On Organizational Direction- Working with Others
What kind of organization is the AHMA? Where has it come from, and where is it going? What approach do we as a holistic medicine organization take in our effort to transform healthcare into a sustainable, holistic / integrative model focused on wellness and prevention? There are two potential positions we could take and they both have a legitimate place in the greater scheme of things. However, the AHMA is better suited to take one path over the other.
One direction is as the activist, the group that fights the good fight and pushes for the rights of holistic medicine practitioners through agitating for change. I am aware that a number of our members gravitate toward this view and it has a legitimate place on the wheel of change. This is the Occupy Wall Street method for which I have great respect. The medical establishment has clearly been rough on some practitioners, and many no longer have patience or faith in the possibility of finding common ground with those in allopathic medicine. Although we in the AHMA leadership see the value and place for this, the AHMA is not this type of organization. It's not that we don't understand its usefulness but just that it is not our path in the world.
The other direction is one of collaboration, where we come together not only with each other as members who share a common bond, but also as an organization with other similarly focused organizations to further our cause in a cooperative way. For this, the AHMA is well positioned to lead the charge. Our membership has been passionate about this approach for many years and you can be assured that we have been honoring your wish to bring more heart and fellowship into this profession of ours.
In addition to the Heal the Healer retreats that we have been creating throughout the country for our members to do their own internal exploration and healing, we are also focusing our attention on how all of us in the holistic/integrative medicine community can all play and work together more harmoniously. The AHMA is proud to be an organizational member of the Integrative Medicine Consortium (IMC), a group of integrative and holistic medical membership organizations. We continue to look for ways to collaborate and work together, to develop relationships not only with fellow IMC member organizations but with other groups such as the Bravewell Collaborative and the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (CAHCIM). We all have important and legitimate places and purposes, and we all benefit from finding common ground.
We encourage and nurture relationships with fellow practitioners wherever we may find them, among our own membership or among the membership of our fellow travelers. Together we strive to find common ground to advance our collective cause.
At the same time, as a membership organization, we recognize the rich texture and widened perspective we develop when we each maintain our own identity. The European Union is a good analogy, in which the members' individual history, culture and language are preserved even as they come together for the purpose of having a louder and more effective voice on the world stage.
At the AHMA, we are also mindful of how we approach our relationship with the allopathic community. These are our medical colleagues and though some have harmed our fellow holistic practitioners, there are many others who are open to talking with us about what we are doing if we are able to come to the conversation without rancor, and rather with proof of our efficacy. We need to get the word out about what we offer to patients and we need our patients to help us spread the word. There are so many holistic and nutritional interventions that just a few years ago were considered to be out of the box but which are now being done by our allopathic colleagues. Many of these doctors have no idea that these practices had their birth in holistic / integrative medicine, but if they did, it might open up the dialogue about what other pearls of wisdom we have to offer.
There are many allopathic physicians who are not satisfied with the status quo and would be intrigued by the possibility of practicing medicine in a more holistic way. We and our colleagues need to act as a repository of resources to help these practitioners find their way to the AHMA or to another beneficial organization that most fits their needs and interests. Even if they stay within the allopathic world, I still want to reach these sympathetic or at least neutral allopathic practitioners because just opening up the dialogue will help to diffuse mistrust.
As we create more allies in the allopathic world, we will find ourselves safer from medical boards and others who push against us. These are the bridges I want the AHMA and our fellow members and friends to build. That’s being integrative.
I also want to "get them while they are young" as medical students or residents, to have them get involved with the AHMA from the start because those new to the field are most yearning for a heart connection with their patients. We support informal mentorships and we are open to building a more formal mentorship program, possibly in alliance with the IMC and CAHCIM.
We want also to be mindful of our actions and the positions we take. For instance, fighting the medical boards will never be the main message we at the AHMA send out to the world about our reason for being, lest we miss out on the potential opportunity to not need to have that fight in the first place.
The world is changing. Holistic and integrative medicine are finding their way into medical schools, hospitals and doctors' offices all over the country. Integrative physicians are testifying before Congress and appearing on talk shows. More of the public understands the value of what we do. We can be on the forefront of this wave if we stay involved and continue to lead. But, if we detach, the wave will pass us by. Connecting is the key and I say that not just for the AHMA but as a general way of being, of doing our part to create a more peaceful and friendly world to live in.
I encourage your feedback and comments. Let me know if this is your vision for the AHMA as well, and more importantly, what small or large actions you can commit to take in order to further this cause.
*Editor's note: This is an adaptation of a letter Dr. Roberts wrote on her vision for the Integrative Medicine Consortium, to which she was voted vice-chair in April. Many of her views for IMC were easily translatable to the AHMA.