The Annual Student Conference for Integrative Medicine (ASCIM) recently took place on the UCLA campus. Attendees learned and explored the concepts behind integrative medicine as a path to health, wellness, and reducing health disparities. The annual conference is a collaboration between the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine and an undergraduate student organization called SIM, the Students for Integrative Medicine. The mission of the conference is to introduce students, medical students, health professionals, and other interested parties to integrative medicine through lectures, panel presentations, and interactive sessions throughout the day. More than 20 noted speakers and panelists gathered to provide insights into the history and current practice of integrative medicine.
The opening keynote address by Dr. Robert Saper set the stage with an insightful talk about the history and trends in integrative medicine and health disparities. Dr. Saper is the founding director of the Program for Integrative Medicine and Health Disparities at Boston Medical Center and Boston University, which brings integrative medicine practices to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. The lecture was followed by a choice between three participatory sessions: tai chi, a guided mindfulness session, and using creativity for self-care. These experiential sessions provided attendees with a real sense of how the practices promote health and wellness. The difficult part was choosing which one to attend!
Breakout sessions explored more aspects of integrative medicine with topics such as acupressure point for oral health, integrative oncology for caregivers, and treating chronic pain associated with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder.) Two informative panel discussions rounded out the afternoon. The first panel discussed the safe and effective use of herbal medicines, and the second panel discussed a variety of approaches to decrease health disparities in community settings, such as the UCLA student-run mobile care clinic that provides medical and social services to homeless and underserved populations in Los Angeles.
Throughout the day, speakers intertwined theory, practice, research, and evidence. Conventional medicine, lifestyle, focus on the patient and the relationship with the health provider all come together in an integrative approach. An overarching theme in each of the sessions is that much of integrative medicine is preventive and health promoting; simple practices can prevent disease. Another theme was the research and evidence that is becoming increasingly available to support these practices. Yoga to prevent back pain, tai chi for strength and balance, functional foods for healthy bodies, and mindful practices for healthy minds are just a few examples. The closing keynote address pulled in all of these concepts with the message that integrative medicine is not elitist; every person deserves to have access to integrative medicine as part of their path to health and wellness.
To learn more about current research on integrative medicine and to find evidence-based consumer resources, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the MedlinePlus topic page on complementary and integrative medicine.