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NCCAM logo   National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Mission | Important Events | Legislative Chronology | Director | Divisions | Appropriations


The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public.

To fulfill its mission, NCCAM supports a broad-based portfolio of research, research training, and educational grants and contracts, as well as various outreach mechanisms to disseminate information to the public.


NCCAM's primary responsibility is the conduct and support of basic and clinical research studies, using well-established tools of rigorous scientific design, conduct, and oversight. These studies involve investigator-initiated projects as well as NCCAM-solicited applications. NCCAM supports large, multi-center clinical trials, studies of entire systems of traditional and indigenous medicine (e.g., Native American medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine), CAM Specialty Centers of Research, exploratory studies of frontier medicine, and collaborative studies of botanicals. NCCAM carries out these activities independently and in collaboration with other NIH Institutes and Centers, other government agencies, domestic and international research institutions, and industry.

Research Training

Through several funding mechanisms, NCCAM supports predoctoral, postdoctoral, and career awards to develop a cadre of skilled investigators in both the CAM and conventional communities. NCCAM provides Clinical Research Curriculum Awards to clinicians interested in pursuing careers as investigators and provides them with skills required for conducting rigorous research. The challenge is to train individuals to apply the tools of exacting science to complementary and alternative systems and modalities.

Health Professional Education

NCCAM provides funding to foster the incorporation of CAM information into medical, dental, nursing, and allied health curricula. In addition, NCCAM supports continuing medical education programs.

Information Dissemination

Distributing scientifically based information on CAM research, practices, and findings is central to the NCCAM mission. This is accomplished through:

  • Operating the NCCAM Information Clearinghouse
  • Producing publications, such as fact sheets and the NCCAM newsletter
  • Offering a Web site at
  • Sponsoring town meetings, conferences, and other outreach activities
  • Exhibiting at events around the United States and the world
  • Co-sponsoring, with the National Library of Medicine, the CAM on PubMed database, located at
  • Maintaining the CAM subfile of the Combined Health Information Database (CHID) at

Important Events in NCCAM History

October 1991 – The U.S. Congress passes legislation (P.L.102-170) that provides $2 million in funding for fiscal year 1992 to establish an office within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate and evaluate promising unconventional medical practices.

Stephen C. Groft, Pharm.D. is appointed Acting Director of the new office: the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM).

September 1992 – A Workshop on Alternative Medicine is convened in Chantilly, Virginia, to discuss the state-of-the-art of the major areas of alternative medicine and to direct attention to priority areas for future research activities.

October 1992 – Joseph J. Jacobs, M.D., M.B.A., is appointed first Director of the OAM.

June 1993 – The National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 (P.L.103-43) formally establishes the OAM within the Office of the Director, NIH, to facilitate study and evaluation of CAM practices and to disseminate the resulting information to the public.

September 1993 – The first OAM research project grants are funded through the National Center for Research Resources.

December 1993 – The Alternative Medicine Program Advisory Council is established.

September 1994 – Alan I. Trachtenberg, M.D., M.P.H., is appointed Acting Director of the OAM.

January 1995 – Wayne B. Jonas, M.D., is appointed as the second Director of the OAM.

October 1995 – A Research Centers Program is established to provide a nationwide focus for interdisciplinary CAM research in academic institutions.

October 1996 – A Public Information Clearinghouse is established.

November 1996 – The OAM is designated as a World Health Organization Collaborating Center in Traditional Medicine.

September 1997 – The first Phase III clinical trial is funded, a study of St. John's wort for depression. The trial is co-sponsored by OAM, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.

October 1998 – NCCAM is established by congressional mandate under provisions of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill (P.L. 105?277). This bill amends Title IV of the Public Health Service Act and elevates the status of the OAM to an NIH Center.

January 1999 – William R. Harlan, M.D., is named Acting Director of NCCAM.

February 1999 – A charter creating NCCAM and making it the 25th independent component of the NIH is signed. This law gives the NCCAM Director control of the Center's day-to-day financial and administrative management, as well as broad decision-making authority, fiscal, and review responsibility for grants and contracts. Donna E. Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services, is present on the Center's first official business day, February 1, 1999.

May 1999 – NCCAM independently awards its first research project grant.

The NCCAM Trans-Agency CAM Coordinating Committee (TCAMCC) is established by the NCCAM Director to foster the Center's collaboration across the DHHS and other Federal agencies. This committee supersedes a trans-agency committee established by the NIH Director in 1997.

June 1999 – A Special Emphasis Panel is chartered to enable NCCAM to conduct peer review of mission-specific CAM applications.

July 1999 – The Cancer Advisory Panel for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAPCAM) is created to assess preliminary clinical data related to treatment of cancer submitted by CAM practitioners.

August 1999 – The National Advisory Council on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NACCAM) is chartered.

September 1999 – NCCAM awards two multicenter research studies, on ginkgo biloba for dementia, co-funded with the National Institute on Aging, and on glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate for knee osteoarthritis, co-funded with the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

October 1999 – Stephen E. Straus, M.D., is appointed as the first Director of NCCAM.

NCCAM and the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements establish the first Dietary Supplements Research Centers with an emphasis on botanicals.

