Integrative Health Publisher, Author, Educator and “Manifestor” Bonnie Horrigan Dies at 68

Integrative Health Publisher, Author, Educator and “Manifestor” Bonnie Horrigan Dies at 68

“Bonnie was one of integrative medicine’s grand behind the scenes ‘manifestors’ – she created the platforms for others to manifest their work.” Lori Knutson, RN, was reflecting on her close colleague Bonnie Horrigan who died November 4, 2018 of breast cancer. Horrigan was 68. Through founding one of the first peer review journals in the field in 1996, publicizing integrative medicine in a series of reports for the Bravewell Collaborative and more recently connecting her colleagues at the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health through their newsletter, this characterization of Horrigan’s contributions rings continuously through the last quarter century.

Knutson, perhaps the field’s most experienced integrator into not for-profit medical delivery organizations, shared Horrigan’s important role in her own life: “Bonnie’s passing has left me numb.  She was one of my closest professional confidants and of course dear friend.  My last conversation with her was the day she went into the hospital.” Knutson reflected on their professional relationship:

“Bonnie was definitely a person with an opinion and wasn’t shy about sharing it.  And usually she was right on with her opinions.  Eloquent with words and a master storyteller, Bonnie just seemed to know how to draw people to what mattered. I do know her legacy is wide and deep in this work we have all chosen and I know my work is better because of her.”

Colleagues and I were beneficiaries of Horrigan’s quiet touch in 2000-2001 when we were seeking to kick-start interprofessional and multi-stakeholder collaborative activity in the emerging field. First 75 and then 110 of us a year later had gathered in what we called the Integrative Medicine Industry Leadership Summits. We sought to make visible the outcomes of the volunteer labor of these research, clinical, educational and policy working groups. Horrigan, then publisher of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (ATHM), not only agreed to publish Integrative Medicine Industry Leadership Summit 2001 as a special supplement. A year later when we were seeking to develop a structure to carry the work forward, Horrigan stepped forward to volunteer as part of a strategic planning team. She saw the importance of collaborative action and pitched in.

Larry Dossey, MD has partnered with Horrigan at both ATHM and, more recently, Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. He a shared this reflection:

“”I worked with Bonnie Horrigan in medical journalism for nearly a quarter of a century — first at Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine for ten years, then at Explore:  The Journal of Science and Healing for the past 14 years. At both journals she was managing editor/editorial director, and I was executive editor. Working with Bonnie was a dream.  She was utterly creative, dependable, and brilliant. Her legacy is profound. No one will ever know how much she helped shaped integrative healthcare during this time.”

Horrigan’s skills as a writer and movement facilitator came through at ATHM in a series of interviews with pioneers in the field. IN 2003, she later consolidated this historic record as Voices of Integrative Medicine: Interviews and Encounters.

Word came to many of Horrigan’s death via three of her colleagues at the Bravewell Collaborative of philanthropists in integrative medicine for which Horrigan had served as executive director. Bravewell, which was sunsetted in 2015 after a remarkable run of major contributions, was co-founded by one of the co-signers, Christy Mack, presently a leader with the The Healthy US Collaborative, Inc. Mack sent this note:

“Bonnie Jean Horrigan was my much-admired colleague, working her entire life in service of others and my deeply-loved friend, sharing her warmth, her internal spirit of compassion and connection, and her genuine smile that lit up her face and lit up my life.  And to truly honor Bonnie, we will continue the work that we have been doing together over all these many years to ensure this vision, her vision, our vision becomes reality – what greater tribute to an angel on this earth whose life was so well-lived.”

Among Horrigan’s roles with Bravewell was co-authorship of a series of major publications that presented the field to the media, policymakers and broader medical community. These made a case for cost-effectiveness of integrative health and broadcast data on the integrative medicine clinical services offered in major academic organizations. The latter, Integrative Medicine in America, received over 102 million media impressions upon its release.

Horrigan also had a leadership role in Bravewell’s legacy project that established the Duke Leadership Program in Integrative Medicine where she served with Knutson as core faculty. With a team there she co-authored the seminal The Pebble in the Pond booklet that declares the nature of integrative leadership.

One very direct way that hundreds of leaders in the field will miss Horrigan is the brilliant touch with which she routinely collected and produced the informative newsletter for the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health.

Twenty-three years ago, Horrigan was behind a fascinating decision. While working with the Association of Critical Care Nurses and their journal, she saw that something interesting was happening relative to many of the high-touch practices historically associated with nursing. A survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine had shown major public use of “unconventional medicine.” A new Office of Alternative Medicine had been established at the National Institutes of Health where a first exploratory grant program drew an astonishing 420 proposals.  Horrigan made a bullish bet and sunk the association’s resources into the idea that a field was emerging that would need a vehicle to publish high quality science. That was ATHM.

Four years ago, I connected with Horrigan as part of a brainstorming group that was convened by the Veteran’s Administration. The work helped the VA set its course to create the Integrative Health Coordinating Center that is now lead by another of Horrigan’s collaborator at Duke, Ben Kligler, MD, MPH. I share this photo as an exemplar of the many small groups in which Horrigan’s contributions were made, and in whom sadness for her exit and celebration of her contributions presently reign.

On November 1, Bonnie Horrigan came home from the hospital with her cancer spread to spine and brain. In her home, she witnessed her son’s wedding on Saturday, November 3. She died the next afternoon, surrounded by her family, at 5:30 PM. Horrigan has blazed and collaborated to create many trails through which others are continuously passing, today, in efforts to make of the medical industry an instrument for health and healing. She will be missed by many.