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AIHM Starts Historic Interprofessional Fellowship with Tieraona Low Dog, MD as Director PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

AIHM Starts Historic Interprofessional Fellowship with Tieraona Low Dog, MD as Director

Into the fellowship business
On July 1, 2015, the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) announced that it is getting into the fellowship business. AIHM is doing so with a double splash. 

As background, the interprofessional organization was founded in 2013 as a "big tent" for all in integrative health and medicine. It plans to offer the fellowship to members of multiple professions including, according to the release, "medical, osteopathic, naturopathic and chiropractic physicians, dentists, advance practice registered nurses, physician's assistants, licensed acupuncturists, registered dietitians, pharmacists, licensed clinical social workers and psychologists." The program will be a graduate-level, interprofessional two-year training program for advanced health and medical clinicians. 

In addition, AIHM announced an intriguing fellowship director: Tieraona Low Dog, MD. From 2005-2014, Low Dog was the director of the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. There, in the top such program in the country, she oversaw the education in integrative medicine of over 600 medical doctors, plus a few nurses and physicians assistants. (As of July 1, 2015 Low Dog's photo, surrounded by students, still graces that website, with a note that she is "retired.")

Tieraona Low Dog, MD: experienced director
In the kick-off release, AIHM president Mimi Guarneri, MD states that Low Dog "will be instrumental in realizing the Academy's vision through the Fellowship program." The vision: "We will be part of the solution to a central issue - a siloed versus team approach to patient care - that is currently disrupting health care delivery."

Guarneri pointed to LOW DOG's diverse background that "gives her the breadth of experience to connect meaningfully across disciplines." Low Dog's professional background includes herbal medicine, midwifery, massage therapy and martial arts."

Low Dog speaks to her commitment to the project by first honoring the Academy as "providing a powerful platform for true integrative care." She foresees "creating a new collaborative fellowship model that will train clinicians of the future to deliver exemplary, coordinated care." In her view, the Academy's "demonstrated commitment to interprofessional education makes it the natural home for this inspiring level of training."



"Our goal is to change the paradigm 
of healthcare delivery from professionals 
working in silos to a multidisciplinary 
approach with the patient at the center. 
The Fellowship will be innovative and 
drive a new kind of collaboration among 
clinicians from diverse professions."

- Tieraona Low Dog, MD
AIHM Fellowship Director


Low Dog add[ED]: "Our goal is to change the paradigm of healthcare delivery from professionals working in silos to a multidisciplinary approach with the patient at the center. The Fellowship will be innovative and drive a new kind of collaboration among clinicians from diverse professions."

The model for the two-year fellowship will be hybrid, including "distance learning, live retreats and clinical components." Practitioners will be able to continue their practices while also, through electives, tailoring their own fellowship content. Participants in the two-year Fellowship will be able to maintain their practices. The hybrid model will include elective modules to allow each participant to tailor their training to their own profession's requirements.

The AIHM Fellowship will meet criteria established by the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM)for integrative medical doctors. In a follow-up AIHM media release Guarneri adds: "Dr. Low Dog shares our vision. We have to transform the way we think about health, health care and collaboration. The AIHM Fellowship provides a unique space for acupuncturists, MDs, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists and others to work together toward a goal of patient-centered care."

The Academy plans to announce within 45 days its academic partner "to deliver the program according to the standards of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). Pricing details are online here. The AIHM Fellowship is open for applicants.
Alignment of interest: I am a member of, and have had a hand in helping build, AIHM's increasingly interprofessional Board of Directors.
Comment: Who would have thunk it? An academic fellowship that prepares medical doctor participants to become Board Certified in Integrative Medicine that also is open to doctors of chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, licensed nutritionists and acupuncturists and others. This is way out of the box. This is a worthy future for interprofessionalism. Credit AIHM and Low Dog for taking it on.

T-James and T-Wayne teaming
In some quarters, Low Dog's new position may be viewed like basketball great LeBron James leaving Cleveland for Miami. Low Dog is a heavyweight in the integrative medicine world. Her CV includes service on the 2000-2002 White House Commission on Complementary Medicine Policy. Like LeBron, she's been at the top of the game via many contributions over decades and including, most recently, her leadership of the fellowship at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Given the breadth of her professional background, this leading edge, interprofessional effort seems a great fit. 

It's an exciting concept and the challenges will likely be many. Since ABOIM only board certifies MDs and osteopaths in integrative medicine, none of the other prospective participants in the AIHM fellowship targets will have the lure of boarding to drive them to the fellowship. Will this limit interest?

Tabatha Parker, ND: teaming with Low Dog
In addition, a significant percentage of medical doctors who have participated in the University of Arizona program have financial support for all or part of the $35,000 or so of average total cost from the hospitals or health systems that employ them. Where might the sources be of such grants for acupuncturists or social workers to cover AIHM fellowship costs? Will the same course content that introduces integrative medicine to MDs be attractive to a DC, ND, LAc or nutritionist?

Behind these concerns is a more substantive one. Interprofessional education is defined forcefully as "members of two or more professions learning with, from, and about each other." Can AIHM fulfill on the vision expressed in these media releases if the fellowship's enrollment does not reach into these other integrative practice disciplines?

The fact is that the integrative health and medicine movement field needs more than one significant fellowship to gain respect and durability. The AIHM move is a step in the right direction. Let see how the field responds.

Finally, it is perhaps worth noting that when LeBron arrived in Miami he knew he had a great partner in Dwayne Wade. Together they successfully partnered to lead their teams to two championship rings. Low Dog has such a great new colleague in AIHM director of education, Tabatha Parker, ND. Each has oodles of chutzpah. Together they can model interprofessional teamwork. As a strong proponent of the disruptive influence of deeply respectful team care on all of medicine, I wish Low Dog, Parker and AIHM the best of creative insights on the near-term challenges, and success over the long-run.

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