An incredible development is brewing in the hearts and minds of Portland’s health care practitioners, and its name is The Chitari Foundation . Their first project is the Chitari Center of Collaborative Medicine, a non-profit, in-patient skilled nursing facility where practitioners from all medical disciplines can work collaboratively to help severely ill patients who need a broad spectrum approach to healing. Their combined expertise, highly coordinated to treat life-threatening and intractable conditions, bridges the gap between an outpatient integrative clinic and a large Western hospital.
The Chitari Foundation’s vision is to create a global model of wellness where all people have access to collaborative medicine. Chitari means “meeting place” in Nepalese: the meeting of medical disciplines, the true meeting of the doctor and patient in a place of respect and support, and the meeting and fostering of community. Remember, the term ‘hospital’ developed from the phrase ‘place of hospitality.’ The Chitari Foundation’s vision embodies this original intent, while encouraging everyone to help create the world in which we would like to live.
The Chitari Foundation is the brainchild of Dr. Satya Ambrose, who in 1983 co-founded the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM), one of the nation’s leading colleges of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the first college accredited for their Doctorate of Oriental Medicine program [full disclosure: Dr. Ambrose was my teacher during my time at OCOM, and I interned in her teaching clinic]. Dr. Ambrose is heavily involved in both OCOM and the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) here in Portland, not only teaching at both locations but also offering her private practice in Damascus as a place for observation and internship in both Naturopathic and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Dr. Ambrose can often be seen treating patients with a cluster of 3 or more students and interns surrounding her and her patient; the observers and interns function in a coordinated, octopus-like manner as an extension of Dr. Ambrose’s vibrant, bubbly presence, filling herbal prescriptions, taking notes, and following her lead in the administration of treatments. One gets the impression that they are devoted to Dr. Ambrose for reasons above and beyond her extensive knowledge, experience, and high rates of success in treating difficult cases that have stumped all other providers; she has a magnetic and joyous quality that lifts the spirits of those around her.
Dr. Ambrose teaching biochemistry. ::song interlude!::
Dr. Ambrose is now funneling her abundant energy towards the creation of the Chitari Center of Collaborative Medicine, an oasis of integrative care in the Willamette Valley. She has gathered a crack team of physicians and administrators to bring this vision to fruition, allowing this center to be built collaboratively from the ground up, with an integrative and holistic approach from all angles of development.
The Chitari Foundation is hosting several fund-raising events throughout the summer. You can donate to them directly HERE .
I interviewed Dr. Ambrose as she was first bringing this team together; this interview took place in June 2011, and small additions have been added with Dr. Ambrose’s participation since that time.
BG: What inspired the idea of Chitari?
BG: What are the main components of this vision?
BG: So it’s not just that they’re falling through cracks, it’s rather that there’s not even a crack to fall through.
BG: So when they’re in the hospital, what kind of therapies would patients receive?
So research is another component, and the research will investigate diseases such as Lyme Disease. And then there will be research on the culture of health, for example how to clean up a neighborhood, how to make it healthier. That will be integrated into the schools.
BG: That sounds like a radical idea. How do you measure the culture of community health?
BG: So will Chitari be integrating the community garden aspect as well?
BG: So with Chitari, you have experiential learning, research and education, and ground-up support in the community. So I understand that you are envisioning branches of the Chitari Foundation in several locations across the globe- how do you create a unique facility that reflects the community of which it is striving to be such an integral component?
BG: By creating the correct structure for that?
So, we will support [community health education projects] and then provide medical and health prevention, treatment, and recovery approaches within the clinic and hospital. The hospital will have an acute care unit, and also a place where people who are chronically ill can go to get assessed and revamped.
BG: So the people who would be patients at the hospital would fall into a couple of different categories: the acute patients and the chronic illness patients for the inpatient clinic. Would people be able to just pop in for checkups too?
BG: Who should get involved, and do you have anything to add?
[Projects like the Chitari Foundation] will impact everybody, and I know that people really want this in their lives if they have access to it. So we just have to encourage them to have the self-esteem and the support to embrace it and go after it, because it’s not MY project, it’s everybody’s. So it has to be a cultural phenomenon to make this change happen.
We have a choice of either really going downhill right now or uphill. Or having rainbows (laugh). We have technology and the ability to really create an incredible sustainable culture. And so it’s kind of a choice, but it’s not really a choice if you want to survive and have quality.
BG: Thank You!
The Chitari Center of Collaborative Medicine will advance Portland’s already international reputation for integrative health care. Portland is home to prestigious schools of Nursing, Naturopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chiropractic, and Massage Therapy, so it’s no surprise that Portland boasts numerous integrative clinics, such as the Providence Integrative Medicine Program, The Quest Center for Integrative Health, and Oregon Health and Sciences University’s (OHSU) Women’s Primary Care and Integrative Medicine Center for Women’s Health. It therefore comes as no surprise that last month, Portland hosted the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine ‘s third International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health.
Integrative medicine functions at the cutting edge of health care; it represents a national (and long-overdue) medical re-strategization of priorities. Integrative centers create a medical team to fit the needs of the patient, rather than focusing on how the patient can fit into medical systems or disparate medical departments. A February 2012 report by the Bravewell Collaborative nonprofit defines integrative medicine as “an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. Employing a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs, and circumstances, it uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimum health.”
Bravewell Collaborative’s 2012 report Integrative Medicine In America: How Integrative Medicine Is Being Practiced in Clinical Centers Across the United States examines data from 29 integrative medical centers across the US. Fifteen of these provide in-patient services, including the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine and Duke Integrative Medicine. These medical centers are not only at the forefront of patient care modeling, but 86% of those studied are participating in clinical trials or outcome-based research as well as offering provider education, acting as important hubs of communication within and between fields of medicine. The report concludes that “integrative medicine is now an established part of healthcare in the United States,” evidenced by “the strong affiliations to hospitals, healthcare systems, and medical and nursing schools as well as the centers’ collaborative work with, and growing referrals from, their own health systems.” The American public and medical professionals are increasingly accepting this model of health care as their patient base expands. The Chitari Center of Collaborative Medicine will join the ranks of these important institutions in order to continue the advancement of patient-centered health care.