Integrative healing classes popular at U

The Center for Spirituality and Healing has grown substantially in the past decade.

Tom Moran

In 1995, the Center for Spirituality and Healing was just an idea. Now the department is a national leader in its field.

Mary Jo Kreitzer, director of the center, made her idea into a reality while working with the University hospital, which is now Fairview. She wanted to advance medical knowledge and enhance patient care through complementary and integrative healing.

When Fairview took over the University hospital in 1997, the center stayed with the University, she said. Since then, the center has grown from a fledgling program to one of the largest graduate programs at the University, she said.

The center, based in the Mayo Building, draws support from an increasing number of physicians, students and community members outside the University who are looking for new ways to approach health care.

Complementary and integrative health care is a philosophy of treating the body and mind as a single organism and focuses on the prevention of bad health. The program’s curriculum concentrates on controlling emotions, thoughts, energy and condition of the body and mind.

Class subjects include meditation, energy healing, health coaching and traditional Chinese medicines.

The center attracts students through research, education and outreach, Kreitzer said. She said enrollment has grown from an original 32 students to more than 425 last spring.

Last fall, there were 10,505 people enrolled in 132 programs in the entire University’s Graduate School.

Faculty members from 12 University programs have come to the center to be involved as well.

The center’s relationship with the health-care industry has grown. In a 2002 study, the center gauged faculty attitudes toward complementary health care. Of those responding, 88 percent felt positive, according to the report. The center cooperates with a number of clinics nationwide, Kreitzer said.

Justin Laube, a second-year medical student, found his future in integrative and complementary healing.

He said a class through the center reignited his passion to become a doctor and introduced him to complementary healing.

Laube said he plans to open a student-run clinic that will integrate several forms of health care. Students from the medical, nursing, Center for Spirituality and Healing and psychology programs will be just part of those involved in the clinic.

“This is the kind of care I want to receive, and this is the kind of care I want to give for my patients,” Laube said.

Victor Nhul, a University alumnus of the Carlson School of Management, took classes at the center while he was an undergraduate. Nhul said he was a little uncomfortable at first with the new ideas the school talked about, but later became a believer. He said he left with a changed perspective on education and health care.

Nhul said he valued the way the program grounded its classes in research, taught a new way of thinking and sought to integrate its healing with mainstream health care instead of just replacing it.

He said a field experience class he took through the center was “one of the most memorable and eye-opening” experiences he had at the University.

Part of the center’s success has been due to the support of the National Institutes of Health. The center is one of only three institutes that have been designated as a developmental center for research on complementary and alternative medicine. It receives a grant as part of the designation.

The center’s outreach program has expanded to include online services, drop-in sessions and lectures. Each year, the outreach program reaches more than 10,000 people, Kreitzer said.

But not everything has been positive for the center lately. One of its biggest resources – the meditation room – has been closed for more than a year. The meditation room was closed last October after inspectors found structural damage.

The University paid for external repairs, which are now complete, but the center is trying to raise funds to renovate the interior of the 42-year-old building, Kreitzer said.

The meditation room once provided a sanctuary for stressed students and host classes, outreach programs, student groups and research. All these services were displaced by the closure.

Eric Storlie, an instructor at the center, has guided stress- busting sessions for five years.

He said his sessions and classes have moved several times since the meditation room closed, and that the changes in venue have hurt attendance.

The majority of funding the center receives comes from philanthropic initiatives, meaning charitable donations will be vital to the renovation of the meditation room. The center is trying to raise $125,000 to reopen the room by winter 2008.