Integrative medicine is more than just a trend in Arizona.
Before antibiotics were developed to treat tuberculosis in the 1940s, doctors would send patients to Arizona because it was believed that close proximity to the sun and fresh air would help cure them. “This was a place people came to heal for a long time,” says Dr. Victoria Maizes, executive director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
This restorative tradition has set up Arizona as a hub for integrative medicine – a new and somewhat controversial specialty that combines conventional and alternative treatments to prevent and treat disease. Several local medical practices have embraced the integrative model, including Mayo Clinic, which recently expanded its Integrative Medicine and Health Clinic to Phoenix.
The philosophy of integrative medicine is simple: focus on the whole person. For example, at Mayo Clinic, a breast cancer patient will undergo chemotherapy or a mastectomy, but an array of specialists in nutrition, acupuncture and massage can help ease the side effects of these treatments. Integrative medicine isn’t confined to the clinical setting. Those looking to rejuvenate themselves beyond a standard massage and facial can find luxury wellness resorts in Arizona that advertise natural treatments to boost overall health.
Maizes says Dr. Andrew Weil, who has lived in Tucson since the 1970s, is largely responsible for this movement. The best-selling author serves as the founder and director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. More than 1,200 fellows in integrative medicine have graduated from the comprehensive program, which is open to M.D.s, D.O.s, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. (Top Doctors profilee Dr. Cheri Dersam was part of Weil’s integrative center in Phoenix before it closed.) This month in San Francisco, Weil and Maizes will lead the Integrative Mental Health Conference to educate doctors on incorporating natural approaches in treating depression and other conditions.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the ways we are touched, moved and helped to heal by nature,” Maizes says.