What is now called Integrative Health or Integrative Medicine, and what was formerly called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), refers to evidence-based complementary therapies such as acupuncture, meditation and massage that are integrated within allopathic medicine practices and emphasize patient-centered care for prevention, early intervention and health maintenance. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health defines Integrative Health as “combining mainstream medical therapies with complementary health approaches and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine but for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness”.

While there have been many forces advancing Integrative Health within the US, the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health, founded in 1999 has in particular helped advance the principles and practices of integrative medicine and health within academic institutions and health systems. The consortium, which seeks to ‘advance integrative medicine and health through academic institution and health systems’, currently has approximately 60 esteemed academic medical centers and affiliate institution members, including our clinical partner, UCSD’s Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM), which was founded in August 2011. More broadly, compared to traditional allopathic medicine, Integrative Health can be considered a more healing-oriented medicine, one that considers the “whole person” – body, mind, and spirit – emphasizing the innate healing potential of every individual in the context of a therapeutic relationship with the healthcare provider.

The Center serves as a hub of Integrative Health research excellence at UCSD. There is a fairly long history of UCSD and the VA San Diego Healthcare System faculty conducting research in topic areas relevant to Integrative Health. In the early 1990s, through a donation to the UCSD School of Medicine, funds were made available that launched an initial wave of research on integrative modalities. Currently, there are more than a dozen UCSD faculty conducting integrative research. Since its founding, the UCSD CIM, under the direction of Rusty Kallenberg, MD, has offered integrative therapies to hundreds of patients within the Family Medicine and Public Health outpatient medical clinics. In May 2015, these services also expanded to UC San Diego Health inpatient services. The growth of the more clinically-oriented CIM, and the increasing recognition of the need for more organized and centralized research support, led to the formation of the Center. The aim of the Center is to promote rigorous scientific research on treatments that address multiple components of patient’s health and wellness — physiological, psychological, social and spiritual. Our objective is to determine not only if treatments are effective, but also the mechanisms through which they work. The goal of the Center is to advance the investigation of Integrative Health approaches and the integration of effective approaches in health care.

The Center also serves as an institutional hub of Integrative Health research excellence for the San Diego Region. There are currently numerous local institutions providing integrative modalities in clinical settings, including Naval Medical Center San Diego, Camp Pendleton, Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, and the Pearl Integrative Health Center. The Center has formed research collaborations with many of these institutions, and one of our goals is to provide research training and expertise that may be needed to further advance research at these institutions.