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Integrator Top 10 People from 2009 in Integrative Health Care and Integrative Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Integrator Top 10 People from 2009 in Integrative Health Care and Integrative Medicine

SummaryWhile reviewing recent issues of the Integrator to draft the Top 10 actions and event from 2009, I found myself creating a second list. This was of names of individuals who had been or were about to be significant contributors to the integrative practice field. Of course there is some overlap between key events and influential individuals. Yet a second list seemed to be in order. As is the Integrator custom, this Top 10 only counts 9, leaving space for your nomination of others who have distinguished themselves, or are about to. Who would you suggest? Who is the obvious or less obvious omission? Happy reflections on the year that was, and on the year to come.

For past Top 10 Events and Actions:
From 2006 -
From 2007 - From 2008 
- From 2009
Send your nomination(s) to
for inclusion in a follow-up Integrator.

Harkin: Champion on the Hill
1.  Tom Harkin

The power of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin's advocacy for wellness and complementary, alternative and integrative medicine has been evident since Harkin's mentor Berkley Bedell leaned on him to fund exploration of "unconventional medicine" in the early 1990s. Never has Harkin's leadership been so evident as this year. Virtually every foothold for these practices and practitioners
in health reform is linked to Harkin, from anti-discrimination language to a National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council. Meantime, Harkin's visionary, real-world, effectiveness-oriented language from 1998 used in creating the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is back in the news as core guidance for NCCAM's 2011-2015 strategic plan. Harkin is also the lead supporter of comparative effectiveness research (CER), a potentially supportive research direction for integrative practices. Harkin pledged to the audience at the National Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public that he would seek to "place integrative health care at the heart of the 2009 health reform debate." Good for us that Harkin was elevated this year to chair the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.

Mack: Linking Bravewell with ever-broader coalitions
2.  Christy Mack

Christy Mack is the second president of what was originally the Philanthropic Collaborative for Integrative Medicine. The organization is now known as the Bravewell Collaborative. Under Mack, this already influential group of donors stepped onto a larger stage, as befits Bravewell's transformative vision. First, Mack announced on national television in early 2008 a Bravewell partnership with the Institute of Medicine to create a National Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public. Bravewell's initial investment was $445,000. That event became a launch pad for an even more bold initiative this fall, when Bravewell and the IOM announced a partnership with a third
organization, the powerful, 40-million strong AARP. The goal of the resulting Healthy Nation Partnership is nothing less than “to inspire a broad social movement by linking government, education, the food industry, agriculture, religious institutions, media, health care, and major employers.” The natural affinities between integrative medical doctors and the missions of the complementary healthcare professions may find significant connectivity with sets of new stakeholders in this new partnership.

Herman: Timely skills as economist, clinician and researcher
3.  Patricia Herman, ND, MS, PhD

While outcomes from an N of 1 are not very compelling to most researchers, being an N of 1 can be extremely compelling, if over-whelming, these days for a researcher who happens to also be a trained clinician and economist. Such is the case with Patricia Herman, ND, MS, PhD. Herman's first career was as an energy economist in the early years of renewable energy planning. She then completed a naturopathic medical degree before going on to a research PhD under an NIH grant. No one else in our community links these skill sets. In 2008-2009, Herman's unique abilities hit the national stage. She co-authored the economics paper for the IOM Summit. Her multiple contributions on cost at the North American Research Conference on Complementary and Alternative Medicine led to an acknowledgment of her work from the dais during the economics plenary. NIH NCCAM insiders point to her whole practice cost-effectiveness outcomes research as exemplifying the direction we need to go as we embrace an effectiveness and cost-effectiveness agenda. Hopefully, an advancing effectiveness agenda in 2010 will lead us to ask how we can clone her.

Sierpina: Dedication to inter-disciplinary educational collaboration
4.  Victor Sierpina, MD 

Victor Sierpina, MD was elected in 2007 to chair the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (CAHCIM), he made a personal commitment to strengthen ties between CAHCIM and his academic colleagues in the licensed complementary and alternative healthcare professions. Many are organized as the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (CAHCIM). Through Sierpina's leadership, some 80 leaders of the 2 consortia met for 5 hours in May of 2009. Members of the working groups and executive teams explored collaborative possibilities. New relationships were developed. The combined group then enjoyed the camaraderie of a reception and dinner which CAHCIM hosted. (See photo here.) Sierpina subsequently took the lead with two other CAHCIM leaders in writing a forward to ACCAHC's recently published Clinician's and Educator's Desk Reference on the Licensed Complementary and Alternative Healthcare Professions. Opening relationships between disciplines is challenging. Sierpina's commitment will create a thousand blossoms.

