2022 AIMA Conference Student Essay Competition

This year we ran a Student Essay Competition inviting students to submit a 300-500 word essay on the topic “What are the key advantages to developing an integrative care team and how would you go about establishing these relationships”.

Congratulations go to our winners:

  • Anina van der Walt – AUT Health Science Student (scroll down to read her essay!)
  • Susan Eckert – South Pacific College of Natural Medicine Student Student
  • Nico Calderón-Hunt – Auckland University Medical Student

Each winner will receive a free ticket to the 2022 AIMA NZ Conference, a range of books from our sponsors/speakers and a $200 cash prize!

If you are a student and have missed out on the essay competition, tickets are available to purchase at a discounted student rate of $120 from https://events.humanitix.com/2022-aima-conference


What are the key advantages to developing an integrative care team and how would you go about establishing this relationship? by Anina van der Walt (PGDip Health Sci Student)

Conventional Western medicine has become very proficient at treating acute medical emergencies, however, it is severely lacking when faced with managing and treating chronic illness. With almost 20% of the average Western citizen’s life spent chronically ill, healthcare is faced with a major dilemma (Roy, 2010). An increasing number of people are needlessly suffering and dying from common chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, obesity, hypertension and heart disease, which can all be delayed in onset if not prevented entirely (Roy, 2010).

According to Guba (2007), integrative medicine is defined as “the clinical practice of coordinating standard, evidence-based medical practices provided by a physician or physician extender with multiple other disciplines such as massage, acupuncture, psychosocial counseling, and nutritional counselling”. This aims to ensure that the problem is viewed from a holistic viewpoint, where the whole person, not just the disease, is treated to achieve optimal wellbeing (Guba, 2007). The demonstrated advantages of utilising an integrative care team applies to an ever increasing number of conditions. Wayne et al. (2019) demonstrated that a team-based integrative medicine approach resulted in reduced medication use in patients with chronic pain, trends toward reduced direct expenditures and equal effectiveness when compared to a conventional care model. Integrative medicine also provides huge benefit to patients with cancer, with 50% to 83% of patients utilising complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) during their treatment journey (Frenkel & Ben-Arye, 2009). They typically do this not because of dissatisfaction with their conventional treatment, but in an effort to do everything possible to regain health, improve quality of life, reduce side effects and organ toxicity, protect and stimulate immunity, and prevent reoccurrences or secondary cancers (Frenkel & Ben-Arye, 2009). Ornish et al. (2008) found that comprehensive lifestyle changes (those promoted by CIM) significantly increased telomerase activity, decreased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and decreased psychological stress.

Guba (2007) recommends taking a slow approach to building an integrative team and starting with the basics, such as adequate aerobic exercise, stress-reduction techniques, adequate sleep, regular dental care, proper nutrition and water intake, regular preventative care and healthy lifestyle choices. Both conventional and CIM modalities should be thouroughly discussed with the patient to ensure these “basics” are adequately addressed (Guba, 2007). To support patients and prevent possible adverse interactions, open dialogue between patients, conventional medicine practitioners, and CIM practitioners must be prioritised, encouraged and improved (Brien et al., 2011). Eisenberg et al. (2016) recommends comprehensive team training involving referral pathways, shared decision making, communication and reporting authority, as well as  team-building exercises such as performing diagnostic work or therapy on one another to familiarise each practitioner with the work of the others. Mulkins et al. (2005) identified four central categories critical to forming and sustaining an effective integrative team. These are effective communication tools (weekly team meetings, common patient chart, standardised protocols, understanding fellow teammates’ work, environment that supports informal communication), personal attributes (enthusiasm, team players, change agents), satisfactory compensation and supportive organisational structure (Mulkins et al., 2005). Current models of establishing an integrative team vary tremendously and no with clear consensus, therefore more research is required to optimise and standardise a framework for practitioners (Eisenberg et al., 2016).


Brien, S., Bishop, F., Riggs, K., Stevenson, D., Freire, V., & Lewith, G. (2011). Integrated medicine in the management of chronic illness: a qualitative study. British Journal Of General Practice, 61(583), e89-e96. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp11x556254

Eisenberg, D., Kaptchuk, T., Post, D., Hrbek, A., O’Connor, B., & Osypiuk, K. et al. (2016). Establishing an Integrative Medicine Program Within an Academic Health Center. Academic Medicine, 91(9), 1223-1230. https://doi.org/10.1097/acm.0000000000001173

Frenkel, M., & Ben-Arye, E. (2009). Developing a comprehensive integrative medicine program in oncology. Presentation, North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine.

Guba, S. (2007). New Perspectives on Developing a Cost-Effective Holistic, Integrative Medicine Program. Oncology Issues, 22(6), 32-37. https://doi.org/10.1080/10463356.2007.11883373

Mulkins, A., Eng, J., & Verhoef, M. (2005). Working towards a model of integrative health care: Critical elements for an effective team. Complementary Therapies In Medicine, 13(2), 115-122. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2005.04.002

Ornish, D., Lin, J., Daubenmier, J., Weidner, G., Epel, E., & Kemp, C. et al. (2008). Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: a pilot study. The Lancet Oncology, 9(11), 1048-1057. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1470-2045(08)70234-1

Roy, R. (2010). Integrative medicine to tackle the problem of chronic diseases. Journal Of Ayurveda And Integrative Medicine, 1(1), 18. https://doi.org/10.4103/0975-9476.59822

Wayne, P., Buring, J., Eisenberg, D., Osypiuk, K., Gow, B., & Davis, R. et al. (2019). Cost-Effectiveness of a Team-Based Integrative Medicine Approach to the Treatment of Back Pain. The Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine, 25(S1), S138-S146. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2018.0503