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Forum on the IOM and IHS: Molly Punzo, MD Thinks CAM/IM Has Lost It's Way; Is the IOM Corrective? PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Forum on the IOM and IHS: Molly Punzo, MD Thinks CAM/IM has Lost It's Way; Is the IOM Summit Corrective?

Summary Molly Punzo, MD, is a veteran integrative medicine practitioner who established an early program at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut. After attending the February 2009 Integrative Healthcare Symposium and the first day of the IOM Summit, Punzo argues that the "CAM/IM movement" is losing its promise, partly through the dominant therapeutic and economic influence of reductive, green-pharma. While Punzo doesn't address this, a fascinating question is the extent to which the IOM Summit may be viewed as a corrective measure for not just conventional medicine, but for the integrative practice movement. I take a first stab at this in the comment field and invite your responses.
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Molly Punzo, MD
Molly Punzo, MD, is a veteran integrative medicine practitioner who established an early program at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut. Punzo attended both the
Integrative Healthcare Symposium (IHS) in New York City, February 19-21, 2009 and the first day of the February 25-27, 2009 IOM Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public. She attended as a veteran, checking in on a movement from which she has recently been estranged. Her reflections focus on her experience at the IHS and the state of the "CAM/IM movement." Punzo raises significant questions for all of us about the green-pharma predilections and reductive aspects of many of our practices. She then offers healing directions which she believes we need to take to right our course.

A fascinating question is raised by considering Punzo's negative view of the the state of "CAM/IM" in the context of the IOM, held a week later. The take home messages from the IOM gathering, as asserted by the Bravewell Collaborative, the event's sponsor, can in many ways be viewed as corrective of Punzo's complaints. Others may view the IOM event as leading the movement further astray. I offer some perspective in the comment field and invite your own thoughts as we continue this forum on the IOM. Should the IOM event be considered a positive course correction for the integrative practice movement?

____________________________

How Integrative Medicine Lost It's Way, and Steps Toward Healing

Molly Punzo, MD

I also attended the NYC Integrative Healthcare Symposium (IHS) conference and the IOM for the first day of their recent Integrative Medicine Summit.


   

While functional medicine is
exciting and is an important
piece of an emerging field in
CAM, it does not and should
not represent the whole
of the CAM/IM movement.
 
 
I was a bit disappointed by the IHS conference for quite a few reasons. It’s been a few years since I had been back to this conference and I feel that this field of CAM/Integrative Medicine has not come as far in the last decade as I would have hoped. It feels as if CAM has been co-opted and has gone the route of allopathy with a twist. The lectures themselves mainly focused on functional medicine and left out quite a few other parts of the CAM movement.

While functional medicine is exciting and is an important piece of an emerging field in CAM, it does not and should not represent the whole of the CAM/IM movement. Many physicians naturopathic and allopathic gravitate to functional medicine because it fits more easily into an allopathic world view of the body and puts biochemistry at the forefront of disease. That’s comfortable for most medically-minded practitioners, but there is much that this model fails to address. Acupuncture does not fit nicely within this model, nor does homeopathic medicine, yet both of these disciplines have a long history of success.

   
  I understand how the exhibit hall
model works ...  I do not disagree
that many natural products are
certainly healthier than many if
not most pharmaceuticals.

However, it feels as if we have
lost our way.
 
The exhibit hall had the same look and feel as that of a conventional big pharma exhibition hall, except the booths were filled with “natural” products, detox formulas, foul-looking foot baths, combination remedies, powders and salves; all by the way under harsh florescent lights in a large hall without any windows. I understand how the exhibit hall model works and the need to pay for a venue this size; but the uncanny similarity to conventional medical venues was frankly disturbing. I do not disagree that many natural products are certainly healthier than many if not most pharmaceuticals. However, it feels as if we have lost our way.

I originally went into allopathic medicine with a very altruistic intention. I wanted to relieve suffering. Once I realized that allopathic medicine was quite ineffective for most chronic illnesses and in fact were doing more harm in the long run, I subsequently abandoned that ship and went in search of a better way. The CAM movement in the early 90’s for me seemed to promise a better way to practice medicine and deliver on my mission. That is when I discovered integrative medicine and have never turned back.

The early CAM/Integrative Medicine movement felt like a Renaissance


I was able thru the CAM movement in those days to learn about healthier lifestyle choices (exercise, stress reduction, weight management, good wholesome whole foods, etc...), Yoga, body work, classical homeopathy, and mind-body medicine. We were talking about how the symptoms of the body might be important in uncovering the roots of illness, talking about symptoms as a metaphor for deeper emotional distress. I had the absolute privilege to hear David Reilly from Scotland give what is to this day the BEST lecture on homeopathy I have ever heard and witnessed. He received a standing ovation at David Eisenberg’s CAM conference at Harvard to an audience of over a thousand medical professionals.

   
  I have managed to remain loyal
and passionate about homeopathic
medicine because it remains true
to wholeness and healing at a
very deep core level.


These learnings translated to my practice and I felt that these healing principles and wholistic philosophies led me to a profound and reverent appreciation of the wisdom of the body. I shared everything I was learning with my patients and got them engaged in their own journey to health. It felt like a Renaissance was happening in Healthcare back then. I had hope then that CAM/Integrative Medicine would shake the very foundations of healthcare to the core and help it to rise again rooted in these ancient healing arts. Since we now have the technology to allow us to scientifically validate many of these disciplines, I had hoped medical practice, honoring the wisdom of these traditions and moving away from the allopathic model of simply treating symptom after symptom with more and more substances (whether they be neutraceuticals or pharmaceuticals), we would forge ahead and transform the foundations of medicine.

