Third of a series
Pat Culliton began her career in the 1970s as a psychologist in Colorado, practicing at a forward-thinking mental health center that wanted to incorporate guided imagery, self-hypnosis and biofeedback to help alleviate suffering. She volunteered to get the necessary training and spent time with the founders of biofeedback. This was her introduction to holism, reflected today in health care as complementary medicine or integrative healing.
Soon, Pat felt a calling to explore Asian medicine firsthand, and she found herself in South Korea studying with a top acupuncturist. At the time, Pat thought she was there to study the philosophy of acupuncture, but a little girl with Bell’s palsy came in for treatment – and that changed everything. The young patient had been battling the condition for several months and was refusing to attend school. Within one week, she was healed.
This was an aha moment for Pat. She needed to learn how to do this. On returning to Minnesota as an acupuncturist, she made a few calls and then joined a group that was researching acupuncture. And here she is 30 years later – founder and director of Hennepin Integrative Health Services (HIHS), one of the oldest and most successful integrative clinics in the country. Along the way, Pat says she has had many mentors, all visionary and willing to take risks. One of them was Fred Shapiro, head of Hennepin Faculty Associates (HFA) and the man who hired Pat as the first acupuncturist to be associated with a medical hospital in the United States.
A visionary herself, after a few years working with HFA it occurred to Pat that complementary healing was bigger than just acupuncture, and by 1992 she had expanded offerings to include Chinese medicine, herbology, chiropractic, massage, energy-based therapies and holistic physical therapy. Today, 18 years later, the HIHS clinic has chiropractic and acupuncture practitioners, all of whom use additional modalities that complement their healing care. All treatments at the clinic include energy-based therapies, as well as consultations and assistance on integrative healing plans. Through a connection with Hennepin County Medical Center across the street, HIHS is able to create an interdisciplinary team of experts that allows for quality care through access to all forms of healing – allopathic and complementary medicine.
Hennepin County Medical Center is a training hospital for doctors and nurses, and the HIHS clinic is directly involved with helping medical students expand their understanding of holistic therapies. Pat says she is grateful for relationships with physicians and nurses, because these newly educated medical professionals are going out into the community with a broader look at clinical pathways to health and healing.
“The most fun is watching them experience holistic therapies themselves,” Pat says. “As students, they intellectualize by reading the data that supports this, but the internal process is a remarkable experience. You can see the students thinking, “Wow, I just felt my chi move throughout my body, and 10 minutes ago I did not believe in chi. It is exciting to see them get it – knowing, they will take their new understanding with them into their practices.”
The HIHS clinic sees more than 1,000 patients each month and notes an 80 percent success rate. The remaining 20 percent of patients generally find some sort of benefit, even if it is just learning to relax, Pat says.
One of Pat’s favorite stories involves a woman who came to her for inflammation of the bladder wall. She was a busy mother of two with a high-level job who became homebound because she needed to use the bathroom every 15 minutes. Because of her condition, she never was able to see her son, a track star, perform. With treatment twice a week for a month, the woman began to heal and get more rest. Soon she was able to do more around the house, and her spirits were rising. After a couple of years, the woman healed well enough to attend her son’s track meet in his senior year. She is now able to live a normal life. In fact, this woman and her husband spent a whole summer in Russia – in a tent – on a mission trip. Today, she is a parish nurse and spends her days helping other people.
Pat says there are thousands of people who come to the HIHS clinic with a variety of issues, ranging from back, neck and head pain to cancer, and most suffer from terrible pain. She sees many of them get well. At the clinic, Pat says the staff understands the mind, body, spirit connection. What the general public needs to know, Pat says, is that the Hennepin Integrative Health Services clinic is available to the public and is covered by most medical insurance companies. While they service patients at HCMC, they also are an independent provider. People can come directly to them for help.
Hennepin Integrative Health Services is located at 825 S. 8th St., Parkside Professional Center, Suite 1106, in Minneapolis. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 612.347.6238 or visit www.HennIHS.org
Next month: An in-depth look at Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury, MN