NCNM Receives $864,000 NIH Research Grant

Helfgott Research Institute Nabs Top Honors in CAM Research

PORTLAND, Ore. (Nov. 1, 2011) —The National Institutes of Health awarded National College of Natural Medicine’s Helfgott Research Institute a four-year, $864,000 grant to continue its Research in Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program (R-CAMP) initiative. This is the second four-year cycle of R-CAMP. NIH funded the first cycle in 2007. The approval for renewed funding allows Helfgott to continue to build on the successful program, which has increased the quality and quantity of evidence-informed practice (EIP) content in NCNM’s classroom curricula. The second cycle of R-CAMP focuses on incorporating EIP into clinical education and training, expanding faculty development and research mentorship opportunities, and providing EIP training for NCNM residents and alumni.

With economic belt-tightening creating increased competition for funding sources within the nation’s research community, the continued NIH funding for CAM research has come under fire by some within the medical community. However, in fiscal year 2010, NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) funded 11% of all applications it received, reflecting the agency’s ongoing commitment to assist new CAM investigators in establishing a scientific research career, as well as its advocacy for the development of a rigorous evidence base for CAM practices.

The development of CAM evidence-based research, which requires different protocols than standard medical research, allows NCNM graduates to better communicate with their biomedical counterparts, improve patient care, and foster the skills they need to contribute to the CAM evidence base by collaborating with researchers and collecting data from their own clinics.

The R-CAMP program initiative, directed by NCNM Dean of Research Heather Zwickey, PhD, professor of immunology, and the director of the Helfgott Research Institute, has been a collaborative partnership with Oregon Health & Science University. OHSU’s Cynthia Morris, PhD, MPH, an epidemiologist and professor in the OHSU School of Medicine, was the R-CAMP program director for the first cycle of the program and will serve as co-investigator of NCNM’s R-CAMP at OHSU.

The first cycle of R-CAMP trained 19 faculty and 286 students in EIP, creating sustained interest and excitement in natural medicine research, and providing NCNM students opportunities to present world-class research studies at conferences and symposia throughout the world.

Zwickey observed that there is a great need to train faculty and students in natural medicine research, which can be used clinically to improve patient care. “The NCNM faculty is excited about the changes in curriculum that support research. As they increase their expertise with natural medicine research, the benefits are being passed on to our students in the classroom and the clinic. The bottom line is that physicians and practitioners will increasingly bring EIP into the clinics and hospitals where integrative medicine is practiced.”

Zwickey noted that the R-CAMP funding has helped NCNM’s Helfgott investigators mentor two notable student research projects that have since won international acclaim.

NCNM student Steve Chamberlin, his faculty mentor and collaborator Agatha Colbert, MD, and their collaborator, Adrian Larsen of Miridia Technology, Inc., were awarded the Heo-Jun Award from the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies (JAMS) for a research study that measured the rate of skin conductance for acupoints based on age, sex and time of day. Their study was published in JAMS in March. The $30,000 award was presented in early October at the 9th Annual International Scientific Acupuncture and Meridian Symposium. The conference focused on neural mechanisms that underlie acupuncture’s actions in treatment of cardiovascular disease, pain and other clinical areas for which it is applied.

NCNM students last won first-place science research awards in 2009 at the 6th Annual Scripps Conference Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Update for breakthrough immune research on the clinical efficacy of Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng.

This award arrives just as the research department begins to launch its new Master of Science in Integrative Medicine Research (MSIMR) degree program, which will be offered to its first new cohort of students in fall 2012.

Founded in Portland in 1956, NCNM is the oldest accredited naturopathic medical school in North America and an educational leader in classical Chinese medicine. A nonprofit college of natural medicine, NCNM offers four-year graduate medical degree programs in Naturopathic Medicine and Classical Chinese Medicine, and a Master of Science in Integrative Medicine Research degree. Its community clinics offer low-cost medical care throughout the Portland metropolitan area, and along with the campus-based NCNM Clinic, practitioners attend to approximately 33,000 patient visits per year. NCNM’s Helfgott Research Institute conducts rigorous evidence-based research to advance the science of natural medicine and improve clinical practice. Until July 2006, NCNM was known as the National College of Naturopathic Medicine.