The foundation for the modern practice of medicine in Western society resides increasingly in our deepening understanding of the cellular and ultimate molecular bases of "normal" and "diseased" states. Basic research in physics, chemistry, and biology has given biomedical scientists the tools to predict, treat, and potentially cure disease states in humans. Viewed in a historical context, present medical practices must be viewed as revolutionary. How perplexing it must seem, however, that our medical system appears inadequate and unable to handle many of our individual and societal "ills". Consider the following statements concerning current medical practice:
It is no wonder that people are increasingly seeking alternative medical therapies which they hope will free them from mental and physical distress. Driven in part by public demand, the National Institute of Health has started the Office of Alternative Medicine to investigate the potential of alternative medical practices, especially those used in China. This course will contrast the history and practice of medicine in the West and in China. We will attempt to probe how intercultural differences affect our answers to questions as:
A unifying paradigm for these explorations will be that the scientific method must be used in addressing the efficacy of different diagnosis and treatment methodologies. Students will study the biochemistry of the basic molecules of life, DNA, RNA, and proteins. We will discuss the biochemistry of the immune system to understand how the body deals with disease processes. The nature of bacteria and viral diseases will be explored, as well as the difference between acute and chronic diseases. The molecular bases of drug therapy can then be explored. Using these ideas, a "complex" disease, such as AIDS, cancer, cardiovascular disease, alcoholism, or mental illness will be studied. Interwoven into this fabric will be corresponding discussions of eastern diagnosis and treatment regimens, including acupuncture, herbal treatments, and meditation. We will try to develop an integrative system of health care practice which will address how the health of both individuals and society can be improved and maintained.
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