Leadership Letter from Harold Ray, MD,
Dear Catholic Health Initiatives Family:
Throughout history, there have been a variety of definitions of health, illness and disease. Accordingly, there have been a variety of approaches to the practice of medicine. Today, we recognize that, just as one size does not fit all, no single approach to the practice of medicine can address all health care needs.
Until recently, our culture preferred a scientific approach to medicine, which is also known as allopathic medicine. Allopathic medicine is very effective in providing acute care and trauma care. Its use of technology and chemistry can significantly improve a patient’s longevity and quality of life. However, it may not be as effective in the care of persons with chronic conditions, intractable pain or terminal illness. With its focus on healing the body, allopathic medicine is sometimes seen as not providing enough care for the mind and spirit.
As an alternative to the allopathic approach, the holistic approach to medicine began to emerge in the late 19th century. The holistic approach, which is concerned with mental and emotional well being, considers patients’ mind/body/spirit needs in making treatment decisions that involve a variety of healing and wellness practices.
Now, an emerging approach to medicine, which we call integrative health care, is combining the best of the allopathic and holistic models to provide patients with care that is comprehensive; delivered by collaborative teams of practitioners and caregivers; and personalized to their needs. This emerging model of medicine is noted for compassion, with practitioners taking the time necessary to effectively communicate with patients. This approach is already used with great success in many hospice care programs, and is now expanding into programs for palliative care and end-of-life care.
The emergence of integrative health care may mark the first time in history that medicine is attempting to put equal emphasis on the treatment and healing of the body, mind and spirit. With its historic commitment to holistic and spiritual care, the Catholic health ministry is uniquely positioned to lead the way into this new art of healing. And, as our Integrative Health Care Summit meeting so recently attested, many of our market-based organizations are ready to implement or expand the practice of integrative health care. This will be an exhilarating journey into a new era of medicine.