Focus on International Faculty
Dr. Bhupinder Brar: Combining Ayurvedic Medical Education with Western Clinical Research Training

Dr. Bhupinder Brar

Dr. Bhupinder Brar, a native of Muktsar, in Punjab, India, received his doctoral degree in Ayurvedic medicine from Guru Nanak Dev University, in Amritsar, part of the Punjab. Ayurvedic medicine (also called Ayurveda) is one of the world's oldest medical systems. It originated in India and has evolved there over the past 3,000 years. In the United States, Ayurvedic medicine is considered a Complementary and Alternative (CAM) medical system.

Currently a junior research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, Dr. Brar is also a graduate of NYUCD's MS degree program in clinical research. This distinctive background has led him to conduct research combining his education and training in Ayurvedic medicine with the clinical research skills he learned at NYUCD, as exemplified by research he and several of his fellow MS in clinical research program graduates conducted during the 2009–2010 academic year under the guidance of Dr. Ralph V. Katz, professor and chairman of the Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion.

Dr. Brar and his colleagues conducted a literature review entitled "Use of Ayurvedic Diagnostic Criteria in Ayurvedic Clinical Trials," which was performed to evaluate whether or not Ayurvedic diagnostic criteria or Western medical diagnostic criteria had been used in published Ayurvedic clinical trials. The study has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

"The rationale for the study," says Dr. Brar, "is that Ayurveda, as an ancient system of medicine, follows its own principles to diagnose and assign treatment to patients, principles which are entirely different from those used in conventional Western medicine. Accordingly, the use of Western medical diagnostic criteria in Ayurvedic clinical trials would raise methodological concerns about the possible — if not likely — misclassification of subjects for proposed Ayurvedic treatment regimens and call into question the validity of the findings of the Ayurvedic clinical trials."

The study identified a total of 45 Ayurvedic clinical trials published between 1980 and 2009. Analysis revealed that not one of the 45 studies reported "only—and—full" use of the full spectrum of Ayurvedic diagnostic criteria. In fact, 29 percent of the articles used only Western medical diagnostic criteria. Only 25 percent of the articles reported use of at least one Ayurvedic diagnostic term. Rarely were more than two Ayurvedic diagnostic criteria reported.

"In short," says Dr. Brar, "we found evidence that the clinical trials designed to test the effectiveness of Ayurvedic interventions did not use Ayurvedic diagnostic criteria in those trials. When published, the study's findings are certain to add to the debate concerning the use of Ayurvedic diagnostic criteria in Ayurvedic clinical trials."