For the first time, patients in University of Washington (UW) Neighborhood Clinics can receive acupuncture as part of their treatment. It’s provided by Iman Majd, MD, LAc, a board-certified physician and 2005 graduate of Bastyr University’s Master of Science in Acupuncture program.
Introducing acupuncture is a significant change for one of the nation’s premier medical institutions. It’s also a signal of growing interest in integrative medicine among patients.
“Patient demand was a significant factor in the change,” says Peter McGough, MD, medical director of UW Neighborhood Clinics. “There is high patient demand for acupuncture services and a growing body of evidence supporting its use. It sounded very exciting.”
Dr. Majd proposed the service last year, after completing residencies at both Bastyr Center for Natural Health and UW. UW clinic leaders reviewed evidence-based research on acupuncture, patient interest, and potential effects to billing and insurance practices before approving the idea, Dr. McGough says.
As a family practitioner, Dr. Majd treats a broad range of conditions, using acupuncture, supplements and lifestyle therapies. Many of his patients come through referrals from other UW physicians.
“Because acupuncture is a treatment option for a cross section of illnesses, I've seen doctors from various disciplines refer patients to me,” he says. “For many, it’s their first time referring patients for acupuncture. I think this portends a bright future for bridges between conventional medicine and complementary medicines like acupuncture.”
Bastyr and UW have long collaborated on medical research. UW receives more federal research funding than any public university, and Bastyr has pioneered methods for measuring traditional medicines through empirical scientific methods. Together, they have used clinical trials and tools like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to advance knowledge of traditional medicines such as acupuncture, qigong and turkey tail mushrooms.
Through physicians with dual postings, they are collaborating on patient care, too. Dr. Majd also practices as a faculty supervisor at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the University’s Seattle teaching clinic, where he trains students in a collaborative approach to medicine. He supervises an Immune Wellness shift at Bastyr Center, which includes many HIV patients.
“It’s a fully integrated shift, so students get the flavor of both traditional Chinese medicine and naturopathic medicine,” he says. “I can give them the perspective of conventional medicine as well.”
HIV patients who visit the Immune Wellness shift typically have MD providers elsewhere. That gives Bastyr student clinicians experience collaborating with other care providers, says Jamey Wallace, ND (’96), chief medical officer at Bastyr Center.
“It’s a great model of integration,” he says. “Students from different disciplines learn to discuss the same patients. And because patients are using a lot of medical services, students learn from that as well. Dr. Majd is a great bridge between medical fields.”
Dr. Majd earned his medical degree in Tehran, Iran, before moving to Seattle and beginning studies at Bastyr. Receiving acupuncture treatments for back pain convinced him it could be a valuable part of his practice. He says the acupuncture program was an adjustment after the Western model of medicine in Tehran.
“When you look at it with a Western-trained mind, the program has a completely foreign language, foreign terminology, a very different approach,” he says. “It was challenging but very stimulating.”
After earning his degree, he spent two years as a resident at Bastyr Center and then accepted an offer to teach at Bastyr University. He went on to a family medicine residency at UW, introducing him to the UW Neighborhood Clinics system, which has nine clinics in the Seattle area.
On his bio page, he includes a quote about his philosophy of medicine: “Medicine is science, art, observation and communication. Sometimes patients express their conditions verbally; holistic medicine trains one to also listen to the ‘body’s communication.’”
It’s something he tries to teach his students.
“If you want to be a great practitioner, you need to learn to listen to the body,” he says. “Healing is about listening. You must be a good investigator. You have to be mentally, physically and emotionally present in the room, and the patient will give you the answer.”
The change at UW Neighborhood Clinics comes as health care centers across the nation respond to the Affordable Care Act. The law encourages health care providers to set up accountable care organizations designed to organize collaborative care around a patient’s needs — as a patient defines them. Acupuncture fits that trend, according to Dr. McGough.
Expanding acupuncture services could be a part of the organization’s future, he says.
“Given the growing demand for acupuncture and integrative medicine, we have been growing this service line within our clinics,” he says.
Bastyr’s acupuncture programs train students to work in diverse settings, including traditional Chinese medicine practices and integrative clinics alongside conventional health care providers. With Dr. Majd’s help, Bastyr acupuncture students have begun visiting UW Neighborhood Clinics as preceptees, shadowing practitioners as part of their clinical training.
“The reason I like to work with Bastyr acupuncture students is because they speak two languages,” says Dr. Majd. “It’s their advantage compared to somebody who only learns conventional medicine or somebody who only learns Chinese medicine. They learn both and bring them together.”
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