By Dr. Mercola
Have you ever wondered where a doctor, or even you, can go to get some of the finest training in the world in integrative medicine?
Dr. Lee Cowden is a long-time friend and served as one of my initial natural medicine mentors. He is a former interventional cardiologist who became disenchanted with conventional approaches and used his brilliant intellect to explore natural alternatives.
He's been working with the Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine (ACIM) to develop the finest, most comprehensive, and cost-effective natural training program currently available.
Dr. Cowden's interest in integrative medicine goes back to his days in medical school, when he developed an allergy that got progressively worse despite following the conventional treatment protocols.
"Thank goodness, my wife's grandmother came to visit us," he says. "She was a school teacher and a self-taught nutritionist. She took me to the health food store and got me some vitamins, minerals, and herbs, and I got well.
I thought, "I need to learn what this woman knows and I need to take with a grain of salt everything I learn in medical training after this.'"
He did complete his medical training and became board certified in cardiology. After finishing up his education, he spent a year doing invasive cardiology and critical care medicine rotations at seven different hospitals. At the end of that first year, he realized two things:
"If I continued that pace of lifestyle, I wouldn't make it to my 50th birthday, because it was grueling. I was on call every other weeknight and every other weekend.
The other thing I realized was that even though I was helping patients get out of the hospital who most of the practitioners weren't able to help, their recovery was very temporary.
Within two to three months, the same patients would show back up in the hospital, because they weren't changing their lifestyle; they were continuing the same bad food and the same bad habits.
I realized that I was intervening way too far down the stream. After one year of that grueling practice, I decided I was going to change to preventive medicine, preventive cardiology."
The Challenge of Educating Holistic Practitioners
In the four decades since then, Dr. Cowden has gained a comprehensive understanding of a wide array of natural healing therapies, including nutrition, herbology, electromagnetic therapies, pulse magnetic therapies, and photonic therapies just to name a few.
"Back in those days, there weren't really any conferences that you could go to, to learn this kind of stuff. I had to teach myself as I went through the process," he says.
"After I finished the formal training and went into private practice, my patients taught me a huge amount.
A lot of them would be readers who would bring in their information and say, 'Dr. Cowden, we heard about this,' or 'Have you heard about that?' I'd say, 'No, I haven't. Let me look into it.'
Nowadays, most practitioners spend so little time with the patient, how can they really learn much from the patient? They're ratcheted down to a less than five-minute exam per patient and then they move on to the next room. It's just not conducive to learning much from the patient."
I became interested in alternative therapies in the early '90s. At that time, there were groups like the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), and a few others, where likeminded physicians got together a few times a year and offered training.
The very first group to come into existence was the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA), founded by Norman Shealy, MD and a few other practitioners back in 1978.
A few others were created soon after that, including the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), which taught and promoted intravenous chelation therapy.
"But by that time, I was in practice," Dr. Cowden says, "and I really didn't have much time to go to conferences. I had a huge practice in Dallas.
When I would take off to go to a meeting on a weekday, it would cost me 3,000 dollars a day before I ever paid for the airfare, the hotel room, or the tuition for the meeting. It was sometimes very difficult financially to do it...
That's why we saw the need to do something different in the way of education, and that's why I joined in with this academy that I work with now, because it's a worldwide online educational membership organization.
Practitioners can actually learn from the comfort of their home or office after hours, without having to have time away from practice, the expensive travel, and so on. I think that's a better way to go for a lot of practitioners."
The Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine
In 2008, Dr. Cowden joined the Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine (ACIM), a Panamanian company, which avoids US regulatory challenges. By 2009, he was spending 50 hours a week working with the academy and 50 hours a week working his practice.
Eventually, he decided to focus on teaching, which is certainly less financially rewarding than running a medical practice. But he felt that by educating practitioners rather than focusing on one patient at a time, he could help a lot more people.
"I think it's really important for the laypeople who listen to this to let their practitioners know that there's another way to get educated, without spending huge bucks or having to travel so much," he notes.
There are two available paths in the academy:
- The informal path. As a member (free membership is also available), you can look through the catalog and select the education courses that interest you. All courses are available as online videos.
- The formal path. Practitioners who want to go to the next step can enter into the ACIM's integrative medicine fellowship program, which includes 300 hours' worth of integrative medicine educational training, much of which can be done online.
