National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

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Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

Happy, Healthy New Year

January 14, 2010

As we welcome the New Year and a new decade, I’m mindful that we have just ended NCCAM’s 10th anniversary. For us, it has been a decade of growth, progress, and promise.

As many of you know, NCCAM was created in 1999 with a congressional mandate for NIH to establish a center to investigate promising CAM practices. One of the first and most important events in NCCAM’s history was the appointment of Dr. Stephen E. Straus as the first director of NCCAM. This past March, as part of our anniversary celebration and in Steve’s memory and to honor his accomplishments, we presented the first annual Stephen E. Straus Distinguished Lecture in the Science of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Steve was a good friend who I was privileged to work with on a number of trans-NIH projects. His vision was key in building a comprehensive research enterprise here at NCCAM and in establishing a legacy of neutrality and rigor in researching CAM therapies.

NCCAM’s 10th Anniversary Research Symposium: Exploring the Science of Complementary and Alternative Medicine was the signature event celebrating NCCAM’s 10th anniversary. The symposium highlighted exciting areas of science, framed within the key priority areas of natural products and mind-body medicine. Speakers discussed topics including the microbiome, meditation, effects of acupuncture on the brain, and the intersection of behavioral science and integrative medicine. This was truly a stimulating and exciting day of science, bringing together some of the most accomplished researchers in the field of complementary and alternative medicine.

A few other highlights of the year just ending: with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we released new data on the costs of CAM, noting that U.S. adults annually spend nearly $34 billion out-of-pocket on CAM. Also this year, an NCCAM-funded large clinical trial appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine that found acupuncture or simulated acupuncture fared better than usual care for managing back pain. Another study on ginkgo for memory recently published results in JAMA showing that ginkgo does not slow cognitive decline in older adults. These are just a few examples of how NCCAM is steadily building an evidence base surrounding CAM therapies—both what works and what does not work.

As we begin this new decade, we are developing our third strategic plan, which will provide guidance for our future scientific direction, priority setting, and advancement of the organization. We have gained invaluable knowledge from our first decade, which is providing the strong base from which we will continue to build. I look forward to the future as we continue our 2010 strategic planning process and beyond as we work to fulfill the scientific mission of NCCAM.

My best wishes for a year of health and well being.

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