AIHM Conference Highlights: Connecting with like-minded movements

The Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine’s (AIHM) annual conference is well known for many things, including an outstanding speaker program and prestigious awards that recognize deserving individuals in the integrative health community. But this year the real highlight of “People, Planet and Purpose” was about making new connections with other similar movements to look at the bigger questions of how to create a healthier world.

The big takeaway from the October conference, according to AIHM Executive Director Tabatha Parker, ND, is “how do we integrate our movement to start to think more strategically and thoughtfully partner with other like-minded movements, like sustainable agriculture and organic products.”

Parker noted that a key discussion during the four-day event was a panel featuring Zach Bush, MD, a triple-board certified physician, who has also worked to bring about radical change in big farming, pharma and Western medicine; Jeff Tkach of the Rodale Institute, who is responsible for expanding the institute’s influence to heal people and the planet through regenerative and organic agriculture; and David Bronner, the cosmic engagement officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s Soap, a leading natural personal care brand that has pushed the envelope in standards for GMO labeling, hemp farming, organic certification and fair trade.

The session looked at how integral sustainable agriculture and organic products are to integrative health. “We have come a long way in bringing our groups together around health and health policy work and education. But we are now starting to see more crossover into other areas that are also trying to change the system. The transformation of health care is embedded in a larger transformation taking place in our society,” she said.

Another highlight of the meeting for Parker was the gathering of different leaders from the many integrative health organizations including IHPC, Integrative Medicine for the Underserved (IM4US), the Academic Consortium of Integrative Medicine and Health (ACIMH), Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health (ACIH), and the Alliance to Advance Comprehensive Integrative Pain Management (AACIPM), among others. “A couple of these organizations have brand new executive directors, so we met face to face for the first time. It was great to spend time with them and discuss how to support each other moving forward into 2020 and beyond,” Parker said.

The awards program is another way the association brings together people who have forged new trails in the area of integrative health. In keeping with its titled theme “People, Planet and Purpose,” the group presented three key awards including the lifetime Achievement Award (People), which this year was given to Daniel Asimus, MD, (a past IHPC board member); the Visionary Award (Planet), which this year went to one of the headline speakers, Deepak Chopra, MD; and the Change Maker Award (Purpose), which was presented to Liza Goldblatt, Ph.D., past chair and founding board member of ACIH for her work in the world of acupuncture. The awards are always very special, Parker said, because they are presented by the previous year’s winners, and most of the time the recipient is not aware they are getting the award. “So it is a surprise and a very special way to say thank you to the leaders of our community who have been working for decades to change health care.”