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Bravewell – Catalyst for Transformation of Healthcare

In 2002 a small number of like-minded philanthropists and physicians set out to bring integrative medicine to the forefront of patient care. At the time, conventional medicine was focused on treating the disease or trauma, not the whole person.

Yet around the nation there were already pioneering leaders and models of integrative medicine. A new vision for healthcare was beginning to emerge.

This visionary group – including Ann Lovell and Lura Lovell – focused their energies and resources on bringing integrative medicine into mainstream medicine with the goal of changing the entire healthcare system. Along with other philanthropists, practitioners, and academics, they established a proactive nonprofit foundation that became known as The Bravewell Collaborative.

Lura Lovell said, “It was imperative that we facilitate a deep understanding of the role of mind, body, community, and spirit in healing.”

Bravewell focused on initiatives that could have a national impact and served as a catalyst for strategic collaborations with an ever-widening network of colleagues who would:

  • Change the medical school curriculum in the United States and increase the number of integrative care centers
  • Develop fellowships and leadership programs to train doctors in integrative medicine
  • Initiate research to document the availability of integrative medicine nationwide
  • Commission a documentary on “The New Medicine” that aired on national public television
  • Research and produce publications to advance the understanding and implementation of integrative medicine
  • Connect 14 integrative health centers to work together and share best practices
  • Establish a practice-based research network to document outcomes for integrative care treatments
  • Produce a national integrative medicine research summit
  • Partner with the Veterans Administration to develop an integrative pain-management program
  • Recognize and support physician leaders and pioneers of integrative medicine

Changing Medical School Curriculum

In 1999 only eight medical schools in the United States had an active integrative medicine program. The leaders of those established centers met to focus on how they could work together as a formal consortium to advance integrative medicine. The challenge was getting them to convene on a regular basis.

In 2002 Bravewell stepped up to support the nascent Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine & Health, covering the cost of facilitators, meeting space, travel and other expenses. Over the next decade Bravewell would invest $1.5 million in the consortium as its membership grew.

By 2015 more than 60 major medical schools and health systems were engaged in research, education and clinical practice in integrative medicine in the U.S. as well as several in Canada and Mexico. Today, that number has grown to over 80.

Bravewell encouraged the Consortium to make its core competency work available to medical schools, which led to an article in the journal of the American Association of Medical Colleges. The Consortium then developed examples of integrative medicine curricula that Bravewell distributed to deans and medical school faculty throughout the nation, which are still widely used.

Supporting Fellowships with Clinical Experience

Strategic collaboration was at the core of every Bravewell initiative. Case in point: Dr. Andrew Weil established the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (a project long funded by the Lovell Foundation with grants totaling more than $2 million) and developed a fellowship program to train a new generation of physicians.

Bravewell members wanted to expand this training to include a year of clinical practice under the guidance of a mentor. Bravewell was already partnering with leading integrative medicine centers and had established The Bravewell Clinical Network.  This network could provide hands-on experience for those selected as Bravewell Fellows. The program would not only provide clinical experience for the fellows but also create a strong community of leaders in integrative medicine across the nation. Bravewell ultimately supported and graduated 89 Fellows, with the final class graduating in 2012.

Dr. Victoria Maizes, Executive Director of the center Weil founded, said, “Participating in the fellowship re-energizes, restructures and reframes a person’s perspective of medicine. It teaches a new way of caring for patients, with emphasis on the individual, not simply the disease, and on prevention, not just treatment.”

In 2015, the Lovell Foundation awarded an $847,000 multi-year grant to the University of Arizona College of Nursing to develop a similar Integrated Nursing Fellowship program.

Producing “The New Medicine” PBS Series

The Bravewell leaders decided that the Public Broadcasting System might be a strategic and credible place to tell integrative medicine’s story.  At the time, PBS was viewed regularly by more than 80 percent of American households and health was a significant category in their programming.

The bar was high. Only 10 percent of shows produced are ever aired on national public television. Bravewell picked an award-winning team to produce a documentary and raised $4 million to fund “The New Medicine.” Episode 1 looked at how science is proving the mind-body connection. Episode 2 examined the growing acceptance of holistic, mind-body medicine and how it was ultimately making medicine more humanistic.

The series aired back-to-back during prime time in all 50 states on 516 stations. More than 4.2 million people watched. Many stations scheduled the series again, and total viewership over the initial three-year period was 8 million.

Initiating a National Summit

As Bravewell’s impact and influence grew, members decided it was time to produce a national summit on integrative medicine that would engage the spectrum of leaders who influence healthcare decisions and could take action to make integrative medicine part of the national agenda. Invitees included AARP, the American Hospital Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Business Group on Health, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, National Health Policy Forum, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Bravewell collaborated with the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Six hundred researchers, practitioners and leaders from multiple sectors presented the vision, challenges, evidence base and opportunities for integrative medicine to improve healthcare in the United States. This was the largest event of its kind the Institute of Medicine ever convened.

Partnering with the Veterans Administration

In 2009 the Army Surgeon General commissioned a task force to make recommendations for a comprehensive pain management strategy for the Armed Forces. He asked for a holistic and multidisciplinary plan to provide optimal quality of life for soldiers and other patients with acute and chronic pain.

The Army wanted to partner with people who had experience in integrative medicine and they were willing to implement protocols that were supported by research outcomes as well as to engage in new research.

Dr. Tracy Gaudet was involved with Bravewell through the University of Arizona and Duke University, where she had worked with a general from the VA. Gaudet suggested that Bravewell leadership be invited to the table.

Bravewell had already established the first practice-based research network for integrative medicine in the nation and was open to interfacing with the Army’s own patient outcomes research.

In 2010 the VA created the Office of Patient-Centered Care dedicated to moving from physician-centered care to a personalized, proactive, patient-driven model. Guadet was recruited to lead this transformation. The VA then joined the BraveNet research network.

Funding Sunset Projects

Bravewell accomplished its mission and closed its doors in 2015. Before doing so, the leadership met with their best-practices clinical network to learn what final project would be most important to continue to move the field forward.

A physician leadership program was the result. The request for proposals read “We need healthcare leaders who understand the immense value of conventional medicine as well as the promise of integrative care and who can create collaborative environments in which the best of both can be realized.”

Duke University’s integrative medicine program and school of business collaborated to design a one-year experience that combined in-person leadership immersions, online course work, and a mentorship, during which participants would write individual business plans to be implemented at their institutions.

The second Bravewell legacy gift went to Albert Einstein College of Medicine as the new coordinating entity to assure that the practice-based research network would continue to demonstrate real-world outcomes of integrative medicine.

Lura and Ann Lovell remained active members throughout Bravewell’s existence and the Lovell Foundation invested $1,204,600 to support these initiatives.  The Collaborative’s model of success is documented in The Bravewell Story – How a Small Community of Philanthropists Made a Big Difference in Healthcare, published in 2016.  Written by former Executive Director Bonnie J. Horrigan, the book details the philosophy, principles, and processes that can be used by any organization that wants to build strong teams and get real results.