“Integrative light.” The term began to be used in the late 1990s by some community-based holistic, integrative, functional, and naturopathic medicine practitioners to discount and dismiss actions in the then emerging field of academic integrative medicine. I was reminded of this knee jerk tendency toward disparagement recently when a past president of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA) sent an email query asking for names of any medical schools that “really support integrative medicine and have legit programs.” The question fell within days of receiving an annual report from one such center born in that period 23 years ago, now the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago’s downtown. It struck me that it might be useful to examine the myriad ways that at least one such entity is at work to shift medicine toward a healthier model.
The early “integrative medicine” period clearly was one of “non-integrated integration.” The hospital or insurer wanted to throw the consumer an integrative bone in the competitive marketplace. They produced stand-alone integrative clinics or a carve-out insurance products. Offerings, in these forms, serve dual purposes. The medical delivery organization or insurer pleases patients by offering a little yoga, or acupuncture, or manipulative therapy or massage. At the same time, the non-integrated nature of what is offered pleases medical leadership: they are not asked to take the integrative methods seriously. They needn’t cross the medical-cultural divide to weigh whether the integrative approaches may be better than usual care. For most of the past decade, the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) has been building bridges across the chasm. Twice they’ve developed integrative oncology guidelines with mainstream oncology organizations. Now, through an unrestricted grant from the Samueli Foundation, SIO and the influential American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are commencing a project to raise three additional girders to bridge treatments.
Caught up in a movement, one likes to assign causality to explain advances. A pressure applied in one place brings movement in the other. The set of collaborating entities manage to get to a policy table and push something positive through. A story begins to accumulate. Yet a close reading finds also influences of what that ancients might have called fate. The New Age may associate these with intention. I enjoy thinking of these as serendipity. I have accumulated a few favorites for the integrative health and medicine field. They begin with the circumstance of my own connection. None is more striking than that which I encountered in a new publication on the influential Wilk vs. the AMA trial that muzzled the AMA’s worst bigotry toward non-pharma approaches. It turns out that L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, may be credited with opening the integrative era.
I have frequently joked with people that I am the very best at what I do in the Integrator – and also the worst. It’s a dual assignation earned by anyone who is essentially an N of 1. Thus I too know that ending regular publication of the Integrator, in some form a fixture in the field since 1997, will leave a hole. I have been contacted by a few who are interested in something like it continuing. At least one dyad imagines a group of parties might be interested in a collaboration. I have made it clear that, while I am not taking responsibility to insure something continues, I am happy to support legitimate efforts toward a sort of Integrator 2.0 (under whatever name). I’d like to have access to an ongoing resource myself! For anyone interested, here is some basic clarity about the current model. I am happy to link interested parties, if they would like.