Here Comes the Unbelievers! How a US$200 million donation to UC Irvine’s Medical School set off a heated debate on Integrative Medicine and Medical Quackery

Finally, someone had not only the brains but the guts to put “Integrative Medicine” into the forefront of medical sciences, at least for now!

On September 18, a US$200 million donation was given by the billionaire couple Henry and Susan Samueli, founders of chip manufacturer Broadcom, to the UC Irvine Medical School. The donation, the 7th largest granted to a single public university, will be for the building of the Samueli College of Health Sciences, covering both UCI’s medical and nursing schools and the planned schools of pharmacy and population health.

But the highlight of the news is the announcement that an endowment fund for up to 15 chairs for world-class faculty with “expertise in integrative health” and the training for their students are included in the donation.

And that is when hell broke loose among the traditional medicine practitioners and scientists who scoffed and belittled Integrative Medicine, saying it was just a bunch of quackery. One medical doctor and academic writer even said, “Probably there are some people at UCI who think, ‘We’ll accept the money, and just do the science-based stuff like nutrition and massage. But you can’t promote homeopathy and naturopathy and also say you’re going to have high standards of science and evidence. They’re mutually incompatible.” (Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale and executive editor of the Science-Based Medicine blog)

In fact, the terms “integrative health” and “integrative medicine” have always riled conventional medicine for decades, saying that these disciplines had no scientific basis. Some of these practices that they are referring to include acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy, health massage, and herbal concoctions.

How could these disciplines be a bunch of quackery when most of them are based on healing modalities that were used and continue to be practiced by the Chinese for 4,000 years (acupuncture and massage) and by the Indians under their Ayurvedic Medicine for 5,000 years (naturopathy, health massage and herbal concoctions)?

However, UCI’s Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Howard Federoff said the “teaching and research fund” provided by the Samuelis will be monitored and used mainly for evidence-based research of Integrative Medicine.

“We’re not going to promulgate things that have been established to be ineffective,” Federoff said. “There’s nothing I would ever allow in the context of clinical care if I believed the clinical evidence was lacking.”

I thank Mr. Federoff and the Samueli couple for giving Integrative Medicine and alternative therapies like naturopathy, acupuncture and homeopathy a chance to be discovered by the youth who will be studying and researching these practices at the School. We just hope that they will be open-minded enough to share it with the rest of the world as well.

How about you – do you think the US$200 million endowment fund by the Samuelis was a right decision? Share your opinions in the comments below!