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From the Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients
January 2005

Pathways to Healing
by Elaine Zablocki
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Minnesota Offers Holistic CAM Education

Mary Jo KreitzerMary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, RN, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Minnesota, started out as a pediatric nurse practitioner. "During that period I became aware that the children and parents I saw were using a number of complementary approaches I had learned nothing about in school. They seemed to be very knowledgeable about their own bodies and their health needs, so I became interested in learning more about complementary therapies."

The nursing profession has had a holistic orientation from its very beginning, Kreitzer says. "It was Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, who wrote that the role of the nurse was to help patients attain the best possible condition so that Nature could act and self-healing could occur." Over the past ten years, U. S. nursing programs have begun to reflect more holistic, integrative content. For example, one of the nursing competencies defined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing is the ability to perform a holistic assessment of the individual across their life span, including spiritual, social, cultural, and psychological factors. "Today, nurses are expected to be aware of complementary modalities and their usefulness in promoting health," Kreitzer says.

When she became Director of Nursing Practice and Research at the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinic, Kreitzer discovered even more reasons to learn about complementary methods. "Again, I saw that many hospitalized patients were using these complementary modalities and felt strongly about them. I became interested from a research perspective, and discovered there is a substantial evidence base to support many of these approaches."

Today, Kreitzer serves as the principal investigator on a $1.6 million CAM curriculum grant funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). She is co-principal investigator on a five-year, $2.1 million clinical study, funded by the National Institute for Nursing Research, to look at the benefits of "mindfulness meditation" for solid organ transplant patients, and she's also co-principal investigator for a study of an integrated residential treatment program for women with eating disorders, funded by BlueCross/Blue Shield Minnesota.

Center for Spirituality and Healing
In 1995, Kreitzer founded the university's Center for Spirituality and Healing, which educates health professionals about integrative medicine, conducts research, and helps develop care models that are attentive to body, mind and spirit. It grew out of her efforts to improve patient care at the hospital. "We wanted to do a better job of patient care, and we realized there was a growing interest in complementary approaches. In addition, as Minnesota became more diverse, we needed to look at varying cultural approaches to care." At first, the center focused on informal education and patient care. There was so much interest that Kreitzer approached Frank Cerra, MD, the senior vice president of the academic health center, and suggested a couple of courses on integrative medicine. "He responded, 'this is much bigger than a couple of courses. This is about the transformation of healthcare.' That was how we started out."

Today the Center for Spirituality and Healing has a five-year grant from NCCAM to integrate CAM information into education within the university's Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy. It's also offering a graduate minor in Complementary Therapies and Healing Practices to those studying for a master's or PhD degree in a wide range of subjects. Each semester about 250 students enroll in this program, from disciplines such as sociology, psychology, social work, architecture, counseling, and administration, as well as nursing, medicine, and pharmacy.

About 50 members of the university faculty offer courses in the graduate minor. Linda Halcon, PhD, MPH, BSN, RN, is an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and a faculty member of the Center for Adolescent Nursing. She teaches two courses as part of the graduate minor: "Clinical Aromatherapy" and "Spirituality and Resilience." Karen Lawson, MD, teaches family medicine on the university faculty, directs Integrative Clinical Services at the center, and also offers a course in Shamanism.

An additional 50 community-based faculty participate in research and lectures. For example, Patricia Culliton, MA, LAc, director of the Alternative Medicine Division at Hennepin Faculty Associates, teaches a required introductory course in complementary therapies and healing practices.

Kreitzer found that quite a few students wanted to take the graduate minor, but already had graduate degrees. To meet this need, in fall 2004 the Center started offering a graduate certificate. This permits students to self-design a program to match their own special interests.

In addition, the Center offers continuing education courses, such as a popular weekend or day-long health professional renewal course called the Inner Life of Healers. In 2004, it started a continuing education program to train holistic health coaches. It also offers a variety of online modules for healthcare professionals, including "Spirituality in Healthcare," "Traditional Chinese Medicine," and "Culture, Faith Traditions and Health."

New Website Offers Consumer Information
The Center's latest effort is a website for consumers. "Taking Charge of Your Health," with content written by Kreitzer and other members of the university faculty, will help consumers find reliable, balanced information to improve their health and well-being. It includes modules on ways to find healthcare providers who meet your needs, communicate more effectively with healthcare providers, and find and evaluate health information on the Web. One section explores options in healing, including complementary therapies. There are many references, and a truly wonderful list of links for additional information.

Consumer education is important, says Kreitzer, because so many diseases are related to lifestyle. "Drugs, doctors, and hospitals are not the solution for the growing problems associated with lack of physical activity, poor diet, obesity, smoking, and stress," she says. "Educating consumers is a natural extension of our work, because the changes we're seeing in healthcare go beyond complementary methods of care. Just as much, these changes are shaped by people who want to take personal responsibility for their own health and wellness."

For more information about the Center for Spirituality and Healing, their course offerings, and "Taking Charge of Your Health," visit

Elaine Zablocki is the editor of CHRF News Files, a bimonthly emailed newsletter about the emerging integrative medicine industry, published by the Collaboration for Healthcare Renewal Foundation.



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