Episode 1: Jeff Millison and His Journey in Teaching Integrative Medicine

Episode 1: Jeff Millison and His Journey in Teaching Integrative Medicine

The state of acupuncture and oriental medicine has grown tremendously over the last few decades in America. Today it has truly become an integrative practice combining traditional western medicine with ancient eastern systems to treat the whole person. Jeff Millison, the Dean of Academic Enrollment at VUIM discusses how the time has never been better to consider a career in Integrative Medicine.

Guest Bios

Jeff Millison
Academic Dean, VUIM

Jeffery Millison serves as the Academic Dean for the Virginia University of Integrative Medicine. Jeff brings over two decades of experience in Academia within the field of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Jeff was the Academic Director of the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine department at the Maryland University of Integrative Health from 2001-2018.  A faculty member at the institution since 1992, he also served as a clinical supervisor and taught multiple courses. Mr. Millison is the Chair of the CCAOM (Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) Curriculum Committee, and was a member of the ACAOM (Accreditation Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) First Professional Doctorate Task Force. Mr. Millison also served on the board of the Maryland Acupuncture Society from 1992 to 1996. He has been in clinical practice since 1991 and was the co-founder and co-director of the RiverHill Wellness Center (Ellicott City, MD), a multidisciplinary and integrative center for health and healing. Mr. Millison is a 1991 graduate of the Traditional Acupuncture Institute (now MUIH). He also earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland in 1985, and in 1988 completed course work towards a master’s degree in holistic psychology from Boulder College. In 1996 he completed a two-year program in Chinese herbal medicine.


Speaker 1 (00:04):

Integrative medicine has been around for thousands of years and is now a widely used form of healthcare across the modern world. In this podcast we discuss holistic wellness and share how integrative medicine has evolved to become a part of our culture today. This is All Things Integrative brought to you by the Virginia University of Integrative Medicine.

Speaker: Jeff Millison (00:33):

Why integrative medicine has become much more popular is because I would say the main reason is that it makes sense in the li to most people. So most people resonate with the basic concept that collaboration and teamwork almost always produce a better outcome. Healthcare is no different. So getting evaluated and treated by a team of healthcare professionals with different areas of expertise is much more desirable than being seen by just one practitioner. I mean, it’s basic common sense. And if that team of healthcare providers is actually collaborating and integrating their treatments, then the increased benefits are potentially even further. It just makes sense and people respond to that. In addition to patients being attracted to integrative medicine doctors and other healthcare providers are also, you know, increasingly seeing the benefits of integrative collaboration. Interestingly enough, the Institute of medicine has formally declared we’ll think of, it’s about two years ago in a formal sort of press release that all healthcare professionals from their perspective should be educated to deliver patient centered care as members of an interdisciplinary team emphasizing evidence based practice and to respond to this call.

Speaker: Jeff Millison (01:56):

Many organizations such as the academic collaboration excuse me, the academic collaborative for integrative health have formed over the last 10 years to promote partnerships, educational initiatives and collaborations that support whole person, collaborative, team-based patient-centered care. The academic collaborative for integrative health has members across the field of health care, so including acupuncture chiropractic, nutrition, yoga therapy, as well as a traditional Western medicine and natural apathy. I would say that some of the opportunities then I’m in the field for integrative medicine are, are wide or pretty wide ranging. Just as context, I mean, the, the profession of acupuncture as a medicine began substantively in this country about 40 years ago. And has evolved tremendously during that time. So even the last 30 years during which I’ve been a licensed practicing acupuncturist, the landscape of the profession has transformed dramatically.

Speaker: Jeff Millison (03:07):

In the early nineties, there were only a few thousand acupuncturists in the country. Acupuncturist acupuncture was mainly practiced in small clinics and a one-to-one setting, and patients paid for services out of pocket. Today there are over 35,000 practitioners in the United States, and they’re practicing in settings as diverse as hospitals, doctor’s offices integrative health care and wellness facilities, detox centers, veterinary offices even in health spas and cruise ships that the patient population has tracked. Along those lines as well, it’s increased exponentially. The profession has really become more of a first choice rather than as a last resort. And that is dramatically different from when I started practicing. Which was that most people who came to see me had really kind of come to the end of the road for the most part. W with some exceptions, but for the most part come to the end of the road in their healthcare journey, if you will.

Speaker: Jeff Millison (04:04):

And now I have many, many patients who are coming to see the majority of patients who are really coming to see me as a first choice. And I think that that’s true across the, across the country in the profession. As a re this is happening, I think as a result of, you know, study after study showing confirming acupuncture as an effective option, not only for pain but other healthcare issues as well. Also, you know, the other big driver of the landscape changes insurance reimbursement. So a lot of insurance companies now cover acupuncture and many within the profession think that Medicare and Medicaid is likely to follow suit in the near future. So all of these things have conspired to have acupuncture become much more prominent as a healthcare option for people. And because of that, and because of the studies that show acupuncture’s efficacy and it being a cost effective modality as well.

