By: Rebekah Wilks
Leadership and Education Program for Students in Integrative Medicine (LEAPS into IM) is sponsored by the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health. This is the conventional integrative medical community that is not officially affiliated with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). So it was phenomenal that three chiropractic students were chosen to represent medicine out of 20 spots available nationally. Knowing this, I approached LEAPS into IM with confidence that there would be a robust understanding of chiropractic, yet my experience revealed that there is much, much more work needed to raise awareness.
Entering the conference, I was excited to learn about integrative medicine from a conventional perspective and ecstatic to represent the chiropractic profession. I expected to learn concepts and meet people, but I was blown away with the hands-on, ‘physician heal thyself’ approach used for teaching wellness concepts and philosophies. LEAPS into IM was not only a professional experience, but a personal journey into my soul as a healer.
The day began at 6:30 a.m. with silence and a mindfulness practice, such as qigong or yoga. Journaling was encouraged, and breakfast was followed with various meditation methods. Lectures explored basic concepts and philosophies such as Ayurvedic medicine, nutrition and functional medicine, osteopathic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, followed by interactive activities for application to patient care in a variety of ways. The afternoon was composed of small group discussion and exercises on various topics related to creating an integrative mentality within yourself as a physician and also the medical field. Team-building was taught through an educational group dinner and small groups. The evenings ended around 9:30 p.m. and consisted of workshops mostly centered on energetic medicine.
My eyes were opened to other forms of medicine that I can apply within my own practice or with referrals. But what I also found was a lack of awareness of what chiropractic physicians can do in an integrated medicine team. We, as chiropractic physicians, have much more work to do within the context of conventional medicine. Even though chiropractic was the only professional field represented aside from medical doctors and osteopathic physicians, none of the integrative-focused students had incorporated chiropractic into their dialogue. The closest lecture about chiropractic was the one on osteopathic manipulative technique and the chiropractic students were recruited to help with the hands-on workshop afterward. Most of the medical students had no idea about what we do and none of them knew our level of education.
Overall, I gained a unique perspective on the integrated health community that I may not have ever seen without the LEAPS into IM experience. By the end of the week, several medical students approached me and mentioned that they wished they would have known about chiropractic medicine, because it seems like we learn so much about the human body. What we do works; we just have to be confident and maintain our dignity ethically and legislatively while we continue to demonstrate a cost-effective, non-invasive alternative focused on true patient-centered care.
Rebekah Wilks’ attendance at LEAPS into IM was generously sponsored by the Nutritional Therapy Association.