In the last 15 years, the changes upon the medical landscape have been remarkable to watch…innovation in diagnostic assessment…the advent of new and improved surgical techniques….the arrival of allied health practitioners to deliver primary care….studies disproving long-held beliefs about HRT and women’s health….the dissemination of medical information over the internet, and now through social media.

The list is long. For me, though, the most exciting change has occurred in the area of Integrative Medicine.The combined delivery of mainstream/conventional AND complementary/alternative health care, through the collaboration of ND’s and MD’s for example, has been precisely what THE PATIENT has ordered.  In 1998, the sign on my newly acquired building was hung – it said “Integrative Family Medicine”, and still does.

It was after continuing education in homeopathy and nutrition that I felt confident enough to adopt the term “Integrative Medicine” doctor, first coined by Dr. Andrew Weil. While not a popular moniker then, it certainly is now, especially with mainstream television catching on through airplay given to personalities like Dr. Oz. While I’ve had to be less active providing primary care, the service of improving patient outcomes, while still practicing the standard of care in Ontario, though not easy, has definitely been rewarding.

The outcomes have improved due to the combined approach, empowering patients with knowledge about (and support of) therapeutic lifestyle change, the value of nutrients in treatment, and the philosophies of alternative medical systems.  In turn, the application of techniques not learned in my valued time at Universities of Toronto and Ottawa, but in the years to follow, has made a significant difference in the lives of so many.

For that, I am very grateful.  Back then, I had to piece together my education, through the likes of Weil, Jeff Bland, Jeremy Sherr, the ACAM conferences, multiple courses, many textbooks, following the works of Hoffer, of Pauling, of McCully, of Hahnemann…. and so many other related but disjointed avenues that I managed to pull together.  For my many teachers, a large measure of appreciation is felt.

Today, the landscape for education is thankfully markedly different – such that MD’s and other practitioners foraying into the field of Integrative Medicine (IM) have many organized programs to choose from.  This aspect, the opportunities to learn IM, is a pleasure to bear witness to in 2011.  Another source of excitement is the plethora of research supporting the many facets of IM.

Vitamin D research, chelation research funded by the NIH and near completion, studies on botanicals, homeopathics, Omega 3 fish oils, other individual nutrients, biomedical treatments for autism, cancer care, mental health, probiotics, environmental causation….it is collectively a burgeoning field that can only advance both the practice of IM, as its practitioners are more consistently guided by the scientific method, and its spread and further acceptance.

And yet, resting on one’s laurels, for me 15 plus years after entering the foray, is simply not an option.  IM has come a long way, as has medicine in general, but there is still a lot to learn, much to study and research, so much disease to eradicate, and a tremendous amount to prevent. IM is needed now more than ever.  So, my first ever blog is dedicated to the pioneers of Integrative Medicine.  I can only watch, and participate, with promise and anticipation over what the next 15 years might bring.