Open Access Open Badges Research article

Pediatric integrative medicine: pediatrics' newest subspecialty?

Sunita Vohra17*, Soleil Surette2, Deepika Mittra3, Lawrence D Rosen4, Paula Gardiner5 and Kathi J Kemper6

Author Affiliations

1 CARE Program for Integrative Health & Healing, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Stollery Children's Hospital, Edmonton, AB, Canada

2 CARE Program for Integrative Health & Healing, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada

3 Mind Body Medicine, Edmonton, AB, Canada

4 Whole Child Center, Oradell, NJ, USA

5 Program for Integrative Medicine and Health Care Disparities; Department of Family Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA

6 Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Winston-Salem, NC, USA

7 CARE Program, Department of Pediatrics, Stollery Children's Hospital, University of Alberta, 8B19 Edmonton General Hospital, 11111 Jasper Avenue, T5K 0L4, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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BMC Pediatrics 2012, 12:123  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-123

Published: 15 August 2012



Integrative medicine is defined as relationship-centered care that focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing, including evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine. Pediatric integrative medicine (PIM) develops and promotes this approach within the field of pediatrics. We conducted a survey to identify and describe PIM programs within academic children’s hospitals across North America. Key barriers and opportunities were identified for the growth and development of academic PIM initiatives in the US and Canada.


Academic PIM programs were identified by email and eligible for inclusion if they had each of educational, clinical, and research activities. Program directors were interviewed by telephone regarding their clinical, research, educational, and operational aspects.


Sixteen programs were included. Most (75%) programs provided both inpatient and outpatient services. Seven programs operated with less than 1 FTE clinical personnel. Credentialing of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers varied substantially across the programs and between inpatient and outpatient services. Almost all (94%) programs offered educational opportunities for residents in pediatrics and/or family medicine. One fifth (20%) of the educational programs were mandatory for medical students. Research was conducted in a range of topics, but half of the programs reported lack of research funding and/or time. Thirty-one percent of the programs relied on fee-for-service income.


Pediatric integrative medicine is emerging as a new subspecialty to better help address 21st century patient concerns.