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Osher Integrative Medicine Programs

In 1998 and 2001, the Foundation established two innovative centers for integrative medicine – the first at the University of California, San Francisco and the second at the Harvard Medical School in Boston. These two programs have within a few years of their founding become leaders in the field. In the summer of 2005, the Foundation, in partnership with the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, provided support for the founding of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the Karolinska Institute (KI) in Sweden.

All three institutions are committed to developing programs that feature research, education, and clinical care in integrative medicine, also known as complementary or alternative medicine.

These programs explore approaches which generally lay outside the mainstream of Western medicine, including chiropractic care, herbal remedies, acupuncture, acupressure, homeopathy, macrobiotics, yoga, massage, guided imagery awareness, and other treatments and remedies.

One of the primary goals of these centers is to conduct basic laboratory research on integrative medicine remedies, to examine their consequences, and to build an empirical case for their application. In the case of the American institutions, third-party reimbursement will likely depend upon persuasive cases being made to insurers that integrative medicine offers effective remedies.

A second goal is to reach out to the larger community with an emphasis on preventive care. The centers seek to educate both medical practitioners as well as the general public. Seminars and conferences help educate people about the benefits of such “non-traditional” approaches to good health and medical care.

A third goal is to establish clinical treatment programs in which the knowledge and resources of integrative medicine can be used directly to help people as well as furnish training opportunities for medical students.

The program at UCSF is led by Dr. Margaret Chesney; the Harvard program by Dr. Julie Buring, with a clinical center at Brigham and Women's Hospital headed by Dr. Don Levy; and the Karolinska program by Dr. Martin Ingvar. In the case of UCSF and Harvard, the Foundation made charter grants to the integrative medicine centers and continues to take an active interest in their development. Both centers have been successful in attracting federal grants from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine within the National Institutes of Health. The KI center began with significant grants from the two Osher foundations but with Karolinska Institute funding increasing significantly each year.

A few additional select grants for integrative medicine have been awarded by the Foundation -- one to Dr. Andrew Weil at the Program in Integrative Medicine of the Health Sciences Center of the University of Arizona at Tucson and another to Dr. Rachel Remen of UCSF for her curriculum development in integrative medicine for medical students. The Foundation also supports a career development award for complementary and alternative medicine practitioners through the National Institutes of Health.