Complementary vs Conventional Medicine – it doesn’t have to be like that!

April 2018, Dr Chee L Khoo

The term complementary medicine refers to a group of diagnostic and therapeutic disciplines that exist largely outside the institutions where conventional health care is provided and taught. The wide range of disciplines classified as complementary medicine makes it difficult to find defining criteria that are common to all.

In Germany, a significant proportion of doctors have additional qualifications in chiropractic, homeopathy and naturopathy. Sadly, most of us in the “traditional” medical in Australia, knows very little about complementary medicine. Since at least ¼ to 1/3 of our patients have used complementary medicine at some stage, we should endeavour to learn a bit more about complementary medicine. But, in trying to find out more about integrative medicine, I have the following issues:

  • How do I know which therapy works (in the conventional medical model)?
  • Do they interact with conventional pharmaceutical agents? Are they safe?
  • What are the credible sources of information? I mean who can we trust?
  • Who or where can we safely refer patients to if they come asking? How do I know the practitioners’ credentials?

We now have one of our own, Dr Carolyn Ee, a trained GP from Western Sydney University seeking to answer some of those concerns. She has the distinction of being trained in both disciplines – conventional western medicine and complementary medicine. She seeks to engage with local GPs in the establishment of a world-class academic integrative medicine (IM) clinic within a research-based culture in Greater Western Sydney.

The clinic which will be based in Westmead aims to actively contribute to:

  1. improving health of populations,
  2. enhancing patient experiences,
  3. reducing healthcare costs, and
  4. providing support for health professionals.

I recently spent some time engaging with Carolyn hoping to contribute to the design of the clinic. You are invited to do the same. Carolyn and her colleagues are especially interested to know how to create a service that is safe and seek our views on appropriate medical oversight, referral and intake pathways.  This research provides a unique opportunity to engage with local GPs so that the model of care is better able to meet service requirements of clinicians and patients and ensure delivery of a quality and safe IM service that has potential to improve patient outcomes in Greater Western Sydney. The study is closing very soon.

This research is led by Dr Carolyn Ee, FRACGP/ WSU Senior Research Fellow in collaboration with Prof Jennifer Reath from the Department of General Practice.  Participation involves a 30 minute interview (approximately). A $100 gift voucher is offered to GP’s, and $75 to practice managers.

Register your interest in an interview online or email

For more information about the project, click here.

For more information about being a participant, click here.