Integrative Medicine Visionary, Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, Recognized at Recent Healthcare Symposium

Plus other conference highlights

By Karolyn A. Gazella

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More than 900 people, most of them healthcare professionals, sat transfixed as Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, walked onto the stage to receive the 2011 Visionary Award at the recent Integrative Healthcare Symposium, which was held in New York City, March 4–6, 2011. Her keynote topic was "Soul Work: Integrating the Spirit in Healthcare."

“Spirit is not a dimension of healthcare, but rather the foundation of every interaction with every patient,” Remen explained. “Encountering the soul in our work renews us, inspires us, and reinvigorates our sense of calling and service.” Remen, a best-selling author and master storyteller, used poignant patient stories and a deep wisdom gleaned from practicing medicine for nearly four decades to creatively deliver her inspiring message to the symposium audience.

“Rachel’s soft spoken, compelling style caused everyone in the room to become quiet as she regaled stories of hope and mystery,” recalled Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom(NA). “An audience of doctors is inclined to want blood tests, MRIs, or randomized, controlled trials to tell us what this thing called dying is, and how we can control it. Rachel's warm, reassuring smile at the telling of each story reminded us that each person is a mystery and it is a privilege to be present to that person.”

A recognized leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, Remen is among the first medical doctors to emphasize the role of spirit in health and healing.

There were both laughter and tears from the crowd throughout Remen’s keynote address. A recognized leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, Remen is among the first medical doctors to emphasize the role of spirit in health and healing. She has cared for people with cancer and their families for nearly 40 years; her own 55-year personal history with Crohn’s disease gives her unique insight both as a physician and a patient. Her inspiring presentation was a highlight of the symposium.

The Visionary Award specifically recognizes a pioneer in the field of integrative healthcare—someone who has advanced the community through his or her leadership. Past winners of the Visionary Award include Christiane Northrup, MD, in 2010, and Donna Karan, creator of the Urban Zen Foundation, in 2009.

Symposium Brings Together Healthcare Leaders

In addition to Remen, the symposium featured more than 60 different speakers on topics of nutrition, integrative oncology, endocrinology, brain and mind health, and leadership and policy. Conference organizers reported record attendance of 1,180 integrative practitioners and healthcare professionals. Symposium participants were provided with a diverse range of presentations over the three-day period.

Other keynotes included “The Relationship of Environment and Human Health,” by Teiraona Low Dog, MD; “Controversies in Nutrition,” by Alan R. Gaby, MD; and “Diabesity,” by Mark Hyman, MD. The exciting field of epigenetics (the study of changes in the genome that occur without changing DNA sequencing) was discussed in relation to both brain health and cancer development. Benjamin Kligler, MD, MPH, Lori Knutson, RN, BSN, HN-BC, and John Weeks addressed integrative care in the hospital setting. Ronald Hoffman, MD, discussed cardiovascular care, and James Gordon, MD, talked to the audience about integrating mind-body medicine into clinical practice.

Sessions were well attended, but so was the exhibit hall, which is good news for the 139 companies that displayed their newest products and services. “We are so pleased with this year’s results and have received positive feedback from conference participants and exhibitors,” said Liz Plizga, event and conference director. “This event has already created strong interest for 2012.”

Next year’s event will be held February 9–11, 2011 in the same place, the Hilton New York. Presently 2011 information is available at, and information regarding the 2012 conference will be provided soon. The International Healthcare Symposium is produced by Diversified Business Communications.

About the Author

Karolyn A. Gazella is the publisher of the Natural Medicine Journal and the host of the Natural Medicine Journal Podcast series. She also co-hosts the Five to Thrive Live weekly radio show on the Cancer Support Network, which is also widely available as a podcast. She has been writing and publishing integrative health information since 1992 and is the author or co-author of several books and booklets on a variety of holistic health topics.