Summary: For many of us, this weeks’ “integrative health policy week” in Washington, DC actually began with the robust Integrative Healthcare Symposium (IHS) in New York City last week where a multidisciplinary gathering of 1300 met to explore policy, practice, science and business issues. Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom (NA), an advisory board member for IHS, offers her review of pros and cons of the meeting. She explores roadmaps-for-the-future policy panels which included Wayne Jonas, Josephine Briggs, Mary Jo Kreitzer, Bill Benda and others. Some of what she experiences she celebrates. At the same time, Gahles, president of the National Center for Homeopathy, challenges the MD-centrism of much of the content and wonders whether these roads will take us “back to Rome?” It’s a thought provoking, homeopathic-centric review. If you attended, what did you think about the inter-disciplinary balance at the IHS?
Last week featured the most significant, multidisciplinary integrative health symposium of the year. I was told that 1300 souls attended the February 19-21 Integrative Healthcare Symposium (IHS) in New York City, up from 850 in 2008, a remarkable turn-out amidst the economic downturn. Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom (NA), a chiropractor and ordained interfaith minister who serves as the president of the National Center for Homeopathy and as my fellow adviser to IHS. The 6300 member IHS/Integrative Practitioner Online community is an Integrator sponsor. Enjoy this unfiltered review of one of our more significant annual events.
A Report on Integative Healthcare Symposium 2009:
Strengths, Observations, Shortcomings
Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom (NA)
Plenary policy panel “very encouraging”
The first panel, Leadership and Policy-National Policy and
Integrative Practice: Roadmaps for the Future with Wayne Jonas, Josephine
Briggs and Mary Jo Kreitzer was encouraging. Wayne [director of the Samueli Institute] understood that the current
policy is still addressing how do we get more of what we have now and that
we know that is a broken system. He knows that prevention and
wellness have to be in the language in a way that addresses
comprehensive lifestyle care. He understands that CAM delivery isn’t easy
because people do not want to take personal responsibility and that this
is a cultural challenge that needs to be addressed. He said that in the medical industrial power
struggle the patient is at the bottom rung and this needs to be changed. Hear,
hear! He also spoke about looking into placebo as a key to how healing happens.
Josephine Briggs [director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine] spoke from her heart as a nephrologist and
the way in which she saw high tech medicine lose track of the patient. Fusing
with mind body medicine could enhance the emotional interaction between doctor
and patient and that would be a good thing for healing. She talked about
placebo studies and intentionality of healing.
I spoke with her personally
about the challenge for homeopathic studies without the hospital/institution availability and the need for NCCAM to fund more clinical and community studies
and she agreed. I also mentioned that I had co-authored a grant to the NCCAM
about homeopathy and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Of course we were turned down as it was our first
time and we have since lost our hospital affiliation as the CAM program was
cut. She said keep trying and that IBS lends itself particularly well to
homeopathy and she was much in favor of a study like this.
Mary Jo Kreitzer [director of the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing] spoke about spirituality and the need to
rethink the education model. To have healthcare homes instead of nursing
homes, to educate consumers. She sees consumers as
change agents. Much from the nurses prospective of patient-centered care.
Green pharma: ‘very allopathic model in much of the symposium”
The remainder of the symposium was disheartening. Very
allopathic model . Mostly presentations from MD’s, ND’s and RN’s who use
nutriceuticals (functional medicine) instead of prescription drugs and so they
fancy themselves as integrative practitioners. There were no practical models
of integrative practices that work. Like a DC/MD relationship or a
MD/homeopath relationship.That’s because no one does it.
“The MD’s STILL do not
to DC’s or, God forbid, homeopaths.
Remember the kid’s song on the
playground when you wanted
to exclude someone?
Tick tock the game is locked
nobody else can play.”
– Nancy Gahles
The MD’s STILL do not
refer to DC’s or, God forbid, homeopaths. Remember the kid’s song on the
playground when you wanted to exclude someone? Tick tock the game is locked and
nobody else can play. The limiting belief systems about personal responsibility
that Dr. Jonas brings up with regard to cultural changes that are needed also
must address the prejudice, ego and economic greed that characterize
the exclusionary tactics of the dominant medical profession in the healthcare
arena as it now exists.
The second policy panel, “National Policy and Integrative Practice:
Building the Road,” reflected this state again. Lots of thought leaders for
change. All from the medical community…no one from the homeopathic
I should have been there to represent the NCH and our
membership and our vision for the future of healthcare and the ways
in which we could form alliances and empower the patient. NO chiropractic
colleges or association representatives either.* Academic consortium people who don’t have any
“alternatives” in their programs because they aren’t allowed.
The very well intentioned and articulate David Seckman [director of the Natural Products Association] even shared the story of
developing his alternative center within a medical school which was not going
to be allowed to proceed if he brought in an herbologist.
Puh-leeze! Building the road?? Hmm? Where is the change??
Where oh where is this road going to take us?? Back to Rome? Why are we
not engaging the talents in other fields? Einstein told us that no problem can
be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We need to take
“I did take a bit of hope away
from both panels
as those who
were there did see the bigger
picture and effectively voiced
real challenges and concerns
that face us.
invitation to the NCH to join
different perspective. Unless and until we include the
“others” I am staying off this highway. I will reset my
GPS for the destination that I believe in. I will continue to build the
road of freedom of choice, of options and patient empowerment through education
about homeopathy. I am a gourmand, I like a full menu. I want 1 from column A
and 1 from column B and maybe even another from column C in my healthcare
protocol. We cannot afford to sing Johnny One Note any longer. There are
huge gaps where conventional medicine has nothing to offer. There are
“other” systems on the edge of the abyss that can be used to
bridge that gap. Clearly, this is a matter of territorialism within the
medical/industrial complex. I did take a bit of hope away from both panels
as those who were there did see the bigger picture and effectively voiced the
real challenges and concerns that face us. Janet Kahn [director of the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium] for one, immediately
extended an invitation to the NCH to join her organization, Partners for
Health, as soon as I introduced myself. I will venture to say it must be simply
a matter that no one knows that homeopathy is alive and well in America.
