When the news hit the dominant medical industry in January 1993 that 33% of adult Americans used some “unconventional medicine” and spent $13.7-billion annually out of their pockets, most of the medical industry’s stakeholders were startled awake. A huge cultural-medical phenomenon had been obscured by their prejudice. The awakening was all the more effective because the data that grabbed them was from the inner sanctum. The research hailed from Harvard University. The results were published in the top-cited New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The Harvard brand was then affixed to high profile conferences that sanctified and kick-started the integrative era. While the first leaders have moved in powerful new directions, 27 years later, the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital is being led by director Peter Wayne, PhD and a new generation that substantially grew up inside the institution. Returning to Harvard seemed a good way to cap the series of 6 portraits of integrative academic health centers – from the shock waves via peer-reviewed journal to anticipated next-gen directions.
In 2001, Mayo Clinic received a transformative jolt of integrative energy at a fortuitous moment. The institution was about to celebrate the opening of the 21-story Gonda Building. What a Minnesota news account called a “transformative project” was funded originally with a $45-million bequest from Southern Californians Leslie and Susan Gonda. Their daughter, Lucy Gonda, then an activist and philanthropist in the emerging integrative medicine field, recognized an opportunity. There would likely be no better time to stretch herself for her most significant integrative grant. She piggy-backed onto the celebration of her parents’ gift to throw in the spotlight a struggling, nearly invisible integrative medicine operation. This article examines what has been built since the injection from the “god-mother of integrative medicine at Mayo.”
While I never attended Bastyr University, I did work an intense and heady 6-year span there from 1983-1989 as John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine transitioned to Bastyr College on its way to its present stature. We fought to make it the first broad-scope education in natural health sciences to gain accreditation via a United States Department of Education approved agency. That winning campaign – an overt battle against antagonistic cultural political forces – was for me a sort of Marine Corp experience resulting in a Semper Fi! that, while its had its ups and downs, has at minimum left me paying attention to Bastyr’s work and that of its graduates. So when the Seattle Times published an article on the COVID-19 research at local conventional medical institutions, I recalled two significant action of Bastyr graduates relative to COVID-19 that merited mention. I drafted an Op-Ed that was rejected. They noted that they are seeing “an unprecedented number of Op-Ed submissions on the coronavirus” and finished with a kind (if routine) door-closing statement: “Respectfully, I am going to pass on it, but I hope you find a publication able to take it.” I decided to visit it on you.
The push for evidence to assist in formulating more effective clinical response to the COVID-19 pandemic is awakening scores of research projects and multipliers more of recommended directions. In the integrative sphere, a team led by Lise Alschuler, ND from the University of Arizona Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine published a paper on “considerations” for natural practices and agents. The Chinese government claims the use of traditional Chinese medicine is in part responsible for its apparently relatively rapid turn-around there. TCM researcher John Chen, PhD, PharmD, OMD, LAc and others have brought that work to the United States. Ryan Bradley, ND, MPH at Helfgott Research Institute led a global team to create a Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Health and Medicine COVID-19 Support Registry. I helped promote it with this JACM editorial. Yet the US government has been quiet, when not frankly antagonistic to supportive COVID-19 strategies. I connected with the NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) to see what they are up to related to COVI-19. This column reports the exchange with Helene Langevin, MD, NCCIH’s director.