The surprising news last August that Tracy Gaudet, MD was leaving the Veterans Administration where she birthed the transformational Whole Health program was leavened on learning that Gaudet would partner with the world’s wealthiest woman, Alice Walton. Together they would form the Whole Health Institute with a goal of nothing less than to translate and build off the VA model in civilian health and medicine and spread it globally. Other than a brief announcement at kick-off, plans have not been public. Last week word arrived that the professional with the most significant experience in developing integrative strategies in civilian medical institutions, Lori Knutson, RN, BSN, HNB-BC, is joining Gaudet. Knutson will serve as the Institute’s senior director for health system redesign. I communicated with Gaudet and Knutson on this development. Gaudet shared additional insight into evolving plans that, like the rest of life, have been shifted by COVID-19.
The polarization between reductive biomedical science and a whole person integrative model obscures deeper differences relative to human nature. The top-down, fix-it mode of the former is grounded in a fundamental belief that people (a.k.a. “patients”) either do not want to change or simply can’t. Meantime, the time-consuming, get-in-there-and-partner focus of lifestyle-oriented integrative practitioners assumes that the presenting human being arrives with seeds of change seeking ground for germination and growth. A recent Harris poll on perceptions of self-care among conventional medical doctors and their patients that was funded by the Samueli Foundation and led by its integrative health director Wayne Jonas, MD describes the chasm that has opened between the two parties. The patient is seeking an integrative model for self care amidst the present predication of medical delivery on the skeptical view of human nature.