“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.
Environmentalism as a value pulled me toward the job that drew me into integrative medicine 35 years ago. Part of the magnetism was learning that a primary charge in the field with which I was deciding whether to become involved was to aid and abet the healing power of nature. I surmised that such teaching would make patients of such doctors acolytes of the environment if they weren’t already. For this and other reasons, the environmental movement’s still limited embrace of the broader integrative domain as a core ally has continuously surprised me. If it is science one needs to bind these together, a recent Grand Rounds at Harvard Medical School included intriguing arguments. Peter Wayne, PhD, the interim director of that institution’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine locked the two movements together through an array of existing, emerging and suggestive evidence.
In early 2008, the leadership of the National Institutes of Health for the second time caused concern among many in the integrative health and medicine field by naming a director of what is the now National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) who had zero experience in the field the director was to oversee. Imagine a head of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute with no experience in any cardiology, pulmunology or hematology.