The Pebble in the Pond: How Integrative Leadership Can Bring About Transformation

By Taylor Walsh

pebble in the Pond

h5. The ascent of integrative health is advancing quickly. The hit-or-miss presence of yoga or massage that might be found in a hospital during the last 15 years has evolved into what looks like transformative, existential investments by serious centers of American healthcare.

[FON thanks the Bravewell Collaborative for the rights to distribute “The Pebble in the Pond: How Integrative Leadership Can Bring About Transformation.” Access the 44-page paper.]

When the Cleveland Clinic follows its addition of Chinese herbal therapies in the spring of the year to the formation of a Center for Functional Medicine in the autumn, the transformation to whole-person healthcare has taken on a new dimension. And a new pace.

Will other healthcare systems follow? It is hard to imagine they will not, which will raise a persistent question: How is this transformative process to be managed?

The innovative leadership of Cleveland Clinic’s CEO Toby Cosgrove, the deep commitment to integrative health at the Allina Health System in Minnesota, and the customer-driven dictates of Gerard Van Grinsven when he ran the West Bloomfield Hospital in the Henry Ford System suggest that far more will be asked of health system managers than weekend seminars about integrative medicine for staff MDs.

This is one reason Duke University, home of Duke Integrative Medicine, which has long been a leader in clinical and research programs in integrative medicine, has just released “The Pebble in the Pond: How Integrative Leadership Can Bring About Transformation.” This 44-page paper accompanies the formation of the Program in Integrative Health Leadership at Duke University that begins in 2015.

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At the heart of the program and this paper is the conviction that to lead the American health system through the transformation to a new healthcare culture will require “Integrative Leaders.”

“Those working within integrative Healthcare,” the paper says, “share the goal of bringing about a sustained transformation in the way people care for themselves and are cared for by others.”

The “pebble” in this process is “informed mindfulness,” the central concept (and personal commitment) in a program that is organized to blend principles of modern business leadership philosophy with the qualities of mindfulness: from thorough personal self–awareness and self-discovery; to relationships; to group dynamics; to the formation of effective alliances, and to sustaining the transformation necessary to elevate integrative healthcare to a primary position in U.S. health.

“A unique aspect of Integrative Healthcare,” the paper says, “is that the unifying mission for all its leaders no matter what organization they are in is the transformation of healthcare.”

In historical terms, such unity has been an elusive goal among the professional, academic and research enterprises whose work has shaped integrative medicine and health in the last 20-plus years. Many leaders in integrative practice will be heartened to see that breaking the silos and the natural drift toward “my tribe versus yours,” as the paper puts it, should be an inherent quality of integrative leadership.

Other initiatives that anticipate new commitments to integrative health are being organized to provide similar education and collaborative practice opportunities. The Center for Optimal Integration has roots in the professional disciplines of complementary and alternative medicine that are central to all integrative health programs, at Duke and elsewhere.

The Integrative Leadership program at Duke is funded in part by the Bravewell Collaborative, a group of philanthropists that have been a major player in creating clinically appropriate positions for integrative medicine: in academic health centers, through integrative clinics that are part of the Bravewell Clinical Network and through public outreach, including the national Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public in 2009.

The Integrative Leadership program is one of Bravewell’s final contributions to the advancement of integration, which it has championed since 2002. The organization is sunsetting in 2015.

[“The Pebble in the Pond: How Integrative Leadership Can Bring About Transformation.” Access the 44-page paper.]

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Taylor Walsh Author: Taylor Walsh

Taylor is principal at Integrative Health Strategies in Washington, DC. He is a writer and strategic advisor to the integrative health industry. He writes for The Integrator Blog and the Altarum Institute's Health Policy Forum, and partnered with FON on "The Rise of Integrative Heath & Medicine, The Milestones: 1963 – Present." Clients include The Institute of Integrative Health, Baltimore, MD, the Samueli Institute, Alexandria, VA, and the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC), for whom he conceived CoverMyCare.org, a reimbursement advocacy project.

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