In July 1999, representatives from eight academic medical institutions convened a historic meeting at the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The working conference was titled: “The Consortium on Integrative Medicine” including representatives from Duke University, Harvard University, Stanford University, University of California, San Francisco, University of Arizona, University of Maryland, University of Massachusetts, and the University of Minnesota. These institutions came together because they:
- Were academic medical centers
- Had significant experience and interest in educational work, clinical care, and research in the field of integrative medicine
- Had high-level support from the leadership of the institution (deans, chancellors) to carry out such work
The original purpose was to expand and further develop the field of integrative medicine. Jon Kabat-Zinn, observing the isolated activities of these few academic institutions and their leaders advancing these ideas, developed the concept of the Academic Consortium on Integrative Medicine. The initial vision espoused by Jon Kabat-Zinn was as follows:
The idea was that the chancellors (or equivalent) of the medical centers where significant efforts in mind/body and integrative medicine were being made would meet on an occasional basis, along with the respective heads of those efforts at their institutions and one other associate of their choosing. The larger purpose of the meetings was to:
- Support the chancellors in their advocacy and support for integrative efforts at their institutions.
- Expand familiarity with the range of programs and orientations emerging at other medical centers, and of the clinical, educational, and research opportunities arising in this rapidly growing field.
- Come to a larger understanding of the importance of this field and how the development of a scientific knowledge base, appropriate clinical expertise, and a complementary, integrative, mind/body perspective can positively influence the medicine of the future.
- Develop an influential, expandable working community of awareness, based on first-hand experience of the principles and practices of mindfulness. This community can contribute to the articulation of a new paradigm for medicine, one that truly integrates, on all levels, the best of allopathic, mind/body, complementary, and non-traditional approaches to health and illness, and to the development of the field as other medical centers seek to develop this work at their own institutions.
- Establish, through dialogue and inquiry among the participants, the true mission, objectives, and scope for the Consortium if the concept continues to have merit after an initial meeting.
We became, as a group, strongly committed to moving the vision of integrative medicine forward through a process that is integrative and mindful in its approach, deepening not only our understanding of this approach to healthcare, but also recognizing that our experience of it is essential. This will remain a core value of the Consortium.
The second meeting was convened at the Miraval retreat center outside of Tucson, Arizona in September of 2000. Representatives from Albert Einstein/Yeshiva University, Georgetown University and Thomas Jefferson University now joined the original eight institutions. These institutions were selected based on the nature of the initiatives underway at those institutions, and the level of support for them within the academic administration. The group decided at that meeting to formally change the name to The Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. The Philanthropic Collaborative for Integrative Medicine (PCIM) was also in attendance at the September 2000 meeting. The PCIM decided to support the efforts of the Consortium as well as an education curriculum grant for the Education Working Group.
The third meeting also took place at the Miraval retreat center, in January 2002. This meeting focused on establishing the formalities and logistics of the organization. Progress was made in creating by-laws and how best to institute a governing structure for the Consortium.
Brian Berman of the University of Maryland was elected chair of the Steering Committee which is a three-year position. He selected Aviad Haramati of Georgetown University to serve with him as the vice chairman of the Consortium. Formation of sub-committees evolved: Steering and Membership, along with three working groups: Clinical Care, Education, and Research.
- The Steering Committee is currently represented by one member from each institution. All publications and projects produced by the Consortium are subject to approval by the Steering Committee.
- A Membership Committee was also established to develop a set of criteria and processes for accepting new members into the Consortium.
- Working groups were established to further develop and expand the field of integrative medicine focusing in Clinical care, Education, and Research. The Policy Committee of the Consortium was formed January 2005 to develop a Consortium public policy agenda at a federal level. Each member institution is encouraged to select a representative for each working group.
Since the January 2002 meeting, the Consortium has experienced exponential growth. Our membership has climbed from 11 to 55 institutional members throughout North America. The working groups have met on a monthly basis to advance medical school curricula, establish standards for research in integrative medicine, and integrate alternative treatments into clinical care.