June 2000 – NCCAM collaborates with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to sponsor a workshop on complementary and alternative medicine in cardiovascular, lung, and blood research.

September 2000 – NCCAM's first strategic plan is published, Expanding Horizons of Healthcare: Five-Year Strategic Plan 2001-2005.

"The Science of the Placebo: Toward an Interdisciplinary Research Agenda," a workshop examining the many aspects of the placebo effect, is organized and sponsored by NCCAM, in conjunction with a group of other NIH Institutes and Centers and Department of Health and Human Services agencies.

January 2001 – NCCAM holds its first international conference, in London, England, co-sponsored with the Royal College of Physicians.

February 2001CAM on PubMed, a comprehensive Internet source of research-based information on CAM, is launched by NCCAM and the National Library of Medicine.

April 2001 – The Division of Intramural Research is established.

May 2001 – NCCAM holds a colloquium to foster dialogue with and among key groups in the CAM therapeutic products industry.

The first draft Strategic Plan to Address Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities is published.

June 2001 – The Office of Scientific Review is established.

NCCAM Legislative Chronology

October 1991 – Public Law 102-170 provided $2 million to the National Institutes of Health to establish an office and advisory panel to recommend a research program that would investigate promising unconventional medical practices.

June 1993 – Public Law 103-43, the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993, established the OAM within the Office of the Director of NIH. The purpose of the Office was to facilitate the evaluation of alternative medical treatment modalities and to disseminate information to the public via an information clearinghouse.

October 1998 – Public Law 105-277, the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, elevated the status and expanded the mandate of the OAM by authorizing the establishment of NCCAM. This Act amended Title IV of the Public Health Service Act.

Biographical Sketch of NCCAM Director Stephen E. Straus, M.D.

Dr. Stephen E. Straus was appointed the first director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) on October 6, 1999. Born on November 23, 1946, in New York City, Dr. Straus received his B. S. in life sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968 and his M.D. from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1972. His postgraduate training included an internship and residency in medicine at Barnes Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri, and a fellowship in infectious disease at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Straus is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases.

Dr. Straus began his NIH career in 1973 as a research associate in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and he returned to NIAID in 1979 upon completion of his training in St. Louis. In pursuit of his research interests in molecular biology, pathophysiology, and treatment and prevention of human viral and immunological diseases, Dr. Straus has conducted both basic and clinical research. Dr. Straus has published over 300 research articles and edited several books. While at NIAID, he assumed progressively higher levels of leadership, serving first as senior investigator and subsequently as Head of the Medical Virology Section in the Institute's Laboratory of Clinical Investigation and then as Chief of the Laboratory, a position he continues to hold concurrently with the directorship of NCCAM.

Among Dr. Straus' accomplishments is his demonstration that acyclovir suppresses recurrent genital and oral herpes and the characterization of a previously unrecognized genetically determined disease, the autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome. The recipient in 1999 of the Dutch National ME Fund Award (the leading national prize from the Netherlands for research in myalgic encephelomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome), Dr. Straus has been recognized by election to the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Association of American Physicians, and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. He is a recipient of five medals and other commendations from the U.S. Public Health Service, including the Distinguished Service Medal for innovative clinical research and the Secretary's Distinguished Service Award for drafting the blueprint to reinvigorate clinical research at the NIH. He serves on the editorial boards of several scientific journals, including the Journal of Virology and Virology.

Major Offices and Divisions

The Office of the Director plans, directs, coordinates, and evaluates the development of programs and activities of the Center. This office also coordinates the activities of congressionally mandated committees and advisory councils. Within the Office of the Director:

  • The Office of Science Policy and Operations provides planning for and evaluation of the Center's scientific initiatives and operating programs. In addition, the Office oversees NCCAM's chartered committees, congressional testimony, and implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.
  • The Office of Communications and Public Liaison handles activities pertaining to the dissemination of information about NCCAM and about CAM. Its work includes operating the Information Clearinghouse, serving as liaison with the media, and implementing education and outreach initiatives.
  • The Office of Administrative Operations is responsible for personnel, budget, and administrative operations, including the design and implementation of innovative business and management systems.

The Division of Extramural Research, Training, and Review is responsible for the design, development, review, and funding of specific CAM research projects and coordinates with other NIH components. It provides guidance in developing research, research training and career development programs. Within the Division, two offices have a specialized focus:

  • The Office of Special Populations oversees NCCAM's activities pertaining to the Department of Health and Human Services' Initiative to Eliminate Racial and Ethnical Disparities in Health.
  • The Office of International Health Research oversees NCCAM's global scientific research activities.

The Office of Scientific Review is responsible for the peer review of investigator-initiated, fellowship, career development, training, program, and center grants, as well as contracts.

The Division of Intramural Research supports the work of CAM researchers at scientific laboratories within the NIH, providing a foundation for NIH scientists to conduct basic and clinical research in CAM.

NCCAM Appropriations – Grants and Direct Operations

Fiscal year
Total grants
Direct operations1
(Amounts in thousands of dollars)

1 Includes the intramural, R & D contracts, and research management support.

This page was last reviewed on June 30, 2005 .

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