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Dr. Kligler is the National Director for the Integrative Health Coordinating Center at the Veterans Health Administration.
In addition, Dr. Kligler is Co-Director of the Beth Israel Fellowship Program in Integrative Medicine, which accepted its first fellows for training in January 2002, and teaches in the Beth Israel Residency Program in Urban Family Practice. He is former Chair of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Kligler is the author of Curriculum in Complementary Therapies: A Guide for the Medical Educator, and co-editor of Integrative Medicine: Principles for Practice, a textbook published by McGraw-Hill in 2004. He is also Co-Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing. Dr. Kligler is certified in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy and acupuncture.
The Leadership Program sat down with core faculty member, Ben Kligler, MD, MPH, National Director for the Integrative Health Coordinating Center at the Veterans Health Administration. Below is a transcript of that conversation that has been edited for clarity.
As one of the core faculty members of the Leadership Program, I have a number of different roles. I’m part of the immersions experiences and share information about what Integrative Leadership means and what it has meant in the field. In this respect, one component is sharing practical information about programs that have come and gone over the years and what has made some of the programs succeed and others not. These are vital perspectives to bring to any Integrative Leadership role. Having been around for a couple of decades and watched the field evolve, I also mentor participants, especially as they are developing their projects and want ideas, insights and input.
I have had great experiences over the last few years as an advisor and mentor for some of our participants as they work to bring the principles and lessons they’ve learned in the program into practice.
We’re at a point in healthcare right now where everything is changing. It is now widely accepted that the system is broken. With that has come an openness to the new models of care and models of leadership we teach, which is really based on this concept of informed mindfulness. This allows leaders to be present in the midst of a challenge, understand the situation and bring their experiences, thoughtfulness, knowledge, and expertise to a solution. This encompasses an approach to leadership, decision making, and partnership within the clinical care team. It’s what we need in our healthcare system most at this point.
Absolutely the most rewarding thing about the Leadership Program for me is the experience of getting to the students. The people I’ve gotten to know over the past few years who have joined our program have just been outstanding. The diversity of experiences, the diversity of perspectives that they bring, and then watching what they do as they leave the program and go back to their organization and bring some of the lessons and ideas, and watching it come into action as they move forward has been just phenomenal.
I think this past year or past two years have really been a watershed in our progress around Integrative Health. Throughout my time in the field, there has been a sense that we were pushing a boulder up a hill and progress was really slow. It feels like we’re past a tipping point where the health care system in the United States has opened up to the concept of integrative approaches and the opportunity for leadership in that area is at a place it’s never been before. One indicator is the number of positions available to run an integrative health center or help develop an integrative program for a health system. This openness and welcoming for the Integrative Health perspective is unprecedented. This is a great opportunity for us to train those leaders for the next decade – next two decades – to continue this progress and do more to move this forward to make it an integral part of our healthcare system.
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