The rest of the symposium was disheartening. I was an
exhibitor for the National Center for Homeopathy and as I looked around the
exhibit hall from my booth, it could well have been a medical convention. Only
the pills were vitamins, supplements instead of drugs and those passing by my
booth were mostly MD’s and nurses. The standing room only presentations
were from functional medicine docs who swear by environmental toxins as cause
of inflammation and supplements as the answer. External factors as
aggressors ..again..where is homeopathy? What about strengthening the
constitution of the person so that they are able to function in the presence of
external factors and regain homeostasis because they are healthy?
From my perspective as a homeopath – a brief rant
All this from my perspective as a homeopath, of course. I
hear with those ears. I listen for where the word, homeopathy, may be present and
always, it is not even on the radar. It is always relegated to the
“others” right after acupuncture, massage therapy, YOGA and , the
“others”. My job is always to speak up and say, “What
about homeopathy?” The “other” medical system. The second
largest medical system. The “whole system of medicine” as it is
listed on NCCAM’s page. The system that you are all talking about and looking
for a model of is right there. Homeopathy DOES take into
consideration the whole person, body/mind/emotion/spirit. Homeopathy DOES
engender a sincere practitioner/patient relationship. Homeopathy DOES
encourage patient responsibility as the health of the patient strengthens so
does their consciousness and their ability to see the world in a healthy way
and hence the desire to become an active participant in their own lives.
Homeopathy DOES use minimal dose, IS cost effective and PREVENTS chronic
disease. Homeopathy speaks to the essence of self care and
thereby engenders personal responsibility. Homeopathy can be used by
individuals in self limiting conditions thereby relieving the burden on the ER
visits, Doc visits for coughs, colds and flus,etc. Homeopaths have used
placebo for 200 years as an adjunct to practice and so is a fertile ground for
studying the effects of placebo in healing. Homeopathy HAS a complete
system of medicines that are FDA approved for use. And there are PLENTY
of studies to back up this 200 year old art and science. No need to
reinvent the wheel. Simply open the door to include another option of
HEALTHcare into the system. We need options, choices in healthcare and
the people need to be empowered to use it and to make educated choices as to
whom they want to partner their care with.
wellness and that’s a wrap. Or maybe that’s a blog.
Off to DC for the [Institute of Medicine] Summit! Sending wellness and strength your way, as always!
Nancy Gahles, D.C., CCH, RSHom(NA)
Director, Health and Harmony Wellness Education
President, National Center for Homeopathy
Columnist, The Wave newspaper
Ask The Experts: Mothering Magazine, Natural Health.com
Ordained Interfaith Minister
Note: Gahles is currently completing a book which should be out shortly which, among other things, addresses issue in patient engagement in their own wellness.
* Fact-check: The second policy panel, led by Bill Benda, MD,
was not all MDs. It included representatives from organizations representing naturopathic physicians, the holistic nursing
community, the natural products association, plus educational and professional organizations representing integrative MD communities. However Benda intended to include me asc a representative of the multidisciplinary Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (www.accahc.org) as well as a broad coalition, the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium (www.ihpc.info). No one directly chiropractors or homeopathy.
Comment: An immense value of what Integrative Practitioner is attempting to accomplish through the community on its site and via its Integrative Healthcare Symposium is to convene multidisciplinary gatherings in which issues surrounding “tick tock the game is locked” can surface, with potential for resolution. For Gahles, and NCH, the issue will be whether her NCH board will choose to ante-ing up in the way that Janet Kahn and the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium needs its organizational partners to do in order to move its small c “catholic” vision of change. Many organizations must step up, put policy money in their budgets, and join the Partners in Health. If your organization is not a member, take a look at joining.
But in a larger view, as we are together we must acknowledge that until a new paradigm is utterly planted, guild and guild-plus organizational models will continue. For now, there are various, reasonable membership categories: only MD, only licensed CAM professions, only conventional academic health centers, only r-access practitioners, etc. There are also times when a broad pool of orgs must drop barriers and pull together.
Speaking of business model,
anyone who has sought to
make ends meet
with one of
these conferences will know
that following the
is the easiest, if not the only
I have advocated, via my own advisory position with Integrative Practitioner, for more visibility for non-MD speakers. It can be tough. In the typical business model for a conference like this, the would-be curious MD is the biggest single target audience ( Ahh, if I could only get a fraction of those 700,000 MDs to come …). Those MDs who are crossing over the river may be reluctant if it looks like too many strange acronyms are walking around on the other side. On the other hand, if Integrative Practitioner truly strives to the the place for creation of a robust, multi-disciplinary community, then there must be ways to attend to these issues and draw in more of the 70,000 chiropractors, 5000 holistic nurses (or reach into the 3-million nurses), 25,000 licensed acupuncturists, and more.
I am curious about how any of the rest of you who attended the IHS felt about MD-centrism and the issues raised by Gahles?
Speaking of business model, anyone who has sought to make ends meet with one of these conferences will know that following the pharma-exhibitor-sponsorship model is the easiest, if not the only way to breakeven or turn anything like a profit. And, it turns out, presentations on natural product oriented, bio-physiological therapies will tend to follow. Finding a balance that includes a sustainable business model, toward which IHS is striving, is the trick.
Thanks to Gahles for this piece, and IHS for the ongoing vision, and the meeting
for inclusion in a future Your Comments Forum.