On Holistic History
I take notice when I stumble on something that’s stated just so, as I did with this little gem that appeared on my desk last week:AHMA’s first medical conference was March 19-21, 1978, in Denver. Less than a year old, 212 AHMA members and guests gathered to learn and share, hopefully, with the thought of growing a movement. The paragraph above appeared in that inaugural conference brochure.
Increasingly, physicians are aware of the need for a Holistic approach toward patients. At this time there is a need for an organization, which can unify physicians interested in safe, alternative approaches to drugs and surgery, and in addition which will incorporate the use of all traditional medical therapeutic approaches.
What was going on in 1978?
AHMA was less than a year old. While holistic ideas were nothing new, terminology and language were being invented. The founding members spent a good amount of time discussing spelling. Should holistic be spelled with a W or an H? No one knows how close this organization came to being named the American Wholistic Medical Association.
At the Denver conference, AHMA’s founding president, Norm Shealy, MD, kicked off “Medicine of the ‘Whole Person,’” which covered parts of three days. The keynote was “Growing Holistic Doctors,” by Eugene A. Stead, Jr., MD. Other topics included, “The Process of Holistic Care,” “Dimensions of Wellness: The Holistic Approach” and “Can Holistic Medicine Be Taught In Medical Schools?”
The words whole or holistic appeared in every talk but one.
Much has evolved since that conference and AHMA’s founding. By 1979, a few more AHMA conferences were held, with as many as 530 in attendance in LaCrosse, Wisc. While AHMA continued to evolve and grow, a half dozen or more integrative and holistic medicine organizations sprang forward over the years, and today many that remain are joining forces and working together for the greater good, as evidenced by the fledgling Integrative Medicine Consortium.
As holistic care gets more popular among the masses, the movement’s leading practitioners, too, grow with the times, ever becoming better educated and experienced in how they connect, inform and transform their practices and their patients. To keep up, there are more CME opportunities, webinars, conferences, journal articles and ever better and more accomplished presenters, educators and leaders.
But nothing beats an AHMA conference in terms of who you see and how you connect. (See Molly Roberts’ letter / blog this month.)
While many still think of holistic practitioners as somewhat “out there,” AHMA members are more grounded than given credit for. They remain intensely interested in learning and staying abreast of the latest research or study, just as their intensive medical training prepared them to be. Among us are some of our industry’s well-regarded, world-renowned leaders.
AHMA board member David Riley, MD, successfully launched in March Global Advances in Health and Medicine, an international, peer-reviewed scholarly medical journal. All AHMA members received print and electronic editions last month.
We are proud that AHMA’s next “transformative retreat,” Nov. 2, is developed and led by our friend Daniel Friedland, a holistic doctor and leading writer of one of the first textbooks to use evidence-based medicine to guide physicians in making sound medical decisions. In Danny, there exists a comfortable marriage of evidence-driven determination and decision-making and traditional holistic principles.
David and Danny, AHMA’s talented, all-volunteer board of directors and all AHMA members today stand on the shoulders of Norm and his fellow founding members and early pioneers, Gladys Taylor McGarey, Evarts Loomis, Bill McGarey and Jerry Looney as well as scores who came later.
In 1978 and today, we are reminded that holistic medical principles remain timeless. Nothing much new here.
Optimal health was and is the pursuit of the highest level of functioning and balance of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of human experience, resulting in a dynamic state of well-being regardless of the presence or absence of disease. That’s holistic medicine.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. First said 2,500 years ago, that sentiment, too, is holistic medicine.
What has changed drastically in the last 34 years is money. The 1978 AHMA conference fee was $25 for members and $100 for other physicians. A bargain for a few days of lectures, the fee also included Friday welcome reception, “health break snacks,” Saturday luncheon and a full banquet dinner.
Steve is the Executive Director of the AHMA and comes to the field of integrative holistic medicine from his previous background as a nonprofit administrator and development officer for two environmental-education and natural-history organizations. As Executive Director of Cleveland’s Nature Center at Shaker Lakes he led the nationally recognized center’s efforts in fundraising, board development, community relations and program development