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Is Collaboration the Right Tool to Transform the Culture of Medicine?

By Tom Watson on November 14, 2007No Comment

So, it should come as no surprise that John Mack, CEO of Morgan Stanley and his wife, Christy, should share the desire to collaborate with like-minded peers to advance their philanthropic objectives.  What may be surprising is the topic this couple has chosen to tackle integrative medicine.

Integrative medicine is an approach to health which emphasizes prevention and seeks to integrate the best of scientific medicine with a broader understanding of the nature of illness and healing. The focus is nurturing the mind, body, and spirit through such practices as meditation, yoga, acupuncture, biofeedback, nutritional supplements, and herbal remedies.  The Macks are not alone in their pursuit of funding initiatives to help people stay healthy and avoid the expensive and often ineffective treatment of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

While the term integrative medicine may be relatively new, attempts to institutionalize greater focus on healing the whole person, not just on symptoms or disease, have been ongoing for more than twenty years.  With this slow progress, Christy Mack, president of The C.J. Mack Foundation, knew that improving healthcare would require the efforts of more than one family foundation.  By joining with other philanthropists who were frustrated with the limited success of funding integrative medicine projects as individuals, she helped establish the Bravewell Collaborative.  This operating foundation is based on the belief that joint funding of strategic initiatives designed to create systems change on a national level would be the most effective way to leverage their individual giving and advance the field of integrative medicine.  John Mack serves as an advisor to the Bravewell Collaborative and served as the co-host of the recent Pioneers Awards dinner.

Since integrative medicine draws freely from Western and non-Western medical traditions and makes use of complementary and alternative medicine methodologies, one might be surprised by the lineup of speakers featured at the Bravewell Collaborative’s “Lectures and Luncheon” event.   The November 8th lecture was moderated by Mehmet Oz, MD, who may be best known to many through his appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show.  What most may not know is that Dr. Oz is the founder of the Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital.  The six pioneers honored at the lecture were:  Larry Dossey, MD, James Gordon, MD, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, Dean Ornish, MD, Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, and Andrew Weil, MD.

In addition to the lecture, in the last four years, the Bravewell Collaborative has created a clinical network of eight leading integrative medicine clinics; produced a PBS program on integrative medicine called The New Medicine; funded scholarships for 51 physicians; conferred Bravewell Leadership Awards of $100,000 to two outstanding physician leaders; and funded the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, which includes 38 leading US medical schools. 

Penny George, president of the George Family Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors of The Bravewell Collaborative, sums it up this way:  “strategic, collaborative funding is the most effective way to leverage our individual giving.  The satisfaction and pleasure I am experiencing in being part of [the Bravewell Collaborative] has exceeded my highest expectations.”  With this level of donor satisfaction, collaboration has the potential to transform integrative medicine, as well as many other areas of philanthropy.

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