Speaker: Jeff Millison (05:02):

Western medicine, large segments of Western medicine has really embraced acupuncture, see its benefits, and now want to do greater integration. And that’s happening in doctor’s offices across the country, hospitals across the country both of which were virtually nonexistent when I first started practicing. So the landscape has changed tremendously and it’s created a lot more opportunities for graduates. So the, I guess the, the, you know, everything that I just said has influenced the way that acupuncture has been taught mainly in the realm of the profession responding to the need for integrative, integrative healthcare educated graduates by creating an entire, an entire doctoral program that’s focused on teaching the knowledge skills to graduates to essentially work in an integrative healthcare team which was basically word salad to, to say that the profession has really recognized that things are moving more in the direction of integrative care.

Speaker: Jeff Millison (06:14):

The tea leaves are profound. And because of that, the profession chose to create, again, a doctoral program whose sole purpose is to educate its graduates in again, the knowledge and skills to work on an integrative team. And that’s the first professional doctorate program which Vym offers and a handful of other programs across the country offer. And again, the main competencies of that program are increasing the knowledge for graduates to be able to speak more in a bilingual fashion in Western medicine and in Eastern medicine to be able to understand what a healthcare team is, what a hospital setting is and some of the nuances and working in that as well as becoming more adept at interpreting re, you know, reading and interpreting research and being able to assess report of findings from a Western medical standpoint to integrate the data from that into acupuncture treatments as well.

Speaker: Jeff Millison (07:26):

So the main conclusion, I mean the profession has directly acknowledged the import and the growing import of integrative medicine and responded with a dedicated degree to support its graduates in that way. So as I think integrative medicine has become a broader topic in the United States over the last 15 years. And I think, you know, the, it’s oftentimes used, I think the term is used incorrectly. A lot of times they think the centers will pop up that will call themselves integrative centers and even schools that call themselves integrative in a creative institutes or integrative universities who mainly are teaching or let me stick to clinics who mainly are practicing multi in a multidisciplinary fashion. So there’s a, there’s a difference between having a number of practitioners from different disciplines, which is the term multidisciplinary.

Speaker: Jeff Millison (08:32):

There’s a difference between being multidisciplinary and being collaborative and integrative. So it’s possible to have a multidisciplinary center, meaning that you have an acupuncturists and a physician and a nurse and a nutritionist and a herbalist all working under the same roof. And that would be a multidisciplinary center, but that is distinctly different than a integrative center and integrative center would take the next step to actually communicate the practitioners, communicating amongst themselves and integrating their knowledge and approach to crafting a customized treatment plan for a patient that draws upon each of those practitioners expertise and perspectives. Very few clinics I would say. And hospitals across the country are actually doing true. I think integrative healthcare. And I’d say there’s not that many institutions across the country that are teaching that next level moving from multidisciplinary to integration. I think that’s going to be kind of a cutting edge distinction over the next 10 years.

Speaker: Jeff Millison (09:40):

Because as I said before, I think people really respond to patients, really respond to the concept of having a team of practitioners, not just, you know, not just seeing that person, but also communicating amongst themselves for the, you know, for, you know, for the patient’s outcomes. So I would see now in terms of a series and you know, on this podcast series if it’s, you know, focusing on integrative health I think some of the topics that we’d be most interested to listeners would be a deeper dive into many of the different disciplines that are traditionally utilized in integrative healthcare. But then more importantly or equally importantly I should say would be to talk to, to really go into some case studies as to what the effect was for patients who actually had an integrative approach, meaning that there was true collaboration amongst the practitioners.

Speaker: Jeff Millison (10:44):

What are some of the, you know, success stories. I think that would be quite interesting I think to people is to really hear some of the, what are some of the potential benefits of true integrative health? You know, and I think also, you know, what are some of the challenges in it was, would probably be a really worthwhile topic. As well, you know, the pluses are I think are self-evident, but also to, to talk a little bit about what are some of the, you know, issues and challenges in operationalizing, if you will. True integrative help. I think in some ways, you know, the movement in this country in terms of talking about sort of other than Western medicine has really been a progression of terms and concepts. And so I think it started off as talking about everything other than Western medicine as call it alternative health.

Speaker: Jeff Millison (11:42):

And there was, I think the first NIH you know, sort of, you know, consortium about other modalities. You know, it was all under the heading of alternative health. And then it became obvious that that term was not optimal and then it became complimentary health. And it also had a term of holistic health when [inaudible], which is holistic health being, not just looking at the person’s, you know, physical self, but also looking at how they’re a person’s health, physical health related and intersected with their mental health and their spiritual health. And their emotional health and their community health in that regard and environmental health. So now that the term, the terms of like sort of moved I think into integrative health, I think in some ways it naturally incorporates that that concept of wholeness. And I think, at its best integrative health is a sort of a, a holistic endeavor, meaning that it’s not just looking at the, a person’s physical being. It’s also looking at their other aspects that I just mentioned as well. So it really depends upon the organization or the clinic if you will, or the school as to how they want to define, you know, integrative health and what goes in, in what, what is part of it. But I think an optimal version of an integrative approach certainly includes mental health and emotional health. Yeah. The name is Jeff Millison and I’m the Academic Dean for the Virginia University of Integrative Medicine in Fairfax, Virginia.

Speaker 1 (13:29):

Thanks for listening to All Things Integrative. Be sure to tune into our next episode where we’ll share more information on how integrative medicine can help you lead a happier, healthier life.