A sneak peek at Leaps into IM

By Freya Moran

The website is elusive about what happens at LEAPS, and I think for good reason.

Not knowing where the next week would go, I boarded a plane for Oceanside, Calif., the Saturday before finals week. LEAPS was to begin the following day at 4 p.m., and thanks to the Facebook page, I’d made plans to meet up with a student from Texas in Los Angeles and travel together from there. One missed train and a $300 taxi ride later, we arrived in Oceanside at the Old Mission in San Louis Rey at 9 p.m.

The next day, I opened my window to the most beautiful rose gardens and stone archways. The Old Mission is one of the oldest Franciscan monasteries in the country. The grounds have been used to host meditation seminars, rehabilitation programs and weddings, so to say it was one of the calmest, most relaxing places I’ve ever been would be an understatement.

By the time 4 p.m. rolled around, most of the students had already met one another, but our formal introductions took place in the dining hall. There we were sorted into groups of about five or six, introduced to the doctor who would be our mentor and given our first assignment in mindful meal preparation. We were given a book of diet-conscious recipes and each group was responsible for preparing one element of the dinner for our roughly 45-person group. A nutritional specialist coached us on the importance of presence and mindfulness in preparing a meal, as well as eating it. For the first time I had an actual workshop using what I’d learned about clinical nutrition and it gave me real, practical insight in what I would tell my patient with diabetes or hypertension to change their lifestyle.

The mornings at the monastery are spent in total silence until 9 a.m. There’s also no Internet, and cell phone use is restricted to two, one-hour blocks in the afternoon and evening. If the thought of this gives you anxiety, you’re in good company – but by the end of the week, the silence had become welcome and background noise became an insult to the mindfulness of the moment. Every day began with some kind of activity: tai chi, yoga, meditation, journaling and more, which was followed by breakfast provided by the monastery. The bulk of the morning workshops focused on some form of medicine. A speaker or group would come in to lead a short lecture and discussion about their specialty and the rest of the time was spent exploring the technique. Each speaker relayed the evidence and research supporting the use of their technique in practice and how it could be practically applied as an integrative approach. My personal favorite was the acupuncture workshop because, up to that point, I’d never been to an acupuncturist let alone read the literature on it. The speaker graciously used me as her workshop demonstration, and I received a full treatment for stress reduction – in a word, the results were amazing!

Each day at the LEAPS symposium was an exploration into these different disciplines. I experienced lectures in the efficacy of yoga and tai chi in the treatment of various diseases, nutrition counseling, the use of herbology, and the history of osteopathy and a demonstration of their postural assessment and general physical exam. If you thought the psychology of posture was purely a chiropractic topic, then you’d be shocked by what other practitioners are doing with it! There was also a panel discussion led by myself and the four other alternative care practitioners, but more on that later…

The whole program asked nothing of me but to have an open mind and to share my ideas. As someone who has a particular interest in a multidisciplinary approach to patient-centered care, I was exposed to many other styles of health and how to exist among them while maintaining my own philosophy and identity as a chiropractor. The primary care position is a malleable one, with enough freedom (and responsibility) to make it our own.

If you’ve ever had even an itch of interest in the way others practice medicine, then getting involved in the Student Alliance for Integrated Medicine (SAIM) and The Academy of Integrated Medicine (AIHM) are great places to start exploring the vision of integrative medicine. The reason I chose IM was because I discovered early on that even if I didn’t intend to practice in a multidisciplinary environment, my patients would. Knowing how to communicate with understanding and compassion is the key to truly serving your patient.