By Julie Ennis PhD and Ellen McDonell ND

Conference Recap: 2016 INCAM Research Symposium – Expanding Person-Centred Care through Integrative
Health Research

The Canadian Interdisciplinary Network for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research (INCAM) aims to promote excellence in research in the complementary and integrative health care field. Every two years, INCAM members gather at a symposium to discuss novel research findings, innovative research methods and foster collaborative networks. The 2016 INCAM Research Symposium was held in Toronto this November.


OICC Research at INCAM

The OICC Research Team was very active with participation in an expert panel, one oral and four poster presentations. At the expert panel discussion “Exploring Integrative Models of Care”, Executive Director, Dugald Seely, ND, MSc shared the OICC experience of integrative cancer care delivery and evaluation over the past 5 years. Common facilitators and barriers were described by Dr. Seely and the other panellists who are leaders in integrative health care delivery in Canada. The discussion brought to light the incredible progress made in recent years to advance integrative health care and set the stage for this progress to continue. Other OICC research presented related to the Thoracic Peri-Operative Integrative Surgical Evaluation (Thoracic POISE) trial the OICC is conducting in partnership with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, and knowledge synthesis work done in relation to vitamin D and phytoestrogens in prostate cancer. 

Symposium Highlights

Dr. Patricia Dobkin, PhD Clinical Psychologist and researcher of McGill University shared her work in promoting more mindfulness-based medical practice by clinicians. Her work has shown that when clinicians engage in mindfulness practice as a means to reduce stress there are important benefits both for clinician wellbeing but importantly in the quality of healthcare delivery. Patients of clinicians who participated in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program reported feeling better understood by their clinician. This highlights how important it is that health care providers make sure to take care of themselves. The OICC offers a weekly yoga class for all staff in an effort to promote self-care which may ultimately lead to better patient care.

The Naturopathy Special Interest Group hosted a workshop titled “Watch (practice!) and learn: interactive workshop of how to develop your collaborative research skills”. Multidisciplinary teams that bring together researchers and clinicians with diverse perspectives and expertise generate the most impactful and relevant research. This interactive workshop provided young researchers an opportunity to learn from established investigators who have been successful in developing collaborative, multidisciplinary teams to work on research projects. Attendees of this workshop left with tips and tricks to initiate collaboration, strategies to ensure effective communication among team members and important considerations when building a multidisciplinary team.

Dr. Jeffery Dusek, PhD, Research Director at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, shared his experience working in the field of Practice-Based Research. His work aims to develop effective ways to measure outcomes in the real-world of integrative health care practice- not an easy task as the real-world is messy and traditional research methods lend themselves best to the clean clinical trial. BraveNet is a national integrative medicine practice-based research network established in the United States in 2007. BraveNet’s “Patients Receiving Integrative Medicine Effectiveness Registry (PRIMIER)” is a prospective, non-randomized observational evaluation at 14 clinical sites and is expected to generate rich data from which outcomes can be evaluated in various clinical populations receiving integrative medicine.  Dr. Dusek shared interesting data suggesting impressive improvements in pain management and lower opioid use in patients receiving acupuncture treatment. The OICC is engaged in Practice-Based Research through the Canadian/US Integrative Oncology Study (CUSIOS) which is measuring outcomes in advanced stage cancer patients receiving integrative oncology care at 10 integrative cancer centres across North America.

The research team was very inspired by the work Dr. Heather Greenlee, ND, PhD is doing at Columbia University. She has partnered with cancer survivor and chef Ann Ogden author of the book Cook For Your Life to develop a culturally-tailored program designed to support healthy dietary change for Latina breast cancer survivors in New York City. This research has found that by tailoring the message, women were better supported to make dietary changes compared to simply receiving generic standard dietary advice. This type of research provides useful guidance as the OICC develops healthy lifestyle programs to best suit the needs of our patients.

Finally, Dr. Heather Boon, BScPhm, PhD of the University of Toronto closed the symposium with a thought-provoking talk titled “What’s in a name?” about the importance and challenges of definitions and labels used in complementary healthcare research. Terms such as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), integrative medicine and traditional medicine are frequently used but with varying definitions and lack of agreement as to which is most appropriate.  Dr. Boon raised questions such as, do terms matter? Do definitions matter? Do we need an “umbrella term”?  Ultimately, the key takeaway from Dr. Boon’s perspective was that the terms used matter, and that it is important that researchers define their interpretation of CAM (or whatever term they select) in communicating their research.