Knutson: Expanding services into a second Allina hospital
5.  Lori Knutson, RN, HN-BC 

Lori Knutson, RN
leads the most significant inpatient-outpatient, multi-practitioner integration initiative in the United States. Knutson is the clinical director of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, part of the Allina Hospitals and Clinics. Allina is an eleven hospital system which is committed to an integrative care model. This is not just talk. Under the compelling leadership of Knutson, one of Allina's hospitals, Abbott Northwestern, marked its 60,000th inpatient integrative visit this fall. Abbott utilizes mainly massage, energy and acupuncture practitioners in-patient care. (The array of services and practitioners in the outpatient clinic includes wellness coaches, medical doctors and a naturopathic physician in a clinical mix dominated by acupuncture and Oriental medicine.) A breakdown of the inpatient services as reported May 2009 is here. Allina has charged Knutson, the 2006 Holistic Nurse of the Year, with rolling this integrative care pilot out into a second hospital. Knutson is leading what will be a model for the nation. Hopefully the health services research funds Knutson seeks in order to evaluate outcomes will be available to support our learning and the uptake into other systems. We're lucky to have a professional with Knutson's inclusive, passionate and wizened vision in the driver's seat.

Kahn: A 2010 agenda spanning policy, research and clinical services
6.  Janet Kahn, PhD

Janet Kahn, PhD's contributions to integrative practice will be tri-fold in the coming year, spanning research, policy and clinical practice. Kahn arrived on the national scene as a leading massage researcher selected to the initial advisory council to NCCAM. In recent years, Kahn began working part-time (and partly as a labor of love) as executive director of the Integrated Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC). She developed the consortium's emerging Partners for Health program of collaborating organizations while also working Congress on IHPC's core legislative priorities: anti-discimination, workforce inclusion and wellness. IHPC, via Kahn's work with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Harkin, has been the integrated care movement's most significant voice on the Hill, though with little more than a shoe string budget. Meantime, Kahn directs an ambitious clinical integration initiative at the federally-qualified Community Health Center of Burlington, viagra wiki which is attempting to model integrated care across diverse populations. Finally, in the coming year, Kahn is expected to be nominated to a position back on the NCCAM advisory council, completing the trifecta. As with Herman, we may need to explore cloning options as 2010 unfolds.

Gahles: Connecter for the homeopathic field
7.  Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom

Observers of the homeopathic field will know that, while individuals of various stripes use and prescribe these medicines - from consumers to lay practitioners to LAcs, MDs, DCs, RNs and NDs - the field often seems disinclined to participate with other profession organizations. It is as if the purist predilections of classical homeopaths have controlled homeopathic political action.
Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom is changing that profile in her term as president of the National Center for Homeopathy. Gahles has worked to mature homeopathy's under-developed certification and education organizations by linking them with their more established counterparts in other integrative practice fields. She initiated and has pursued a relationship between homeopathic researchers and NIH NCCAM director Josephine Briggs, MD. More directly on the policy front, NCH became one of the Partners for Health members of the IHPC (see #6 above). Gahles appears to be giving homeopathy just the right succussive action to enhance its potency.

Gazella: Constructed an intriguing platform
8.  Karolyn Gazella

The sheer size of the reactive $2.5-trillion medical-industrial juggernaut relative to the various entities advocating a proactive health and healing approach suggests the importance of collaboration and coalition if we are ever to create much change. In different ways, #2, #4, #6 and #7 above all speak to this need. Such action begins with connection. This year Karolyn Gazella has developed a significant piece of connectivity in the Natural Medicine Journal (NMJ's). The 12 professional organizations, 9 educational institutions and 3 industry organizations that presently constitute the NMJ's Community Partners give the online journal a reach that crosses numerous disciplines and now counts over 150,000 recipients of the journal. The potential for connectivity, and even for stimulating action, at the right moment, is significant. It remains to be seen how Gazella and her collaborators may choose to use the publication.

Briggs: Key decider on NCCAM's strategic plan
9.  Josephine Briggs, MD

Last but not least in this list is Josephine Briggs, MD, the second director of NCCAM. Since taking her position in early 2008, Briggs has connected widely with the researcher subsets of the various disciplines and interests in the integrative practice and dietary supplement communities. Briggs' reception has to-all-accounts been quite positive. Among those promoting NCCAM's role in helping us understand how to effectively and cost effectively integrate CAM therapies and practitioners with the mainstream payment and delivery system, Briggs' perspectives have been particularly welcome. Now in 2010, Briggs will shape this honeymoon of interviews and open-ended meetings into NCCAM's 2011-2015 five year plan. Briggs will be under powerful, opposing pressures. How Briggs chooses to prioritize NCCAM's investment will play an important role in determining whether she, and complementary and integrative health care, are significant change agents for our troubled healthcare system, or footnotes. 

10.   Who else?

I am sure I have huge blind-spots in this list. Who is your recommendation of an individual whose role or service to integrative practice was particularly compelling in 2009, or stands to be in 2010? These will be published in a future Integrator.

Comment: I found it fascinating to discover that 7 of the 9 individuals here are women. Is this due to the acknowledged focus on collaboration and collective action, that the spirit of integration reflects the female archetype? Is this because of the prominent roles of females in many integrative practice fields? Or is this just this year - or simply Integrator bias? Interesting to see.

Send your nomination(s) to
for inclusion in a follow-up Integrator.

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