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.
“Modeling interprofessional education and care has been the mantra for both organizations for years.” These words from Bill Meeker, DC, MPH capture the core sentiment on the remarkable news of a merger in the making of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health (ACIH aka “The Collaborative) and the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM aka “The Academy”). Meeker, whose term as president of AIHM begins January 1, 2021, until recently served on both boards. The core of the former consists of academic, accreditation, and certification leaders of the 5 licensed integrative health professions: chiropractic, East Asian medicine, naturopathic medicine, massage therapy and direct entry/certified professional midwifery. Participation in AIHM is about 65% medical doctors transitioning their practices toward integrative models, with the others from a range of disciplines. The combined ACIH-AIHM organization is anticipated to become a robust environment for these newer parts of the healthcare workforce to engage with integrative doctors and power up the abilities of their combined force in change agency.
In late September, the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) sent out a notice to its list to celebrate the 80th birthday of perhaps its most honored male elder, Bill Manahan, MD. Manahan’s story dates back to a founding membership meeting of a predecessor to the AIHM, the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA), 40 years ago. One of Manahan’s most powerful areas of impact is an AIHM priority: sewing interprofessional respect. He’s worked to pry open the MD guild – which proved necessary even in the MDs’ “holistic” form. Manahan has been a mentor to countless practitioners and other functionaries in the holistic health and integrative medicine movement, including me. I thought his birthday was a good excuse to re-connect and explore a couple pieces of his rich history in the field – specifically the inter-professional work and the remarkable Minnesota group he has managed for 40 years.
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.