ResearchOur PeopleCharles Elder

Charles R. Elder, MD, MPH

Meet Charles Elder

Charles Elder is one of only a few doctors trained in both conventional and complementary medicine. In addition to studying mind/body techniques, acupressure, and Ayurveda, he also practices some of these techniques himself—including a daily meditation practice that he has maintained for nearly 30 years.

Charles Elder, MD, MPH, FACP, combines his clinical practice expertise with an interest in applying complementary medicine to mainstream medical care. His research focuses on complementary and integrative medicine (CIM), particularly in the areas of pain management and ayurvedic medicine.

Dr. Elder was a co-investigator on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health-sponsored Relief study, which evaluated the effectiveness of chiropractic care and acupuncture for patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain. He is currently site principal investigator for a new trial funded by the National Institutes of Health evaluating an ayurvedic lifestyle intervention for breast care survivors. Previously published studies have included clinical trials comparing a self-acupressure technique to social support for weight loss maintenance, as well as a whole systems evaluation of ayurveda for newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics.

A board certified internist, Dr. Elder joined the Permanente Medical Group in 1991. He maintained a busy primary care practice at Kaiser Permanente Northwest (KPNW) for 30 years and served as physician lead for the Complementary and Integrative Medicine program for 20 years. His first book, “Picture of Health,” was published by the Permanente Press in 2019, detailing the clinical protocols for the KPNW Complementary and Integrative Medicine Clinic.

In addition to his research, Dr. Elder serves as Executive Director for the online Fellowship MS in Integrative Medicine and Ayurveda for Medical Professionals at Maharishi International University. In 2002, he was elected a fellow of the American College of Physicians and in 2010 he was a recipient of the Northwest Permanente Distinguished Physician award. He received his medical degree from the Boston University School of Medicine and his training in internal medicine from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Selected Current Studies

  • Tailored Non-Pharmacotherapy Services for Chronic Pain: Testing Scalable and Pragmatic Approaches (NIH)
  • Integrative Approaches for Cancer Survivorship: A Multi-Site Feasibility and Acceptability Study

Selected Publications

  • DeBar LL, Mayhew M, Benes L, Bonifay A, Deyo A, Elder C, Keefe FJ, Leo MC, McMullen C, Owen-Smith A, Smith DH, Trinacty CM, Vollmer WM. A primary care-based cognitive behavioral therapy intervention for long-term opioid users with chronic pain: A randomized pragmatic trial. Ann Inter Med. 2021 Nov 2.
  • Elder C, Ijaz N, Weeks J, Rioux J, Ritenbaugh C. Convergent points for conventional medicine and whole systems research: A user’s guide. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Volume 25, Supplement 1, 2019, pp. S12–S16. 
  • Elder C, DeBar L, Ritenbaugh C, Dickerson J, Vollmer W, Deyo R, Johnson E, Haas M. Comparative effectiveness of usual care with or without chiropractic care in patients with recurrent musculoskeletal back and neck pain. J Gen Intern Med 2018 Sep 33;;(9): 1469-1477. Published online 6/25/2018.
  • Elder C, DeBar LL, Ritenbaugh C, Vollmer WM, Deyo R, Dickerson J, Kindler LL. Acupuncture and chiropractic care: utilization and electronic medical record capture. Am J Manag Care. 2015 July;21;7: e414-421.
  • Elder C, Nidich S, Moriarty F, Nidich R. Effect of transcendental meditation on employee stress, depression, and burnout: A randomized controlled study. Perm J. 2014 Winter;18(1):19-23. PMCID: PMC3951026
  • Elder CR. Integrating naturopathy: Can we move forward? Perm J. 2013 Fall;17(4):80-83. PMCID: PMC3854814
  • Elder CR, Gullion CM, Debar LL, Funk KL, Lindberg NM, Ritenbaugh C, Meltesen G, Gallison C, Stevens VJ. Randomized trial of Tapas Acupressure Technique for weight loss maintenance. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Mar 15;12:19. PMCID: PMC3375195
  • Elder CR, Gullion CM, Funk KL, DeBar LL, Lindberg NM, Stevens VJ. Impact of sleep, screen time, depression, and stress on weight change in the intensive weight loss phase of the LIFE study. Int J Obes (Lond) 2012 Jan; 36(1):86-92. [Epub 2011 Mar 29] PMCID: PMC3136584
  • DeBar LL, Elder C, Ritenbaugh C, Aickin M, Deyo R, Meenan R, Dickerson J, Webster JA, Yarborough BJ. Acupuncture and chiropractic care for chronic pain in an integrated health plan: A mixed methods study. BMC Complement Altern Med 2011 Nov 25; 11:118. PMCID: PMC3256110
  • Elder C, Ritenbaugh C, Mist S, Aickin M, Schneider J, Zwickey H, Elmer P. Randomized trial of two mind-body interventions for weight-loss maintenance. J Altern Complement Med 2007 Jan-Feb; 13(1):67-78.

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