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Integrative Medicine Elective

This elective is an immersion into the field of integrative medicine. Over 30 percent of Americans use integrative medicine therapies according to the last NIH survey in 2017, with trends showing increases since then. Now more than ever it is imperative to be aware of evidence of integrative medicine therapies and how to counsel patients concerning their use. In addition, integrative medicine education provides important anti-burnout resources that physicians and physicians-in-training can use for their own well-being. Integrative medicine emphasizes the incorporation of all appropriate conventional and complementary approaches in an evidence-based way to optimize health, promote whole-person wellness and prevent chronic disease. The two-week-long rotation consists of ambulatory patient care and experiential learning at the Feinberg-affiliated Osher Center for Integrative Health at Northwestern. Participants learn about evidence behind dietary supplements, herbs  and integrative modalities, to how to use mindfulness, yoga, culinary medicine and exercise for both patients and themselves. As timing and pandemic restrictions permit, there are experiential opportunities for acupuncture, massage and chiropractic treatments.

Feinberg School of Medicine students and Northwestern residents may add two weeks before or after the rotation for an independent study project for a total of a four-week elective. The project must be approved by the medical director prior to enrollment in the extra elective time. Honors will be awarded upon successful completion of a meaningful project beyond the required assignments.

Details on the elective are below.



For M1/M2 students, please see the M1/M2 Student Seminar page


For M3/M4 students, dates for the 2024-25 academic year are as follows: 

Session 1: Jan 21-Jan 31, 2025

Session 2: March 3 - March 14, 2025


 Goals & Objectives

  • Develop an understanding of the key principles of integrative medicine and how they enhance the quality of patient-centered care
  • Explore a clinical area of interest with integrative medicine
  • Promote self-exploration/self-care
  • Experience first-hand complementary medicine treatments
  • Become knowledgeable in benefits and limitations of common complementary medicine disciplines
  • Identify conditions for which an integrative approach could be beneficial
  • Personally experience the benefits of an integrative medicine approach through trial of varied complementary medicine modalities and self-care
  • Perform an Integrative Medicine interview
  • Communicate effectively with patients about integrative medicine in an open manner that increases patient self-efficacy and empowerment
  • Use evidence-based resources to explore an area of interest
  • Develop an in-depth integrative medicine treatment plan specifically tailored to meet an individual patient’s needs in a holistic fashion
  • Interact with an interprofessional team of practitioners from varied healing traditions in a collegial manner to facilitate coordinated patient care
  • Describe the benefits of mind/body therapies and understand how to teach a brief relaxation exercise to patients


This elective is intended for M3 and M4 medical students, residents and fellows based at Northwestern. We are unable to accept external candidates at this time. Trainees interested in taking this elective should familiarize themselves with the basic definition of integrative medicine and complementary health approaches, which can be found at the NCCIH website.  

 Training Experience

This two-week-long rotation consists of a virtual format with supplemental ambulatory patient care and experiential opportunities as available at the Osher Center for Integrative Health. 

The participant will be involved in assigned activities Monday to Friday during clinic hours. There are no weekend or call responsibilities.

Instructional strategies include pre-recorded videos, virtual small-group discussion sessions, experiential learning, clinical experiences and more.

If scheduling allows, participants will have the opportunity to personally experience complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, energy healing, chiropractic medicine and meditation. Nutrition evaluations and participation in movement classes are a part of the self-care component of the rotation. 



Evaluation by preceptor will include reviews of a reflective journal, evidence-based paper and case presentation. All components must be satisfactorily completed in order to receive a satisfactory grade for the course.

 How to Apply

When applying, please specify which of the blocks you are requesting. An additional two-week scholarly project is available only for Northwestern trainees. Requests to add an additional two weeks for a scholarly project much be approved by Anna Balabanova Shannahan, MD. There is a minimum enrollment of 3 students and a maximum enrollment of 10 students per elective.

Northwestern residents and fellows, please complete the application and submit to Anna Balabanova Shannahan, MD. Applications must be received at least 30 days prior to the beginning of the elective. We are unable to accept external applications at this time. 


Contact Us

Please contact Anna Balabanova Shannahan, MD, with questions or for availability if you are from an external medical school.

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