Dear Friends of the Institute,
I am deeply grateful. Around the world, first responders, doctors, nurses, and family members are putting their lives on the line every day. Researchers are working around the clock to find new ways to treat the sick and find a vaccine. For many, life has been put on hold. Paychecks have stopped arriving, and in these hard times neighbors are reaching out to help neighbors, businesses are bringing food to emergency rooms, and hotels are opening their doors to exhausted doctors and nurses, who are afraid of bringing the virus home.
In the face of a global pandemic, my work continues. Our work continues.
I have spent my life seeking to transform medicine. It has led me to examine our healthcare system’s overriding focus on treating disease rather than promoting wellness. We started the Institute for Integrative Health in Baltimore searching for people who were prepared to ask questions that would challenge conventional thinking about healing and society – looking for science-based answers that would shift the global conversation from the status quo and all that encompasses, to creating and maintaining health. These are revolutionary ideas.
While seeking to create an epidemic of health we have been answering some of the questions that are now finally at the forefront of international conversations centering around the pandemic. Who is most at risk and why? How can we change that? How can we build more resilience? How do we move forward? When western medicine doesn’t have all of the answers, what does integrative medicine have to offer?
Our Scholars, Fellows, Visiting Visionaries and forums are shining a light on how primary care is crucial and yet undervalued in this country, how the arts can support well-being and resilience, and the critical importance of seeing the whole person and understanding the context of their lives when envisioning a world where health is for everyone, not just those who can afford it. We are partnering with members of our community, evaluating the impact of urban gardens and “wild” nature in hospital settings, teaching kids about nutrition who live in food deserts, and we are working with medical school students, giving them the essential tools of how to cook, what to cook, and how food fuels the body, so that they can go on to lead patients toward healthier nutritional choices.
It sounds so easy, and so normal when you think about it. If kids understand how to turn raw food grown in their garden into delicious meals, they will have a better life outcome. If medical students understand that it’s possible to easily cook nutritious food that is also delicious, they can better inform their patients, and everyone will be healthier. If people understand the value of nature in supporting resilience and wellness, humans and the planet will thrive. These are just some of the ways our thinkers are changing the world. There is more, so much more.
At the Institute, ours is not the work of finding a vaccine. Every day, we are working with our partners around the globe to catalyze a new paradigm, actively bringing substantial and lasting change to the way that wellness is valued and supported in all our communities.
At this moment in time, the world is facing tectonic shifts. It is a moment that allows for the possibility of real transformation, a moment that asks for the best from all of us. We must be nimble, dedicated to change, and ready with new ideas. Here at the Institute, we are.
Wishing you and your loved ones health and wellness,
Brian M. Berman, MD
The Institute for Integrative Health
Professor Emeritus Family and Community Medicine
University of Maryland School of Medicine