The University of Alabama at Birmingham has launched the new UAB Integrative Medicine Clinic to focus on the whole person, including family members, to optimize wellness and manage the challenges throughout each patient’s chronic disease or cancer care journey, from prevention to survivorship and beyond.
“Integrative medicine is adding to conventional medicine by targeting the whole person, body, mind and spirit,” said Carolina Salvador, M.D., director of the UAB Integrative Medicine Clinic and assistant professor in the UAB Division of Hematology and Oncology. “This method encompasses all aspects of a person’s lifestyle, and optimizes care with evidence-based practices from both conventional and complementary health care perspectives. It is well-known that what works for one person may not always work for another, and integrative medicine allows us to look at the whole picture and devise a plan that can be most effective.”
Integrative medicine provides many benefits for patients but is also a sustainable model to deliver care. “From emphasizing preventive health to promoting a dynamic relationship with the physician, to getting individualized medical care, it truly uses a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach for the betterment of the patient,” Salvador said.
The services provided by the Integrative Medicine Clinic are delivered by a diverse group of clinical, behavioral and other professionals, headed by Salvador, who was specially trained at the prestigious Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, founded in 1994 by its famed director, Andrew Weil, M.D.
The team’s psychologist has extensive expertise in treating patients suffering from physical illness and disability, bereavement, depression, or trauma-related issues. The psychologist incorporates meditation and mindfulness techniques designed to enhance well-being into the patient’s comprehensive care plan.
A registered yoga teacher offers mindful, breath-centered yoga for fostering body awareness, building strength, and finding ease and balance. Programs include Yoga of Awareness for Chronic Pain, Mindful Yoga for Cancer and Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors.
Artists from the UAB Arts in Medicine program work hand in hand with the Integrative Medicine Clinic by offering visual arts and guided meditation, dance and movement activities, and storytelling and movement sessions. Zentangle method drawing instruction and the Joy of Singing program are two of the classes offered by the artists.
UAB’s Pastoral Care team provides spiritual support, compassionate listening, companionship and guidance to help meet each patient’s practical, emotional and spiritual needs while tapping into their most cherished sources of meaning, power and hope.
“Many people confuse integrative medicine with alternative medicine,” said Salvador, also an associate scientist with the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The difference with the UAB Integrative Medicine Clinic is that the patient will continue under the care of their primary oncologist or primary care physician. The integrative medicine specialists will work directly with each caregiver as a comprehensive team.”
Although Salvador will see patients with any chronic disease, most will be cancer patients. “Patients are interested in trying anything that may help them, including complementary and alternative therapies for treatment,” Salvador said. “While complementary therapies like yoga, massage, meditation and acupuncture can help with symptoms and side effects, many alternative cancer treatments are unproven or even dangerous.
“We have the training to discern the scientific evidence or lack thereof behind some complementary and alternative therapies. For example, we can discuss how some dietary supplements may interfere with standard cancer treatments, and the need for coordinated and safe integrated care.”
Patients can be referred into the program or can self-refer but need to check with their insurance carrier regarding coverage. Most insurance will cover the integrative medicine and integrative psychologist.
The first visit to the UAB Integrative Medicine Clinic will last one hour and include one or more of the following services:
- Nutritional counseling
- Physical activity counseling
- Supplement counseling
- Counseling on energy therapies, relaxation techniques, and activities such as yoga, tai chi and qigong
- Referral to psychologist
- Referrals to exercise physiology services
- Outside referral to acupuncture
- Fatigue evaluation
- Sleep counseling
The Integrative Medicine Clinic is located at The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital, inside the Hematology and Oncology Clinic on the second floor. Some services are offered at alternate locations.
Group activities will be held every Thursday beginning Jan. 12. The activities schedule is as follows:
Arts in Medicine: 9-9:45 a.m.
Yoga: 10:30-11:30 a.m.; and Noon-1 p.m.
Meditation: 1:15-2:30 p.m.
Pastoral Care: 3:30-4:30 p.m.
UAB Hematology and Oncology patients can schedule classes by calling 205-801-8139, and non-UAB Hematology and Oncology patients can call 205-934-5077 to schedule an appointment with Salvador. Mediation classes cost $5 per person, and yoga classes cost $10 per person, while other activities are free of charge. Patients can check in at the information desk on the second floor of The Kirklin Clinic.