The model of homeopathy

I realize now that I have grown disheartened about the CAM /Integrative medicine movement over the years. I have managed to remain loyal and passionate about homeopathic medicine because it remains true to wholeness and healing at a very deep core level. The goal of homeopathy is always to find the ONE remedy which unites the Spirit-Mind-Body in its quest for health and has the potential to cure many many ills. I was and still am struck by the the word, "cure," and that's what hooked me about homeopathy from the very beginning and still hooks me to this day. Homeopathy delves into not only how a person is ill, but how and why they became ill.  Understanding the mental and emotional etiology is often the only way you go about selecting the most appropriate one remedy, or “simillimum.” We talk about how the mind, body, and spirit are interconnected, and how when one part of us is ill, the whole is ill. The remedy reconnects us to the whole of ourselves, and in the process heals all aspects of the Self. That's pretty darned “integrative.”

   

I wish someone would be
the Jerry McGuire of this
movement and help get us
back to the Heart and Soul
of what CAM and Integrative
Medicine claimed it was all
about so many years ago.
 
 
Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy in the 18th century, talked about the importance of nutrition and hygiene and the dangers of cold, damp dwellings. He talked about "obstacles to cure," a fascinating topic relevant to this very day. Many of our most potent healing remedies are grief remedies. How do we measure the chemistry of grief exactly? And who out there doesn’t think that unresolved grief does NOT have an adverse impact on the body. The same is true for anger, resentment, guilt. There is no stone left unturned by a good classical homeopath. If you haven’t experienced homeopathic treatment, you owe this to yourself and your clients/patients or whatever semantics you happen to prefer.

While I understand the economic necessities of running a large conference, I don't have to like the fact that the world of CAM (or" Integrative Medicine ") no longer seems to hold the hope for me that it once did. It does not feel like it is focused on healing or integration at all. I don't think the answer to deep healing is in popping pills and supplements and powdered formulas and capsules. Some of that is necessary of course, but not to the extent that we seem to be focusing.

I wish someone would be the Jerry McGuire of this movement and help get us back to the Heart and Soul of what CAM and Integrative Medicine claimed it was all about so many years ago. Healing is complex and mysterious and down right sacred. We, too, are complex and mysterious and sacred. I'd like to see us get back to these fundamental healing truths and be cautious about searching for the answers in material dosed products promising to deliver the fountain of youth.

Punzo's suggestions on our steps to right our course


Let's have conferences about HEALING and healing philosophies.  Let's not call it integrative or CAM. And if we do use the term “integrative,” then let’s do just that, INTEGRATE disciplines. Let’s treat that as the verb it is meant to be. Let’s be more inclusive of the other disciplines. And please, let us have all our future conferences in green environments filled with natural light and provide wholesome organic foods.

Let's build HEALING CENTERS instead of hospitals and let's be sure that folks from all walks of life and culture can work there and be healed in them. Let's get back to the basics with regards to clean food and air and water and strengthen our constitutions mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Let's experience hands-on healing from gifted practitioners who channel love.  Let's use the word Soul more. Let's be sure to create working environments that are healing in every way and lobby for things that will also heal our Earth.  Alignment with these principles should be the goal of our movement and any future conferences. Let's work cooperatively together and practice compassion, love, and kindness. Let's find meaning and purpose in our work and lives and help our patients and clients to connect with the same. Let's practice self-love until we ARE love.

While this is all in process, I think I'm going to learn a bunch more about good wholesome food, study art history, learn more about eco-travel, and learn to speak Italian. I'm going to continue to study homeopathy and practice a whole lot more Yoga. Now that sounds healing to me. I would be most happy to attend that conference.


Comment
:  I wonder what Punzo would have thought had she been able to attend the entire Summit. The Summit did not focus on nutraceuticals or botanicals or homeopathics, for that matter. In fact, the event steered away "CAM therapies." The therapeutic approaches which were highlighted were the basics: diet, lifetyle, exercise, life-change, stress reduction, the doctor-patient relationship, and a focus on "health" rather than disease. These may be viewed as basics from which Punzo feels "CAM/IM" is becoming estranged. All of these approaches, highlighted at teh Summit, may be viewed as pulling the "CAM/IM movement" back toward the wholeness of its roots.

   
 
Is it possible that the IOM Summit
should be taken as a course correction
for not just mainstream medicine,
but for the professionals and disciplines
involved in "integrative practices?"

Notably, the media release issued by the Bravewell Collaborative, funders of the Summit, following the Summit listed "important factors to be considered in healthcare reform." These are all worth reviewing for their alignment with Punzo's healing values. There is focus on lifestyle modification, a blast against "genetics as destiny," an assertion that taking a whole view must include environmental factors, a need to focus on health and wellness to combat chronic, and the importance of establishing a reimbursement system that focuses on health outcomes.

Is it possible that the IOM' Summit should be taken as a course correction for not just mainstream medicine, but for the professionals and disciplines involved in "integrative practices?"

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for inclusion in a future Integrator.




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