Coming Together For Patient-Centered Care

Guest post by Valerie A. Kremer, CNHP, 2nd year, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

Integrative medicine practitioners from around the world came together to discuss patient-centered care, current research in mind-body medicine, education, and policy at the International Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health (ICIMH), May 8–11, held in Baltimore, MD. The 5th biennial Congress brought together 1200 attendees, representing over 150 academic institutions and organizations from 28 countries. I was honored to be able to represent the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and Canada, made possible by the Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA) Public Policy Fellowship.

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski kicked off the Congress with an inspiring speech that helped to set the tone for the rest of the four-day conference. From a public policy standpoint, she said that representatives from agriculture, housing, and business need to be invited to the table since they are part of the healthcare conversation and are sometimes left out. She said that we can enact change in our communities and government because we are “compassionate, credentialed, and convincing.” She also remarked that the greatest way to enact change for the future of our profession is through young people. Our young people are, after all, the future of naturopathic medicine! She closed with the importance of finding meaning and purpose in what we do. “You cannot burn out because you need to keep the flame going. Go back to your purpose and meaning,” she said. During the conference, many of the presenters echoed Sen. Mikulski’s words and sentiments during their presentations.

Being a naturopathic medical student among the world’s top researchers, healthcare practitioners, educators, and policy advocates, was an incredible life-changing experience. There were so many discussions during the ICIMH that made an impact on me. Some notable ones were: the incredible research in mind-body medicine and the gut microbiome from top institutions that mirror what we learn in naturopathic medical school; the whole health model of care from the Veteran’s Administration; the role of fascia and how to work with it to help patients in physical medicine; how to use a business case to increase profits; and how yoga and tai chi are being shown to reduce inflammatory markers.

The small group sessions of the conference truly embodied the work of integrative medicine. I was able to work on a team of other healthcare professionals to problem-solve difficult business cases that addressed stakeholders such as insurance companies, hospitals, and healthcare systems. It was truly incredible to see each practitioner’s experience guide their decision-making process and to be a part of a team that created effective solutions for patient-centered care.

Being able to connect face-to-face with open-minded integrative health care practitioners around the globe was an invaluable experience. I am grateful for connections not only with integrative medicine practitioners and researchers, but also the other student leaders who are shaping the future of research and representing their institutions and professions. I am truly inspired and can’t wait to continue these conversations with the people I met to create the best care possible for patients. I can’t recommend this Congress enough to students.


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