Center for Integrative Medicine Opens Its New Home

From Dream to Reality

By Christy Krueger

Dr. Andrew Weil, the father of integrative medicine, has always dreamed of having a dedicated center to continue and expand his mission of bringing the field into mainstream medicine. After years of working out of a small, cramped house north of the University of Arizona campus, the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine has found a new home.

The 30,000-square-foot facility opened with a public open house on May 4. The complex is made up of three buildings, each representing one of the three aspects of the whole person – mind, body and spirit.

Weil says as far as he knows, he invented the term “integrative medicine.”

“I certainly popularized it,” he noted. He defines the term as “the combination of conventional medicine and natural therapies and treatments not typically taught in medical school.”

His goals have always included educating the public and those in the medical field on the advantages of integrative medicine and striving for its acceptance. He’s written books and given seminars geared toward the general public. “I stress to have confidence in your body’s ability to heal. It’s been one of my major goals.”

He’s also responsible for convincing medical schools, including UArizona College of Medicine, to add curriculum to their programs. “It’s becoming a mainstream movement,” he said. “Medical schools have dedicated programs to integrative medicine. Our medical school has graduated 3,000 in the program.”

The architectural design of the new buildings was by Line and Space, a Tucson firm. “Esther Sternberg worked on the environmental aspects with all non-toxic materials to promote wellness,” Weil said. “Now we can do events, and everyone is in one place. We want to open a clinic there to see patients. We hope to have it open by middle of the year.”

Of course, having classrooms and research space is an important part of the center’s function. Medical students and residents have rotations there, according to Weil. And upcoming research projects include comparing patient success and costs between conventional medical treatments and integrative practices.

Each of the three buildings making up the complex has a dedicated theme and purpose. The spirit building has a tranquil environment for meditation and spiritual engagement. The mind building houses the administrative functions. The Iris Cantor building represents the body and houses education and wellness programs, with funding coming from Iris Cantor and the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.

Since her sister’s passing at the age of 29 from breast cancer, Iris Cantor and the foundation have been regular donors to the field of medicine as well as the arts. “In medicine we champion institutions at the forefront of biomedical research and compassionate care,” she said. “The Andrew Weil Center encapsulates the type of project that aligns with our core mission, so we wanted to make sure his center became a reality.”

Cantor’s journey to Tucson from New York began with her longtime friendship with Weil. “What Andy is pioneering at UArizona is truly groundbreaking and has the potential to impact countless lives worldwide,” she said. “Andy understands that the healthcare system is fundamentally broken. The new facility will be the perfect place to facilitate the research needed.”

As the new complex opened, a changing of the guards occurred. Dr. Stephen Dahmer is the new director of the center. “I gave up the position and I’m now called the founder of the center,” Weil said. He noted that he and Dahmer have similar interests and goals. “He’s interested in psychedelic medicine, clinical services, education and culinary medicine, which is becoming a movement in this country.”

The realization of the new facility has been a prolonged wait for Weil. It’s been 30 years since he created the world’s first program in integrative medicine at the UArizona College of Medicine. “For a very long time I dreamed of having a physical center that embodied our dream.” But past UArizona presidents were not fully supportive, and there was a lack of funding, he said. That all changed when Dr. Robert C. Robbins came along.

“This wouldn’t have happened without President Robbins,” Weil stated. “When we first met, he told me he was a big fan of my work. He wanted to visit the center and he promised to get us a building. He helped find some of the money for the building. It’s a wonderful space. You can feel the energy of the space. We’re on the brink of great expansion.”

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