There are also different levels within the fellowship program, from low to high. Anybody who wants to learn can sign up, even if you're not a licensed medical professional.
The MD/DO level have access to invasive procedures that unlicensed folk should not be doing, but there are also courses available for those who aspire to be wellness coaches, or just want to help themselves and their family. "In those, there's a lot of lifestyle training and teaching of nutrition and detoxification that can be done non-invasively," Dr. Cowden says.
How ACIM Compares to Other Training Options
Besides ACIM, there are also some other training options available these days. The University of Arizona, Tucson has an integrative medicine fellowship program, but it will set you back about $30,000 for a two-year term.
"I really appreciate how much positive light Andy Weil has put on to integrative medicine. He's brought it more mainstream. That's a great thing, but it's not as deep a level of training as I think a practitioner should have in order to help the most number of patients," Dr. Cowen notes.
The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) also has a fellowship program, but it too is expensive, starting out at around $28,000 for 192-hours' worth of training.
"Our fellowship is a lot more affordable for the practitioners who don't have big bucks to spend on it. We're doing our 300 hours' worth of training with our premier membership discounts at a total price of $7,500," Dr. Cowden says. "It's much broader than the A4M. The A4M is I think a better program than what they have at the University of Arizona, but it's still limited compared to what we're teaching."
Since the training is online, you can start anytime, and you can commit to one level of training at a time. You don't have to commit to the entire fellowship, as there are 10 levels of the fellowship, about 30 hours each, for 300 hours of total training. Some of the things taught in the first module include:
- Interpretation of routine laboratory tests, based on optimally healthy levels, opposed to what conventional medicine considers "normal" based on a diseased population
- Water impurities and water purification
- Common nutritional deficiencies and the types of supplements a majority of patients need, and why
- Heavy metal toxicity and detoxification, including sauna therapy and lymphatic drainage
The ACIM also offers a worldwide mentoring program. If a practitioner has a patient who can't get help in this country, they contact the academy and get connected with a specialist in another country. If there's a language barrier, they also can arrange for translators to be available.
How Integrative Medicine Evaluates Patients
Integrative medicine uses all the tools that allopathic medicine uses to evaluate and diagnose a patient, but they also have additional tools. Basically, the main difference between these two branches is that integrative medical professionals have an expanded tool kit. Examples include electrodermal screening (EDS) (both point-type testing and galvanic skin response testing), heart rate variability systems, and various types of thermography (such as infrared-imaging thermography and contact-type computerized regulation thermography).
"You can learn things about the infection level in the body, the lymphatic flow, and all kinds of other stuff from thermography, not just whether you do or don't have breast cancer." Dr. Cowden notes, adding: "There's a variety of tools that we have access to in integrative medicine that can help to identify causation as well as to guide therapy.
For example, in the heart rate variability, you get to do a heart variability test in about five minutes on a patient, do an intervention in the office, and then repeat the heart rate variability and know whether that was a good choice for the patient or not. Because if it's a good choice, then the patient's heart rate variability measures improve within five minutes."
The Difference Between Allopathic and Integrative Treatment
The most significant differences between the allopathic versus the integrative paths emerge in the treatment. For starters, with integrative treatment, drugs and surgery are remedies of last resort, and are typically not considered unless or until absolutely necessary.
"We have many tools in integrative medicine that can be used to help the patient improve, like the photonic therapies. Those include the infrared saunas, for example, or the low-level laser therapies. One that I'm particularly enamored with recently is called the multi-radiance therapy from Russia, which is a combination of infrared laser therapy, four different colors of light-emitting diodes, magnetic therapy, and ultrasound therapy all on the same device at the same time, on the same frequency. You can oftentimes get a resolution of chronic pain in five or 10 minutes with such a device. It's quite rewarding," Dr. Cowden says.
