As planning continues for the new Student Health and Wellness Center, Duke is considering how best to integrate alternative and holistic medical options.

On the slate for potential options is acupuncture treatment. The new facility—expected to begin construction in Spring 2015 and be complete dSpring 2016—will unite services from Student Health, Counseling and Psychological Services, Duke Reach and Case Management. Additional services will include a pharmacy and a radiology unit.

Although a final decision on whether acupuncture will be offered has not been made, plans for the new facility are moving forward.

“The jury is still out right now as to what we might offer,” said Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “Our hope is that over time we’ll be in a position to test things. As new therapies are emerging, we might be able to see how popular they might be for our students.”

The acupuncture facility is being envisioned as a collaborative effort between the future Student Health and Wellness Center and Duke Integrative Medicine, which currently offers acupuncture therapy to Duke Medicine patients.

Acupuncture has been empirically shown to be helpful in treating a number of different conditions. According to a World Health Organization report, many types of muscular pain—including lower back, neck, knee and shoulder pain—as well as injuries such as tennis elbow and sprains, can be treated effectively with acupuncture.

A number of other schools including University of California at Los Angeles, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, Oregon State University and University of North Carolina at Greensboro already offer acupuncture to their student body.

Dr. Sam Moon, a physician at Duke Integrative Medicine with a background in acupuncture practice, added that it can also relieve anxiety and stress, an issue for some college students.

“That’s something [Duke Integrative Medicine] would be enthusiastic about,” he said. “It’s honestly a little open question in my mind how much it will be utilized by young people."

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina—the provider of the Duke health insurance plan—does not offer any insurance plans that cover acupuncture, so most students would have to pay out-of-pocket should they decide to make use of the new service. For some students, cost may prove to be an obstacle to taking advantage of the option.

"It seems like a kind of a waste to have acupuncture," freshman Elizabeth Burnette said, adding that she would not use the facility herself.

Some students expressed cautious enthusiasm about the availability of acupuncture services.

"It’s a good opportunity for Duke students to get access to that option," freshman Catherine Yang said. "I really don’t like needles, so that might not be the best thing for me, but I’m sure there are people who would [use it].

Wasiolek said that the permanence of the service would depend on student reception.

“If we were to start to offer services and students didn’t respond or feel as though it was working for them, we would be in a position to say we won’t be offering that,” she said.

Reviews and Reports on Controlled Acupuncture Clinical Trials