So as somebody who has worked with some of these alternative therapies for 25 years at least, I am now saying to the medical establishment and to what I hope is a mass of people in this country, that here?s how we might think of looking at these approaches. You have to keep an open mind. I am somebody who has been there, and I am hopefully a reliable observer. So here, look through my eyes, and then having looked through my eyes and my experience, take a look for yourselves. Here?s the information. Don?t necessarily believe me. See what I?ve learned, and then check it out for yourself.
I?m doing that as I go around giving lectures at medical schools and hospitals. I?m doing it with the book, reaching out to non-medical people, and I?m also doing it at the National Institutes of Health. Part of my role is to present to NIH what is going on, to try to make it available to them.
DR: When you were offered the position as chair of the Program Advisory Committee for the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM), did you have any hesitation about taking that job? And how is it going?
JG: I didn?t have any hesitation at all, because the job is to advise the office. What I am bringing to that advice is 25 years of experience in the field, 25 years of working with these approaches, of meeting the people, knowing the people who are pioneers, of knowing people who are practitioners of indigenous healing systems, and learning from them. I see my role as trying to make my experience available to NIH as it formulates policy. So I feel very good about being a kind of messenger as well as an adviser.
DR: What are some of the projects that the OAM is currently involved with that you find the most exciting or of the greatest potential value?
JG: Speaking for myself rather than for the OAM Advisory Council, I think the one that?s absolutely crucial is providing a database, so that all the information about alternative medicine will be easily available to anyone in this country who wants to have it. The information about what?s being done, what?s working. To say here are all the studies, here is what has been learned.
DR: Does that database not currently exist anywhere else?
JG: It does not exist. Obviously anybody with a computer can begin to tap into it, but to gather all the information from the databases all around the world is very difficult.
DR: At what stage is this project now?
JG: The very early stages. It?s a massive project and we?re just at the beginning. Another part of that project is to gather fact sheets together, to answer or at least provide references for the most commonly asked questions. The greatest number of calls we receive are about alternative therapies for cancer. In my own office I must get a dozen calls a week. The OAM gets far more calls, of course.
DR: How do you deal with the people who call?
JG: The OAM is putting together a fact sheet about what is known, and that?s taking some time. In my own office, I talk to them about what the options are. Sometimes I refer them to Ralph Moss in New York City, who?s got an up-to-the-minute database with which for $250 he can give people information about specific therapies that are being used around the country for specific cancers. In most cases there are no controlled studies at all, so we give them what is available.
I tell them to read Michael Lerner?s book, Choices in Healing. And then I sit down and talk with them. I can?t meet with everyone because I don?t have time. For those patients I do meet with, I talk about what the possibilities are. I tell them to check out the information, so that we can then go over it together.