Pulse magnetic therapies are also effective for pain. If you've ever seen a football player with wires hanging from under his jersey, he's probably wearing a microcurrent device to repair tissue or muscle damage and reduce pain. Then, there are orthomolecular medicine treatments, where you use high doses of vitamins and minerals for therapeutic purpose. Dr. Cowden, like myself, also promotes tools for releasing emotions to improve physical conditions. One of my personal favorites is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
"There's also EVOX therapy, which is speaking into a microphone and rapidly resolving the emotions of the body by playing back a homaccord of the voice into the patient's body and shaking loose from the cells, those cellular memories. Also, we teach the Recall Healing, which is a synthesis of the German New Medicine, the Total Biology from France, and other modalities. It's just asking the right question the right way, so that the patient has an "aha" moment, then it releases the emotion and the belief that brought on the physical disease."
In Dr. Cowden's experience, once basics such as nutrition, sleep, exercise, electromagnetic pollution, and emotional components are addressed, about 90 percent of patients see improvement or resolution of their problem. Only about 10 percent — people who are very severely ill — are still struggling at that point.
"I'd say if a patient has had a body part surgically removed or a limb cut off, they can't fix that. But everything else, the body is capable of repairing itself if you take away the obstructions to healing and provide the things that are necessary for healing like nutrition, oxygen, exercise, movement, and so on," he says.
Circumventing Restrictions Imposed by Professional Organizations and Industry
As mentioned earlier, you do not have to have a medical license to train at ACIM. In fact, the academy encourages laypeople to further their knowledge about integrative medicine in order to help heal themselves and their families. One question that arises is whether or not you might get into legal trouble should you decide to counsel others after receiving a certificate in a particular modality from the academy.
For example, organizations such as the American Dietetic Association (now calling itself the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) has pushed state laws to block almost anyone except their registered dietitians (RDs) from legally giving nutritional advice. One way around this is to establish a private membership association.
"When you do a private membership association, the patient is taking themselves out of the public and putting themselves into the private [association]. Those two individuals can have a conversation, and can do things like nutritional counseling, praying for someone, laying hands on someone, or whatever, to help that person's condition as long as they're doing it within the privacy of that membership association," Dr. Cowden says.
While this strategy has been challenged, it has held up in court. There are also many Supreme Court case precedents dating as far back as 80 years. According to Dr. Cowden, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was one of the first private member's associations that was challenged legally and held up in court.
"But most people don't want to jump into the deep end of the pool. They want to stick their toe in the shallow end and see how it feels. We encourage that. Become a free member in the academy. Go to the catalog, type in 'Free,' see what free courses we have there, and look at those. If they find some value in that, they'd say, 'I think I want to pay for couple of courses.' They look through the catalog and see which courses that have a cost that look interesting to them.
They pay the minimal fee for that and review that information. Over time, some people have become aware of the fact that they really want to do this in a much more organized and definitive way. They would say, 'Okay, I'm ready to start on level one of the fellowship. I want to learn that information.' If they like that and if they feel like they've got enough benefit from that, they do level two. If they like that, they do level three, and they work their way through it that way."
More Information, and Notice of Upcoming Conference
The Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine (ACIM) will be holding a live international conference on neuroregeneration on October 23-24, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Practitioners will share their experience and knowledge of how to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), autism, and other advanced neurological conditions using integrative medicine.
The invasive pre-conference on October 22 is open to medical doctors, osteopathic doctors, and some naturopathic doctors who are licensed in a state that allows them to do invasive procedures. The conference will be recorded and later integrated into the academy curriculum.
"That pre-conference will show them how to do different types of invasive procedures to help patients with neurological conditions rapidly recover. That includes prolozone therapy, major autohemotherapy, minor autohemotherapy, ultraviolet water radiation, and a few other techniques. While that's going on, I'm going to be conducting at the same time in another room a course on how to help patients with neurological conditions using techniques that don't require any kind of invasion in the body. So we will have two parallel sessions for pre-conference," Dr. Cowden says.
"The ability to access [the recordings] easily and conveniently online is an empowering tool that can help transfer this knowledge where it needs to be going, and helps prevent needless pain and suffering that occurs to so many millions of people. That's really my passion. It is to empower people to help themselves out of the bad situations that they're in with their health, and to help their family, their friends and the patients of other practitioners. I want to see that happen worldwide, not just in the United States."
To learn more, please visit the Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine's website. I could not recommend any training program in this area more highly. It is the best out there, either for yourself or for your health care clinician who is seeking to improve their knowledge and competency in this area. Under Resources you can also find a variety of qualified health professionals trained in integrative medicine.