If you think hospitals that combine the best of integrative, holistic medicine with mainstream therapies and state-of-the-art medical technology are a thing of the future, think again. The future is now, at least in progressive pockets scattered throughout the country. For a peek at what’s possible, a quick tour of three Denver-area hospitals gives a taste of what medicine can become.
Longmont United: Public Demand
This Colorado holistic center grew directly from public demand. More than eight years ago, Michelle Bowman, a board-certified geriatric nurse employed by Longmont United Hospital, ran the hospital’s Prestige Plus Program, a preventive health club for Longmont seniors. Wanting to learn more ways to nurture their health and prevent illness, the club’s seniors raised money to send Bowman to China to gather information about integrative health approaches.
When she returned in 1996 Bowman sought and received support and funding from the hospital and developed a clinic where practitioners of reflexology, herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage and other healing traditions now provide treatment. Currently program manager of the Health Center of Integrated Therapies, Bowman and the other practitioners are now employed by the hospital, and the center has five non-paid physician advisers.
Longmont United Hospital is a member of the Planetree organization, which promotes the idea of treating people in a way that acknowledges body, mind and spirit and creates a physical environment conducive to healing. Most clients at the Health Center of Integrated Therapies schedule appointments seeking a particular modality, though Bowman and other acupuncturists on staff also counsel clients on possible treatments and other practices available at the clinic.
Linda Whitedove, an acupuncturist and the clinic’s herbalist, does herbal consultations each Friday on an outpatient basis and occasionally with patients in the hospital. Whitedove’s thorough intake evaluation focuses primarily on diet, lifestyle and any herbs the client uses. She makes recommendations, then does a follow-up session in two to six weeks and ongoing sessions for as long as needed. Whitedove also refers patients to other practitioners at the clinic and to yoga classes, which patients can take at the hospital.
Another important part of her job is to speak about herbal medicine at the hospital, in the community and for groups such as diabetes and cancer organizations. Nurses, physicians, other health practitioners and interested people from the community attend these talks.
Whitedove and her colleagues receive physician referrals and provide information to physicians on many topics, including herbs to use or avoid before surgery, herb/drug and herb/herb interactions, and contraindications of herbal supplements. Whitedove works closely with several physicians in integrating herbal and drug therapies for patients. “We all need to work with each other — physicians, acupuncturists, herbalists. It is what they do in China, and it seems to work well,” she says.
McKee Medical: Community Support
The McKee Center for Holistic Medicine opened in May 2001 as part of the McKee Medical Center in Loveland. It was developed after a community survey of Loveland residents found strong interest and support for a holistic clinic. Medical Director Scott Shannon oversees clinical aspects of the center, and Clinic Manager Ivette Bledsoe manages day-to-day operations.
McKee shares a philosophy similar to Planetree’s — a patient-centered method that provides a pleasant environment to promote healing. The approach is to be customer-service oriented and provide patients sufficient information to make decisions about their treatment. The holistic center employs acupuncturists, physicians, a Reiki practitioner, massage therapists and an herbalist.
Melanie Keech, a certified nutritionist and herbalist who provides herbal and nutritional consultations at the center, currently has three different roles there: part-time holistic health counselor; retail coordinator for a small store supplying herbs, supplements, books and yoga props; and studio coordinator (for yoga, tai chi and other movement classes).
As a health counselor, Keech employs supplements and herbs to correct imbalances or weaknesses, to build clients up and help them get back on track. She provides guidance on lifestyle issues such as stress, eating habits and exercise, and sometimes refers clients to personal trainers, to particular classes or to other practitioners.
Keech usually sees clients at least three times, first doing an assessment, then a second meeting to develop a plan of action, and a third time for follow up. Recently, Keech began providing 20-minute health consultations for people interested in holistic medicine. Keech found that many patients didn’t know what holistic treatments to pursue for their ailments. To meet this need, she provides short appointments to discuss quality of supplements, provide assessments on health issues and to make referrals to other practitioners at the center.
Keech acts as a liaison with the main hospital, and she has participated with other clinic members to provide continuing education programs for hospital departments, physicians and the community on subjects such as holistic approaches to cancer. As physicians learn more about the clinic’s offerings, she says, more are referring their patients.
University of Colorado Hospital: Comprehensive Care
The University of Colorado Hospital in Denver established the Center for Integrative Medicine in March 2001, when administrator Venus Mann-Aguilar was hired. The center saw its first patients in January 2002. Medical Director Lisa Corbin assisted Mann-Aguilar and the campus-wide steering committee in creating the center when hospital staff recognized a need to help clients address their health needs in a comprehensive way. The center employs the services of a wide range of health practitioners, including acupuncturists, Chinese herbalists, massage therapists, biofeedback practitioners, therapists, a spiritual counselor and a clinical pharmacist/herbal consultant. When a patient visits the center (which gets approximately 300 patients each month), they first see Corbin, who creates a health plan with recommendations for which practitioner to see. They may also directly access services they wish to use.
