A $5.5 million award from the Bernard Osher Foundation will allow the UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health (DFMCH) to bring integrative health to the broader community. The Foundation, established in 1977, supports select integrative health programs as well as higher education and the arts.

Greta Kuphal, MD and David Rakel, MD

L to R: Greta Kuphal, MD, medical director of the UW Integrative Health Program and David Rakel, MD, chair of the UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Integrative health is an approach to healthcare that focuses on all aspects of a person’s life that influences their wellness and makes use of a wide variety of tools to manage symptoms and foster health. This is a shift from disease-centered care called pathogenesis to health-centered care, called salutogenesis.

The UW Integrative Health program – one of the first in the country – has grown to be one of the largest of its kind in the U.S. It was started in the DFMCH in 2001 by Dr. David Rakel, a national leader in integrative health, who is now the chair of the department.

While integrative health doesn’t exclude pharmaceutical medications or surgeries when they are appropriate, interventions may also include things like massage, working on healthy personal relationships, nutrition, mindfulness meditation, acupuncture and many others, according to DFMCH physician Greta Kuphal, medical director for the UW Integrative Health program.

“It’s about supporting the health and wellness of the whole person, not just treating a disease,” she said, “Integrative health honors what matters most to you and your reasons for wanting to be healthy.”

A vital aspect of this award will allow the program to expand access to integrative health to people who don’t traditionally receive these services, according to Kuphal.

“Everyone deserves to be healthy, and we want to learn from different parts of our community how we can best be of service to improve the health and wellness of all our patients with this model of care,” she said. “This funding will allow us to start those conversations and provide services in a way that is informed by what we learn from the community itself.”

In addition to the financial support from the Foundation, this award includes the UW Integrative Health program in a collective of prestigious, academic integrative health centers across the country, called the Osher Collaborative for Integrative Health.

The collaborative is comprised of eight universities in the United States and one in Stockholm, Sweden. UW‒Madison and the University of Cincinnati were added in late 2021.

The collaborative allows the partner institutions to work together on clinical, educational and research endeavors to advance the mission of integrative health, according to Kuphal. She’s confident the endowment and the inclusion in the Osher collaborative will help drive the expansion of salutogenic science in our local community and state and the mission of integrative health across the country and Sweden.

“We’re excited to share our successes and knowledge with our academic partners and learn from both them and our community,” she said. “This bidirectional learning can only help strengthen our ability to support the health of all our patients and communities.”

Watch The UW DFMCH Integrative Health Program Video

Published: March 2022 | Updated April 2022 with Video