GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- October is national Breast Cancer Awareness month. Therapies and treatments are now giving great cure rates for women, but sometimes, additional support is lacking.
Penny George wanted to do something about that so she created The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.
Q. You have become a local and national advocate for integrative medicine. How did you get involved in the first place?
A. I was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. And although I had excellent medical care, I found emotional support lacking. So I created my own support system with my colleagues and family. One of the first positions I helped to create at Allina Health was a healing coach for cancer patients. The idea of individualizing care and focusing on the whole body -- recognizing the mind-body-and-spirit connection has grown among consumers and health care providers.
I knew that having a healing coach and using guided imagery was empowering and probably lead to faster healing. But, integrative therapies can't survive in mainstream medicine without proof that it contributes to what is called The Triple Aim: improves patient satisfaction, improves clinical outcomes and improves costs.
Research is one of the most important activities of the Penny George Institute. We conduct studies and publish the results in peer-reviewed journals. Even skeptics realize that Western medicine can't solve all of our health problems, but there's evidence that integrative therapies can help.
Q. Penny George Institute for Health and Healing is hosting a big event in Minneapolis this week called Transforming Medicine. It is sold out as of today's date. However, how would you say that medicine is being transformed?
A. We used to call therapies like massage, acupuncture and guided imagery complementary and alternative medicine. We call them integrative medicine because we want patients to have the best of both Western and Eastern medicine traditions.
At Allina Health, Penny George Institute practitioners started inside the hospital, working with the sickest patients. Now, we're being asked to expand into the primary care setting. That's still in the planning stages. And it's great! Because we want to help patients look at all the options for taking care of their health – even when they are well – whether it's a diet to help them sleep better or meditation to help with stress.
Q. If people are interested in exploring integrative health and medicine further, what can they do?
A. Head to the Penny George