Susan Paulsen, associate professor in the School of Pharmacy and an herbalist, sees patients one day a week as a clinical pharmacist/herbal consultant. She helps some people create and implement plans to meet their health goals and assists other clients with chronic conditions to learn which medications do and don’t work for them. Most patients come for one visit, in which they bring in their prescriptions and supplements, discuss their health goals with Paulsen and decide on a treatment approach.
Paulsen counsels her clients on exercise and diet as well as other lifestyle issues. She makes recommendations for herbs and discusses vitamins, minerals and nutritional supplements. “I find that a large part of my job is to support them in their goals for self care,” Paulsen says. “They need to integrate their care and have some control. They need health-care professionals to support this need to see their lives as a whole and not just as a disease state.”
Clinic staff and practitioners meet twice a month to discuss patient cases, and patients’ primary care physicians are invited to attend, Paulsen says. Together they create comprehensive plans for patients. “The other great part of this clinic is that it is part of the university system,” she notes. “It’s connected to their specialty physicians, and the primary care physicians can read about what the clinic is doing [in the patients’ charts]. There is no hidden agenda, no divisiveness.”
This interaction between clinic practitioners and hospital physicians is a vital part of all three clinics. “It shows the progressiveness of a hospital to be willing to support a clinic like ours, and it gives us legitimacy,” says Keech. Like Whitedove and Paulsen, she sees great promise in bridging the gap between the different treatment approaches.
These Colorado hospitals don’t have to be an exception to the norm. Because these centers were created as a result of patient demand, we should remember that our requests can be powerful. With enough community support, holistic hospitals may become the new standard of care, which would be greatly beneficial to individuals, health-care providers and communities. 8
Lynda McCullough is a freelance writer and yoga teacher living in Loveland, Colorado.
Herbal Events of Interest
SAN FRANCISCO. November 3 – 5. Co-op America’s annual Green Business Conference will provide topical workshops and structured networking sessions led by insightful experts, helping participants to build their own green business communities. Contact Co-op America, 1612 K St. NW, Ste. 600, Washington, DC 20006; (800) 584-7336; www.coopamerica.biz.
Austin, TEXAS. November 5 – 7. The Herb Bar will present “Essential SPA Skills with Jeanne Rose.” Learn the ancient art of SPA (Salve per Aqua, or “Health through Waters”) and Skin Care using hydrosols, herbal waters, aromatics and herbs. Structured for SPA professionals, nurses, massage therapists and skin-care specialists. Contact The Herb Bar, 200 W. Mary, Austin, TX 78704; (512) 444-6251; www.theherbbar.com.
Richardson, TEXAS. November 16 – 17. Functional Foods for the Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Diseases. Learn about the cutting-edge research in bio-medical sciences to develop and commercialize functional foods for the prevention of cardiovascular disorders. Contact Functional Foods Center, 580 W. Arapaho Rd. #130, Richardson, TX 75080; (469) 441-8272; www.functionalfoodscenter.net.
NEW YORK CITY. November 17 – 19. Society for Integrative Oncology’s 1st International Conference will feature scientific data on complementary therapies and botanicals. CME credits available. Contact Society for Integrative Oncology, 19 Mantua Rd., Mt. Royal, NJ 08061; (856) 423-7222; www.integrativeonc.com.
Brookville, PENNSYLVANIA. November 29. Make soap from scratch at Quiet Creek Herb Farm’s Herbal Soap Making class. Learn how to mold, cut, scent and color soap. Take home three bars. Cost is $25. Contact Quiet Creek Herb Farm & School of Country Living, RD #4, Box 302-A1, Brookville, PA 15825; (814) 849-9662; www.quiet creekherbfarm.com.
Tampa, FLORIDA. November 29 – December 4. Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP). Functional medicine assesses and treats underlying causes of illness through individually tailored therapies to restore health and improve function. Learn the techniques and take home the clinical tools that will make functional medicine a reality in your practice. Contact The Institute for Functional Medicine, 4411 Pt. Fosdick Dr. NW, Ste. 305, P.O. Box 1697, Gig Harbor, WA 98335; (800) 228-0622; www.functionalmedicine.org.
DECEMBER Boulder, COLORADO. December 4. Holiday Gift Making Class with Brigitte and Sunflower Mars. Learn to make simple, beautiful, natural, herbal, healing, aromatic, inexpensive and useful gifts for your loved ones! 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Includes handouts with recipes and samples of gifts you’ll create. Cost is $55. Contact Brigitte Mars, 1919 D 19th St., Boulder, CO 80302; (303) 442-4967; www.brigittemars.com.
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