11/17/2013 05:00 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Edmonton Doctor Trying To Take Alternative Medicine Mainstream

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An Edmonton doctor who recently won a major medical prize says the only way to bridge the divide between traditional medicine and alternative methods is to listen to the needs of patients.

“If everything starts with a patient as the centre of your primary interest, then their interests, their values, their questions are the things that need to matter to you most as their health care provider,” says Dr. Sunita Vohra, a pediatrician and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta, speaking to Michael Enright this week on .

Dr. Vohra was recently awarded the 2013 Dr. Rogers Prize for Excellence in Complementary and Alternative Medicine. At $250,000, it’s the largest prize of its kind in North America.

Dr. Vohra is the founding director of Complementary and Alternative Research and Education (CARE) at the University of Alberta, the first academic pediatric integrative medicine program in Canada. A traditionally trained physician, she has been working to bridge the gap between mainstream and “alternative” medicine.

“When I first started, my very first days as a clinician, I found that half of the questions my patients were asking were things I had not learned about,” says Dr. Vohra.

For the sake of her patients, she set about becoming fluent in alternative treatments.

Now she has credibility in both worlds – as a leader in both conventional and complementary and alternative medicine – and she is subjecting alternative treatments to the scrutiny of traditional scientific research.

She says studies indicate that 70 per cent of Canadians use complementary therapies, and a significant percentage of them mix traditional and non-traditional remedies without knowing what impact one will have on another.

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