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Pitt Conference Examine Modern-Day Applications of Traditional Medicine


A conference on traditional Chinese medicine in contemporary contexts at the University of Pittsburgh Friday will examine traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a concurrent approach to treating illness. The event is organized by the husband and wife research team of Professor Andrew Strathern and Dr. Pamela J. Stewart.

The two-day conference is rooted in the growing field of medical anthropology, a study of health-related beliefs and behaviors. Strather said modern medicine can avail itself of the nearly 2,000 years of historical knowledge that TCM encompasses.

“Conventionally, medicine tends to be geared towards curing or preventing a particular kind of sickness,” says Professor Strathern. “But more recently the concept of wellness has been developed as an important overall idea. Lessons can be learned from TCM because it is a philosophy of wellness in life as a whole.”

Strathern says the existence of UPMC Shadyside’s Center for Integrative Medicine is evidence of the biomedical community’s willingness to consider the value of alternative medicine.

“Things that have been explored and examined in traditional Chinese medicine for a long time are important in general for understanding all the range of practices that can be brought to bear on a case of illness.”

From specific applications, such as acupuncture or the development of herbal medicines for commercial production, to broader philosophical and physiological understandings of the importance of diet and exercise, Strathern sees a range of possibilities for applying TCM to boost holistic health.

“It [TCM] works,” Strathern says, “because it gives people a way of looking at life as a search for wellness.”