Learning to Treat Mind, Body and Spirit

The current class of the Fellowship for Integrative Medicine has 230 health care professionals enrolled. When the group completes their studies, the program will have graduated almost 1,000 doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician's assistants since its start in 1997.
February 29, 2012

When people come face-to-face with cancer or heart disease, they often feel helpless. Cutting-edge research – like that being done at the University of Arizona Medical Center– is pushing the possibilities of traditional allopathic approaches, but there are still limits.

And people are hungry for new ways of healing.

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Integrative medicine – a blending of traditional and alternative medical methods – takes a different approach. The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the UA, started by Dr. Andrew Weil, blends the best of medical practices and traditions from around the world to not only treat disease, but promote health.

The University of Arizona offers the flagship program for fellowship training in integrative medicine in the world.

“If an acupuncture needle will help a patient with chemotherapy and nausea and fatigue associated with it, then why not use it, especially if there is an evidence base for it,” questions Center Director Dr. Tieroana Low Dog. “If we know that a Mediterranean diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease, then we believe that all physicians and nurse practitioners and providers should be able to counsel their patients about this.”

Training Health Professionals Around the World

“A human being is a very complicated and beautiful, beautiful organism that involves much more than treating them with a pill,” says Dr. Sonia Oyola, an MD from Chicago, Illinois. “The conventional approach has only looked at the biomedical, and has not looked at the person whole, has not looked at their spirit in relationship to their mind and their body.”

Oyola is one of 230 health care professionals currently participating in the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine Program. When her studies are complete, she will add her name to the list of almost one-thousand doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants who will have passed through the training since its start in1997.

Low Dog describes the program as unlike any other: “People come from all over the world and all over the United States to take this training program,” she says. “There really is nothing comparable anywhere on the planet.”

To date, the program has trained doctors from 47 states, Great Britain, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Korea, Israel, Norway, United Arab Emirates, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Most of the two-year program is delivered via an innovative online model, allowing professionals to study without having to uproot their lives, families or practices. Then, they come to Tucson for three one-week, in-depth, hands-on experiential sessions.

Dr. Peter Clemens, an MD in emergency medicine from Madisonville, Kentucky, was immediately ready to enroll in the program and move to Arizona.

“But when I found that they had the online fellowship and that I could be in Kentucky, I was so grateful and applied right away,” he says. “I feel very blessed to be here.”

Developing Fluency in the Many Languages of Medicine

“We want them (our Fellows) to understand the evidence behind some of the therapies and medicines that they haven’t learned about in medical school or nursing school,” she says. “We want them to be fluent in being able to talk to patients about a healthy diet. We want them to be able to write an exercise prescription based on that patient’s needs and their underlying health. We want them to be able to counsel patients about all the dietary supplements and herbal medicines that are being used. We want them to be able to talk to them about their spirituality or what gets them through hard times.”

According to Low Dog, the overarching mission for the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine is to transform health and healthcare for everyone everywhere. Ultimately, Low Dow, Weil and the rest of the program faculty wish to bring the best of medicine – both conventional and contemporary – to patients to prevent illness and promote health.

Learn more about the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.