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Integrative Medicine Q & A

Published Date:
Dr. Clasina Leslie Smith, director of integrative medicine and culinary medicine, answers some questions about SIU's new Integrative Medicine Clinic.

What is integrative medicine?
The term “integrative medicine” gets thrown around a lot, and it is often unclear what it means exactly. It is easiest to understand it in the context of two other terms: “alternative medicine” and “complementary medicine.” “Alternative medicine” is a term that means that someone has chosen to use therapies that are outside the scope of biomedical medicine, often as an alternative to or instead of “regular,” western, biomedical care. An example is using herbs like Echinacea, honey, or licorice root to treat cold symptoms instead of using over-the-counter medications. “Complementary medicine” is a term that means someone has chosen to use both non-biomedical and biomedical care at the same time. An example is using both massage therapy and steroid injections for treatment of back pain. Most of the time, the person who is doing the massage therapy is a different person from the clinician doing the steroid injections. “Integrative medicine” means that someone is seeing a practitioner who is using both non-biomedical and biomedical care. Here, an example is seeing a doctor who is trained in both biomedicine and in alternative therapies, like an MD who also knows about acupuncture and homeopathy or a social worker who teaches yoga and meditation. Biomedical practitioners who augment their medical practice with non-biomedical therapies are called “integrative” or “integrative medicine practitioners.”

Where can I find integrative medicine at SIU?
Integrative medicine is involved with supporting many of the wellness initiatives and culinary medicine programs at SIU but also has some stand-alone elements. These include:

  • Cancer support classes through the Side-by-Side Wellness Program at Simmons Cancer Institute
  • AWIMS Spring Rejuvenation Retreat
  • Get Fit and Healthy Yoga classes
  • Integrative medicine clinic within Family and Community Medicine
  • Natural Medicines Database through the SIU Library (under "Key Resources")
  • Grand rounds and community education talks

Integrative medicine is a new program at SIU. What does it include?
Integrative Medicine includes:

  • Interest group meetings for the medical students; also open to staff , residents, and faculty
  • Integrative Medicine clinic within the Dept of Family and Community Medicine
  • Blog posts in various monthly newsletters
  • Lectures, games, and discussions in support groups, at conferences, and in the curriculum
  • Mentorship and counseling for anyone interested in learning more or broadening his or her skills set

What are the future plans for the integrative medicine clinic?
I am delighted that the Integrative Medicine clinic has been full since its inception, but this means that we need to expand hours and begin to think about adding additional practitioners. I have been working with SCI to create a clinic for cancer patient support. SIU has also been having conversations with Memorial to create Integrative Medicine options within the Memorial Center for Wellness, scheduled to open in late summer 2019.

Who is integrative medicine right for?
I like to joke with my biomedical colleagues that Integrative Medicine is often the solution to "I can see this person is suffering, but I've exhausted what I can do for them." It combines the science and insight of western medicine with the power and tenderness of thousands of years of clinical observation from other whole-body systems of medicine. When people understand why their body or mind is behaving the way that it is, they feel empowered to make changes: there is a profound healing shift that happens when they are cared for in a wholistic way. Integrative Medicine can therefore be helpful in most, if not all, clinical situations.

What does a typical appointment consist of?
In the model we are currently using in FCM, an initial consultation is 1 hour. Some of that time is spent listening to the person's story and examining them, some of that time is spent counseling the person about lifestyle tweaks that they can do to help themselves heal, and some of that time is spent in treatment. One of my favorite modalities is acupuncture, so often some of the time is spent resting with acupuncture needles in place. We are working on having an herbal pharmacy available for patients as well, similar to what the Cleveland Clinic and other large integrative centers are doing, so that patients have access to safe sources of herbal medicine.

How can I get more information or to schedule a fee-for-service consultation?
You can schedule an appointment by contacting Rachel Fugate by e-mail at or by calling 217-747-8960. Cost is a concern as we would like to be able to make these services available for all people, irrespective of their ability to pay out of pocket. While the logistics of a group visit model is being worked out, however, the initial consultation fee is $100 and follow-up visits $80.

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