Acupuncture, massage, nutritional counseling — it might seem unconventional to encounter these topics on a visit to the doctor’s office. But they’re methods often employed in integrative medicine, where practitioners acknowledge a person’s emotional, spiritual, cultural and social needs and influences.

“In conventional medicine, we refer to and partner with other specialists, so we’re already approaching our practice holistically,” says Iman Majd, M.D., L.Ac., UW clinical professor in family medicine. “Integrative medicine expands the modalities we use to provide a more comprehensive approach to patient health, while recognizing the patient as a whole person.”

With a $5.5 million grant from the San Francisco-based Bernard Osher Foundation, UW Medicine is strengthening its work in integrative medicine.

Transforming the Model
“We are delighted to have the University of Washington join the Osher Collaborative for Integrative Medicine,” notes Mary G. F. Bitterman, president of The Bernard Osher Foundation. “We believe that the organization’s service to five states and its particularly strong programs in palliative care and rural medicine will provide a valuable complement to the offerings of the six existing Osher Centers.”

Existing Osher integrative medicine sites include programs based at UCSF, Harvard/Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and the University of Miami. According to UW Medicine faculty member Lucille R. Marchand, M.D., BSN, FAAHPM, the center’s inaugural executive director, it’s a highly regarded collaborative, one she’s excited to join.

“With the foundation’s support, we can use integrative medicine to partner with others in UW Medicine to transform our healthcare system — promoting wellness, and relying less on drugs and more on healing and non-pharmacologic interventions to promote health,” says Marchand, the Stuart J. Farber, M.D., and Annalu Farber Endowed Professor in Palliative Care Education.

By design, the Osher Center will be part of UW Medicine’s top-ranked Department of Family Medicine. Family medicine practitioners see patients of all ages who suffer from all sorts of health concerns, providing a broad canvas for integrative medicine to make a difference in people’s lives.

“We are honored and proud of this new association with the Bernard Osher Foundation,” says Paul A. James, M.D., the department’s chair. “This gift will support training and research undertaken by our faculty across a five-state region, helping improve patient care through integrative medicine.”

Under the auspices of the Osher Center, faculty intend to help professionals understand the benefits of integrative medicine and learn how to incorporate it into conventional medicine. It’s an endeavor that will encompass people from different disciplines at the University of Washington: students, nurses, doctors, social workers and other health professionals. It will involve training and research. It will also involve some give-and-take.

“We need to learn what is going to be valuable to our community,” adds Marchand. “Not just our patient population, but our health practitioner community.”

The Convert
Most people experience back pain at some point in their lives, and Iman Majd is no exception; in fact, he had chronic back pain for years. After a few sessions of acupuncture, however, his pain level decreased significantly, and he grew interested in how this integrative medicine technique might help his patients.

Majd promptly pursued a master’s degree in acupuncture from Bastyr University and later began using this modality in his family medicine practice.

“You could say that integrative medicine is a different lens in patient care. It’s about adding more tools to a doctor’s toolbox, not replacing conventional medicine,” says Majd.

“The model we have now is more of the fixing model: if something is broken, doctors try to fix it,” he continues. “The integrative approach is more of a prevention and wellness model. We talk about nutrition, we do labs. We complement conventional medicine by adding something to it — and thus adding to the patient’s well-being.”

Active Healthcare
Although conventional medicine has been slow to accept integrative medicine practices, both Marchand and Majd say the demand from patients has been consistently strong. “People really trust UW Medicine, and they would like to see these services offered here,” says Majd.

With the help of The Bernard Osher Foundation, UW Medicine will start to meet the demand. This summer, the Osher Center’s direct service site will come online: the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine Clinic, directed by Majd, opens at the UW Neighborhood Ballard Clinic in Seattle.

The clinic will offer acupuncture and integrative medicine consultation in conjunction with its family medicine practice, and it’s a harbinger of things to come: bringing integrative medicine even more fully into the UW Medicine system. Majd and Marchand are looking forward to what they and their patients will learn, together.

“When you have patients empowered and contributing to their own wellness, that’s much more active healthcare — and a lot more patient-centered,” says Marchand.

About the Oshers
With this grant for integrative medicine from The Bernard Osher Foundation, Bernard and Barbro Osher’s support for the UW has surpassed the $10 million mark, making them Presidential Laureates. In addition to their newest gift, the Oshers have provided funding for the UW’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, for the Department of Scandinavian Studies, and for scholarships for students returning to college after a gap in their education.