A Vision of Integrative Medicine

By Andrew Weil

Contributing Editor Karrie Osborn asked integrative medicine pioneer Andrew Weil, MD, to tell Massage & Bodywork readers what the quintessential integrative medicine approach might look like. What follows is his vision.


At the root of good health care will be an acceptance of each individual’s responsibility for his or her own health, and unfettered access to information and care that can support a healthy lifestyle.

Good health care should be available to everyone and focus on preventing illness, optimizing health, and identifying and treating the root causes of disease. This requires a renewed respect for primary care and the healing relationship between an individual patient and practitioner, as well as the time required to support that relationship; thus, an integrative physician will have set aside ample time to interact and communicate with a person coming in for an appointment. While I do not feel that everyone who is healthy requires an annual physical examination, a yearly checkup does at least serve to deepen the relationship between doctor and patient.

Integrative doctors recognize that their primary role is to support the optimal functioning of their patients’ innate healing systems, not the management of disease. They are ensconced in the philosophy that good health implies balance and wholeness, so all factors that influence health for a unique individual must be taken into consideration. Information not usually touched on during a conventional medical appointment will be sought for its potential contribution to the root of existing health problems. Seemingly subtle health influences like the management of stress, the adequacy and restorative nature of sleep, the quality of interpersonal relationships, sexual health, and the presence or absence of a sense of purpose in a person’s life can have profound effects on that individual’s overall health and well-being. Screening tests may be obtained as deemed appropriate by the practitioner, with the test results being interpreted in the same way a more conventional doctor would view them.

There will, however, be equal emphasis on the science and art of health care, with less reliance on technology, invasive interventions, and specialty care. Inexpensive and noninvasive means, such as diet and lifestyle changes, will be considered first to both prevent and treat the root causes of disease, and doctors will resort to invasive and drug therapies to treat illness and suppress symptoms only when absolutely necessary.

The time necessary to support this healing relationship between patient and practitioner must be honored and reimbursed accordingly, but we will nonetheless each be asked to accept greater responsibility for our own health. To get to that place, patients and practitioners alike need to work together and call for the opportunity to discuss with representatives of the insurance industry—and our elected officials—the looming health-care crisis. Whether these discussions take place in community forums, think tanks, or seminars they will ultimately contribute to us taking back our health.


 Andrew Weil, MD, is a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, a healing-oriented approach to health care that encompasses body, mind, and spirit. For more information, visit www.drweil.com.