Long-timers in the integrative trenches will know the paradoxical feelings of dismay at how messed up health care still is and at the same time satisfaction at just how far “integration” has advanced. Evidence for the latter comes from not one but two recent moves in the career of chiropractor and health services researcher Christine Goertz, DC, PhD. Place yourself in 1988. The chiropractors were just concluding their decade-long, successful Wilk vs. the AMA anti-trust suit. Most of medicine and much of the media – in part because of the AMA’s economically-driven attacks – equated “chiropractor” with “quack”. Now consider where Goertz has arrived via her health services research and policy career that focused on safety, effectiveness and quality issues. She was recently named by the General Accounting Office as Chairperson, Board of Governors, for the Congressionally-funded, quasi-public Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). And Goertz just began a new role as Professor and the Director of System Development and Coordination for Spine Health at Duke Health in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. I reached Goertz to talk with her about her dual ascension.
Shortly after my recent post, “How the Backlash to Oregon’s Plan to Taper Opioids with Integrative Approaches Missed the Mark”, I received an e-note from national pain leader Sean Mackey, MD, PhD. The letterhead of the chief of the division of pain medicine at Stanford University and co-chair of the US HHS National Pain Strategy was the vehicle through which Mackey and 100 co-signers successfully campaigned for the Oregon Health Authority to prevent forced tapering “of certain patient populations.” Mackey wrote that he presumed we had shared interests in bettering care, yet he thought there was a harmful “negativity” in my article: “May I suggest rather than a ‘missed opportunity’ message, you could easily frame it as ‘forced opioid tapering defeated – here is what we need to do next …'”
When Oregon announced in 2016 that it would shift its back and neck care for Medicaid clients from opioids toward acupuncture, spinal manipulation, massage, yoga therapy and mind-body methods, it was heralded as a breakthrough for pain treatment nationally. Inside that policy was a mandate many now consider even bigger news. Doctors were required to totally taper patients off opioids. A backlash propelled by a letter signed by over 100 conventional pain academics nationwide – plus with one notable signer from the integrative pain community – stopped Oregon’s planned expansion of the model in its tracks. While there are good reasons for caution on mandatory tapering, the one-sided reactivity missed a chance for practitioners and patients alike to gain more experience with non pharmacologic tools to rein in the known abuses associated with opioids.
From the perspective of research contributions from academic institutions in integrative health, the 7 multidisciplinary universities have been key important contributors. These institutions, with one exception, are products of the last 20 years of advance of complementary, integrative and non-pharmacologic approaches in US health care. Each began as a professional school for chiropractic doctors, naturopathic doctors or acupuncturists then chose to expand its offerings for bird-of-a-feather programs, morphing into universities of integrative, natural health sciences. Part 1 of this series, “The Future of Integrative Health – Interviews with Presidents of 7 Multidisciplinary Universities”, examined the cornucopia of their present offerings. Part 2 offers an examination of the current place of research in these integrative health universities as the nation begins to call on their practices and practitioners in developing a new chronic pain strategy.