Tuesday, January 10, 2012

UWG Program Takes on Health Care Challenges

This spring, the Department of Psychology initiates its Integrated Health Studies certificate program. The largely online program will prepare students who already have bachelor’s degrees for the rapidly expanding field that incorporates mainstream medicine with alternative forms of healing.

Certificate graduates will play a crucial role in transforming health care in Georgia, across the U.S. and internationally, said Dr. John Kim, the program director.

“Integrative health is utilizing the available tools in healing in a mindful way. You use conventional medicine when it’s appropriate and use alternative medicine when appropriate,” said Kim, who graduated from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“You don’t assume that Western medicine is automatically good or bad. Or you don’t assume that alternative medicine is automatically good or bad,” he said. “The whole idea is patient-centered health care. The idea is being an advocate for the patients and helping them make the best decisions for themselves by education and by forming a healing partnership.”

In May the department will host the first Integrative Health Conference: State of Integrative Health in Georgia. Representatives from the Emory-Georgia Tech Predictive Health Institute and Athens Regional Medical Center - Mind Body Institute will speak.

In 10 years Kim hopes that UWG will have an institute in integrated health studies, coordinating and funding research. Practitioners would be prepared to meet the nation’s major health care problems, such as diabetes and obesity, head on.

“We have a medical disaster that is coming our way. It’s not due to lack of medication. It’s not due to lack of medical procedure. It’s not due to lack in the number of physicians. It’s a lack of consciousness,” he said.

That is, it’s not all about the medicine. It’s about education, social support, psychology, lifestyle changes and innovative treatments. “Medicine is only one spoke in the wheel.”

Students in the certificate program take three core seminars then choose four electives from a list of nearly two dozen courses, including: Psychology of Dreams; Biology of Aging; Foundations of Nutrition; Sociology of Mental Health/Illness; Music and the Mind; and Clinical Hypnosis.

When Kim was a residential fellow at the University of Arizona, he studied with Dr. Andrew Weil, the founder and director of the Center for Integrative Medicine of the College of Medicine. Weil is a well-known author and speaker on alternative medicine.

In an email, Weil said Kim ”has put together a good program. I think it can have significant impact."

More than 20 percent of the country’s medical schools, including Mercer University and Morehouse School of Medicine have integrated health care components, Kim said. But UWG is the first public university to offer a certificate program. Because the program is not part of a medical school, students can come from a variety of fields, including counseling and nursing, he said.

UWG's program is unique, he said. “What we are doing is taking it to the next step, which is beyond medicine."

The program “brings innovation to our campus,” said Kim, a member of the psychology faculty. UWG’s strong programs in education, nursing, anthropology, counseling and business – to name a few -- and its size make working together across disciplines easier, he said.

“We want to change the health care of this country, of the world. This is an international movement.”

To learn more: http://www.westga.edu/psydept/index_17420.php

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