This spring, hundreds of integrative physicians, CAM professionals, and consumers will gather in Minneapolis for five days of education, interconnection, and fun. This historic conference, to be held April 6 to 10 in Minneapolis, is called iMosaic. That stands for "Integrative Medicine Offering Science-based Alternatives In Collaboration." The name is particularly appropriate because the meeting will indeed be a mosaic, based on the visions and skills of four different organizations:
- American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM)
- American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM)
- American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA)
- International College of Integrative Medicine (ICIM)
"This is a unique event," says Richard Linchitz, MD, vice-chair of the Integrative Medicine Consortium (IMC), sponsor of the conference. "Historically these organizations have operated independently. Each has its own character, and brings something special to the table. Now these organizations are coming together, each one interested in hearing what the others have to say. In the past you'd have to go to several meetings a year to be exposed to so many different flavors."
The IMC is an association of respected national organizations with the common mission of advancing the field of integrative medicine. IMC grew out of an informal conversation about four years ago, between Kenneth A. Bock, MD (at that time the president of ACAM), and Gerald D. Natzke, DO (at that time the president of AAEM). "We felt there was significant overlap in organizational needs. Quite a few people belong to both groups," Bock recalls. "Often we'd have two separate conferences scheduled within a short time frame, and that posed a problem for physicians who wanted to attend them both, but had to make a choice!"
At present, Natzke is the IMC chair and Bock the vice-chair (but they function as a team).
"We realized we'd both been thinking about the need for an institution to support integrative medicine practitioners," Natzke says. "We started calling presidents of other organizations, and they were similarly excited about the idea."
Four organizations are collaborating to produce iMosaic. Several other organizations are IMC members, but for reasons such as scheduling conflicts will not participate formally in April's conference. "In future years we expect that additional organizations will participate," Natzke comments. Meanwhile the volunteers who are working together now to create iMosaic are already experiencing an exciting collaboration. "This will lead to a synergy of functions between the organizations in the future," he says.
Over the past four years, IMC has been working in several ways to support integrative medicine. A legal team in sympathy with IMC goals has donated substantial pro bono work to the organization, getting it established on a firm footing. IMC now has malpractice insurance and administrative insurance available, specially designed to meet the needs of integrative medicine physicians. The organization is also working toward recognized board certification in integrative medicine, Linchitz says. "If these efforts are successful, integrative physicians would have access to true peer review. Basically, we'd have a lot more protection."
Conference Program Features Wide Range of Integrative Approaches
"iMosaic brings together groups that share similar philosophies," Natzke says. "Holding a joint conference reduces costs, increases efficiency, and will create a fertile environment with a rich mix of information. iMosaic will lead to improved cooperation and communication among these groups, which makes integrative medicine stronger."
As we go to press, scheduled speakers include Alan Gaby, MD, on nutritional medicine, James Roberts, MD, on advances in integrative cardiology, and Robert Hadeya, MD, on integrative psychiatry. Michael Murray, ND, Tieraona Low Dog, MD, and Joseph Brewer, MD, are also scheduled speakers, and additional speakers will be confirmed in the coming months. The conference will include more than 30 breakout sessions on specific topics, so check the iMosaic website for the latest details.
On Wednesday and Thursday, iMosaic offers "lead-in workshops" on a wide range of important topics. AHMA is offering a one-day workshop called "Anxiety & Depression: Expanding Your Holistic/Integrative Toolbox," which will cover nonpharmaceutical treatment alternatives and the need for collaboration between practitioners (such as family physician with psychologist/with acupuncturist/with massage therapist.) AAEM will present two-day preconference workshops on environmental medicine and IV nutrition therapy, and on diagnosis and treatment of inhalant allergies. Additional workshop topics include food sensitivities, heavy metal toxicology, women's health and the environment, and oxidative medicine. Many of the workshops offer continuing medical education (CME) credits.
"While there is overlap in our memberships and historic education offerings, each organization brings a unique perspective to the event," says Eleanor Hynote, president and CEO of ACAM. "The collective force that combining four leading groups in the industry will yield is certainly monumental. Attendees will be able to receive diverse options and approaches that can be integrated into individualized patient care."
Conference Attracts Practitioners and Consumers
Integrative physicians will make up a substantial proportion of those attending the meeting, and nurse practitioners, naturopathic physicians, chiropractors, physician assistants, and acupuncturists are also expected to attend. "Although many of those involved in the IMC leadership are MDs or DOs, we have great respect for naturopaths, especially the recently trained naturopathic physicians coming out of the respected schools," comments Bock. "We hope many CAM professionals will attend."
In addition, laypeople with a special interest in alternative therapies would be very welcome.
"People who're struggling with chronic illnesses sometimes feel a sense of overwhelm, especially when no one will listen to them for more than five minutes," says J. David Forbes, MD, president of AHMA. "There's a heartening and hopeful energy at these meetings, when you get a sense there is something different that can be done." Absorbing this new information can be a very powerful experience, he comments, even when a layperson may not catch all the details. "And of course, a great deal of the material, on subjects such as nutrition and lifestyle changes, is quite accessible to the layperson"
Various organizations are responsible for different aspects of the conference, and AHMA is responsible for the big gala scheduled for Saturday. "This is part of our tradition," Forbes says. "We've prided ourselves on AHMA's Saturday night parties for 30 years now. We bring in a rock band and everything needed for a gala evening. Almost every year someone from the band says, ‘We've sure never seen a group of doctors dance like this before.'"
iMosaic Conference: www.imosaicconference.com
American College for the Advancement of Medicine: www.acam.org
International College for Integrative Medicine: www.icimed.com
American Holistic Medical Association: www.holisticmedicine.org
American Academy of Environmental Medicine: www.aaemonline.org
Elaine Zablocki has been a freelance health-care journalist for more than 20 years. She was the editor of Alternative Medicine Business News and CHRF News Files. She writes regularly for many health-care publications.