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Sian Cotton, PhD & John Tew, MD

Seeing the whole patient opens the door to a whole range of treatments.

The Center for Integrative Health and Wellness at UC College of Medicine is working to change society’s approach to healthcare. Integrative medicine focuses on prevention and overall wellness through both traditional medical approaches and evidence-based complementary therapies like nutrition, stress management, massage therapy, yoga and acupuncture.

Sian Cotton, PhD, the center’s director, and John Tew, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery and Radiology, are responsible for growing the center and bringing integrative medicine to students, patients and the community.

“It's bringing forward additional therapeutic approaches—along with traditional medication and surgery— that we know are evidence-based, that we know can help people and that are lower cost and less invasive,” said Cotton. “Frankly, it’s what a lot of people are looking for. They want a more natural, holistic approach to their health.”sian cotton and john tew

According to Tew, many of the medical problems patients face today are related to behavior and can be prevented or improved by working on wellness and behavioral aspects of prevention. But existing medical systems aren’t built for this approach. The existing healthcare system is focused on disease care and treating acute medical conditions, but struggles with treating chronic illnesses and helping prevent diseases through overall wellness.

As part of the College of Medicine, the Center for Integrative Health and Wellness is trying to create a shift from a system of disease care to one of wellness care by educating medical students on integrative medicine.

“Our goal is to educate the next generation of students through high-quality research and provide outstanding clinical care that focuses on health, wellness, and prevention,” said Cotton. “Unless we teach students something other than surgery and medication, that's all they’ll know when they graduate. We have to teach them all of the other facets of health because when they get out in to the world and they're practicing, patients are going to have questions about diet and movement and stress.”

But the center isn’t only working with medical students—they’re expanding into other areas of the university as well. Seven colleges at UC including DAAP, the College of Law and the College-Conservatory of Music all offer the center’s Mind-Body Skills Program, focusing on skills students use to reduce stress and enhance self-care and reflection. Cotton and Tew hope to expand to all colleges within the university so everyone, not just medical students, can understand and practice integrative health and wellness.

“Our goal is to create an atmosphere where behavior becomes extremely important, behavior delegated to prevention of disease and a wellness atmosphere that involves not only physicians, nurses, and people who work with them, but also families and patients throughout our broader community, so that we teach it and do it,” said Tew.