculty will bring to this program of research and education on complementary and alternative therapies," she said.

The OCIM, located at UCSF/Mount Zion Medical Center, which is part of UCSF Stanford Health Care, has been in the planning stages for the past year. Its mission is to search for the most effective treatments by combining non-traditional and traditional approaches that address all aspects of health and wellness--biological, psychological, social and spiritual. Through scientific research, the center will document the value of non-traditional treatments and integrate approaches of proven value into patient care. "The School of Medicine has made a major commitment to this program," said Haile Debas, MD, UCSF chancellor and dean of the UCSF School of Medicine.

"It is imperative that high quality research be applied in this area, and I believe that our program is uniquely positioned to develop model methodologies necessary to conduct that research."

Innovative strategies in medical education will also be a component of the OCIM's research and program agenda. "The center will develop courses for medical students and graduate physicians in relationship-centered medicine," said Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, UCSF associate clinical professor of family and community medicine, and member of the OCIM executive committee. "This is an approach that allows for the further development of the full person who is the physician, to better serve the full person who is the patient."

Very few US medical research centers scientifically test and analyze alternative therapies, and the OCIM is one of the first centers committed to doing so to help the public and health care professionals make informed health care decisions.

Despite the absence of hard evidence regarding the effectiveness and safety of alternative therapies, it is estimated that one in three Americans now use these treatments, making about 425 million visits annually to alternative practitioners.

The OCIM's current research focuses on areas such as alternative approaches to treating coronary heart disease and integrative therapies for breast cancer that include traditional Chinese herbal medicine, yoga, dance, meditation and art therapy. In addition, the center is examining the efficacy and toxicity of the herbal extracts of a plant found in the Peruvian Amazon known as Cat's Claw or Uncaria Tomentosa on metastatic breast cancer.

During an on-going series of education and training programs, the OCIM's innovative research will be presented to the public and medical community. The first event is a fall OCIM inaugural symposium which will honor the Osher Foundation and its gift to UCSF. The symposium will also present the concept of integrative medicine to the scientific community and lay public and demonstrate how it is possible to do rigorous research in an area that traditionally has been considered unscientific in nature.

"As a public institution, we have a responsibility to share our research and educate the community about various health care treatments and approaches to help them make more informed decisions about their health care," Debas said. A national search is underway for a permanent director of the OCIM who will also be named the Osher Distinguished Professor of Integrative Medicine. For more information on the center, please call (415) 502-0285.
Media interested in doing a story on the OCIM or interviewing executive members of the center, please contact Abby Sinnott in the UCSF News Services at (415) 885-7277.

University of California - San Francisco

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