Brian Berman, MD

portrait of nova institute founder brian berman
President & Founder

443-681-7600

bberman@novainstituteforhealth.org

Dr. Brian Berman is the president of Nova Institute for Health (formerly the Institute for Integrative Health), which he founded in 2007 to catalyze new ideas in health. He is also Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he was director of the Center for Integrative Medicine. Trained in family medicine and pain management as well as complementary medical approaches such as traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, Dr. Berman has dedicated his academic career to evaluating the efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness of complementary and integrative medicine. In 1991, he founded the first U.S. academic medical center-based program for integrative medicine. He now continues to conduct his National Institutes of Health-funded research at the University of Maryland, while expanding his focus to understanding and promoting health through his leadership of the Institute for Integrative Health.

Dr. Berman is one of the most highly funded National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers in the area of integrative and complementary medicine. During his tenure at the University of Maryland, the Center for Integrative Medicine was awarded over $56 million in research funding and had more than 900 publications. Dr. Berman, has been principal investigator of five NIH Center of Excellence, multi-study grants focused on complementary medical interventions for the treatment of arthritis and related disorders and on irritable bowel syndrome. Through this work he built collaborations with preeminent institutions in Hong Kong, Australia, Europe and the U.S. In 2004, Dr. Berman’s landmark study showing acupuncture to be a safe and effective therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee was published as the lead article in the Annals of Internal Medicine. His research publications include 5 books and over 300 articles in leading medical journals focused on traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, herbs, and Qi Gong, as well as other mind/body and integrative medicine approaches for a wide range of chronic health and pain-related disorders.

A pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, Dr. Berman was honored with the prestigious Bravewell Leadership Award for Integrative Medicine in 2005. The award “celebrates and supports visionaries who have committed their medical careers to transforming healthcare in America and ushering in a new practice of medicine.” In 2018, he was further honored with the Bravewell Service Award for his on-going commitment to the field. He was chair of the ad hoc advisory committee to the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine when it opened in 1992, as well as the report to the U.S. Congress on alternative medicine. Subsequently, he served on their advisory committee for three other terms through 2014. In 1996, Dr. Berman helped found and now serves as field director for the complementary medicine field of Cochrane, an international organization recognized worldwide as a leader in evidence-based medicine. He was a panel member of the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine’s 2005 report on complementary medicine and was the first chair of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine & Health, now with over 78 American universities in its membership. Dr. Berman now leads the Nova Institute for Health, a not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to catalyze new ideas in health care and focus on the promotion of health. He serves on the McCormick Science Institute’s Advisory Board, the American Pain Society Task Force on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the NFL Players Association Player Wellness Pain Advisory Board, and recently participated in the “Contributions of Social and Behavioral Research in Addressing the Opioid Crisis,” part of the series of NIH meetings on “Cutting Edge Science to End the Opioid Crisis.”

Watch Dr. Berman speak about the “Seventh Generation Principle” of the Native American Iriquois people in this presentation from the December 2020 inVIVO Project Earthrise conference. 

Hear Dr. Berman’s acceptance speech for the 2005 Bravewell Leadership Award:

More From Brian Berman

Reflecting on 2021 and the Courageous Optimism We Need

It will truly take outrageous acts of courage to create the change we want to see, and it will require inclusivity and collaboration, combined with knowledge and experience, to improve the entire lived experience that influences health. That’s what we’ll be focusing on at Nova, and we are excited to tackle the challenge.

Read More »

Announcing the Nova Institute for Health

A burst of light. The sudden appearance of a bright, new star. In Latin, meaning “fresh, new, young.” These are all definitions of nova—and they are the inspiration behind our organization’s new name: Nova Institute for Health—of People, Places, and Planet.

Read More »

Seeing With New Eyes

Change never comes easily. Nothing important ever does, and there’s nothing more important than the work that is in front of us right now. I’ve been training my whole life for this moment, and so have our partners. Welcome to the future.

Read More »

Developing safety, persistence, trust

Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Acquiring Resources

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
    • “I think I kept trying to convince him I was crazy. And he kept saying, ‘No, you’re not crazy.’ […] You wouldn’t necessarily say a Vietnam Vet was crazy. You’d say they are responding like you’d expect to extraordinary circumstances.”
    • “I’m not the only one who have [sic] this problem. A lots, millions of people, you know. […] They don’t have nothing to do with that. I guess I have to live.”
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
    “You need a lot of energy and a lot of work … it takes a lot of work. It doesn’t just happen. It’s not like a magic wand.” This patient understood that they had to actively participate in the healing process.
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

Helping Relationships

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) “When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. Healing, in this sense, does not mean cured—none of the study participants were cured of their ailments—”but all developed a sense of integrity and wholeness despite ongoing pain or other symptoms.” In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” When we begin to heal, we find increased capacity for hope, renewed motivation to help others, and are more able to accept ourselves as we are.

Suffering

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. There is debate about whether or not one actually needs to experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. “The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”