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INM Creates an Interdisciplinary Advisory Board to Help Deliver on the Promise of Whole Health Models of Care

Michelle Simon, PhD, ND Michelle Simon, PhD, ND
Longevity By Nature

Health care is being re-imagined in the U.S. The medical profession is at a critical crossroads as the public gains greater awareness, acceptance and desire for integrative therapies and institutions are seeking to learn how to adopt and maximize this approach to health. Here are three examples that demonstrate a whole health movement is taking shape:

First, the Veterans Administration (VA) piloted a Whole Health initiative in 13 clinics that was designed to deliver a more wholistic approach to patient care. The resulting success led to a roll out across all VA clinics in the coming years. Whole Health invited veterans to think about their health in a new way starting with a holistic self-assessment from which personalized goals are then developed. Veterans’ personal health plans are created to achieve wellbeing through sleep, pain management and other strategies that emphasize life balance, movement, flexibility and creating a greater sense of fulfillment and joy. Included in these programs are physical activities, meditative practices and creative expression, marking a departure from previous strategies.1

Second, a private philanthropic venture started in 2020 by heiress and philanthropist Alice L. Walton. The Whole Health Institute has as its focus a “redesign of the systems that impact our health and well-being.”2 The ultimate goal is to make the Whole Health model affordable and accessible to all. Evidence-based whole health practices, exercises and resources are provided and in planning stages are a new health care system, a Whole Health institute and a new medical school incorporating these philosophies.

Third, on April 1, HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) awarded more than $6 billion from the American Rescue Plan to Community Health Centers nationwide. Health centers will be able to use the funds in part to deliver needed preventive and primary health care services and expand health centers’ operational capacity during the pandemic and beyond, including modifying and improving physical infrastructure and adding mobile units.3 These funds will allow the development of pilot initiatives, such as mobile health clinics that deliver care to those that most need it, where they are. Allowing community clinics to move beyond the conventional thinking of what they are and what they do.

To truly deliver on the promise of a new model of integrated whole health, the professional community must begin effectively collaborating. To help in this regard, the INM is recruiting members for an interdisciplinary board of medical doctors (MD) and doctors of osteopathy (DO). The concept for the board was initiated by Leonard A. Wisneski, MD, FACP, faculty of Georgetown University, George Washington University, University of Colorado; Chair Emeritus of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium and author of Scientific Basis of Integrative Health.

“Primary care should be focused on whole-person medicine,” said Dr. Wisneski. “Naturopathic doctors are educated as specialists in lifestyle and behavioral medicine, which hones in on healthy habits that support prevention of chronic diseases. And as such, they should be more readily integrated into primary care settings. This board will help facilitate that process.”

The creation of the MD/DO Naturopathic Advisory Board is important with the current and future emphasis on whole-person health. A natural approach inclusive of appropriate lifestyle counseling, prevention, wellness and well-being is an important aspect of health care. The education and clinical approach of the naturopathic doctor is perfectly suited to deliver this form of comprehensive care. The Board will be comprised of medical doctors who appreciate these unique talents and will advise NDs as to how best to share their talents and experience with other health care practitioners.

Members of the Board will participate in a series of tele/web conversations with myself and Dr. Wisneski and provide support for the integration of the naturopathic medicine into university education and teaching centers, primary care and community health settings, and other clinical and hospital institutions.

Both INM and our partner organization, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians are looking forward to expanding and defining national opportunities and challenges to advancing the naturopathic medical profession, while providing guidance for potential approaches to educate the greater medical profession on naturopathic medicine. If you are interested in participating, please contact me at msimon@naturemed.org.


1 www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/features/Whole_Health_The_Veterans_Experience.asp.

2 www.wholehealth.org/about-the-whole-health-institute.

3 www.hrsa.gov/about/news/press-releases/health-center-program-american-rescue-plan.

In 1992, the leadership core of naturopathic doctors established the Institute for Natural Medicine (INM) as a not for profit organization dedicated to advancing natural medicine. The purpose of the INM is to increase awareness of, broaden public access to, and encourage research about natural medicine and therapies. Among its milestones the INM counts the launch of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC) as an independent organization, leading California’s efforts to obtain licensure, developing an interactive childhood education program focused on healthy eating and lifestyles called Naturally Well in 2017, and expanding residency access by establishing and funding a residency program in 2018. INM has joined forces with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), serving as the charitable arm, to deepen access to naturopathic care, public education and research. Dr. Michelle Simon serves as president and CEO of INM, is a licensed naturopathic physician, clinician, educator, and leader in many organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of health care. In addition to holding a naturopathic doctorate from Bastyr University, she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Simon has served on the boards for the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC), the AANP and the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI). Dr. Simon also served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee which is part of the Health Technology Assessment program that examines the scientific evidentiary basis for efficacy, safety and cost effectiveness of health care technologies. She was also an invited participant for health care economics at “Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public” at the Institute for Medicine (IOM) in 2009. Dr. Simon was recognized as the 2018 Physician of the Year by the AANP.