Event Honors Harkin’s Contributions to Integrative Health and Medicine

Posted in GUMC Stories

OCTOBER 9, 2014—Leaders from dozens of organizations devoted to integrative health and medicine convened at Georgetown at a recent event to celebrate the contributions to their field of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

The Sept. 29 event, sponsored by 25 organizations including Georgetown University Medical Center (new window) (GUMC), featured a full-day, immersive policy discussion around integrative health and medicine, culminating in a reception and dinner to honor Harkin. At the dinner, Harkin was lauded by his longtime colleague U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (new window) (D-Md.) and former U.S. Rep. Berkley Bedell (D-Iowa).

GUMC was one of eight Diamond Sponsors of the daylong event, called “A Call to Action on Integrative Health and Medicine Policy: Advancing the Legacy of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin.”

A Career-long Commitment

Earlier this year, Harkin announced his plans to retire after his current term expires this fall.

Among his contributions to the field during his tenure of more than 30 years, Harkin pushed to establish the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine in 1992, and oversaw its transition and expansion to become the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Harkin also worked with President Clinton to appoint the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy and has been an advocate for a new integrative health model in this country.

In his remarks during dinner, Harkin noted that his passion for this issue will live on through his involvement with the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement, established at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.  He said one of the center’s main focus areas is promoting wellness, disease prevention and integrative health.

“It’s the idea that we need to change our system … from a sick care system to a health care system. Not just one that answers your needs when you get an acute or chronic illness, but … [that focuses] on keeping people healthy,” Harkin said.

“That is where I see you all fitting in — you are keeping people healthy, keeping them out of the hospital, and keeping them from getting chronic illnesses,” he continued.

Shaping the Future

Aviad Haramati, PhD (new window), professor of integrative physiology in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology and co-director of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine graduate program at GUMC, was a member of the planning committee for the event and hosted the gathering.

Haramati said Georgetown medical students and faculty see creating health as a mandate and have embraced the tenets of integrative medicine that will guide future health care practitioners.

He lauded Harkin, Mikulski and Bedell for being “champions” of the cause and “enabling this to happen at this institution.”

At the conclusion of the event, Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, RN, from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality & Healing, presented a symbolic act called “Actions to Advance a Legacy.” In lieu of a plaque or other material gift, the participants pooled their stated commitments from throughout the day into a document meant to serve as a blueprint for how to move the recommendations into actions that can shape health policy.

Addressing Harkin, Kreitzer said: “We thought the most fitting gift would be a way of honoring your legacy through our commitments going forward.”

By Lauren Wolkoff
GUMC Communications