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At N.M. med center, a unique style of care

Sue Major Holmes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Many academic health centers offer programs that include traditional Chinese treatments or Ayurvedic medicine from India. The University of New Mexico goes beyond that, according to the management of its new Center for Life.

“The uniqueness of our program is that we not only embrace Eastern and Western philosophies, but we try to integrate the traditions of New Mexico,” said Dr. Arti Prasad, the center’s director. Thus, Native American healers and Hispanic curanderas are invited to work with patients at the clinic.

The Center for Life, which opened last Friday, offers what Prasad prefers to call “complementary medicine” — augmenting modern medicine with practices and treatments that may go back thousands of years in other cultures.

The philosophy has its basis in preventing disease, what Prasad describes as “keeping the body in balance, staying healthy, exercising, eating healthy and doing good things in your life.”

Western medicine works to find disease early with such tests as mammograms, while Eastern medicine steps in earlier to try to prevent disease, she said. If there’s an imbalance in the body and a person becomes ill, Eastern medicine tries to get the body back in balance, she said.

The center’s physicians work with yoga instructors, doctors of Oriental medicine or hypnotherapists “to achieve one goal of health and wellness in our patients,” said Prasad, a native of India who graduated from conventional Western medical schools but grew up with traditional folk medicine as part of the Indian lifestyle.

The clinic is located miles from the university’s hospital. That tends to reduce the anxiety many patients feel in a hospital setting, Prasad said.

“That’s different from a place where you can sense healing right from the beginning,” she said.

People enter through a reception area with a water fountain.

“The sound of water is very soothing and healing,” she explains.

Vibrant, sherbet-tone colors were chosen specifically for healing, giving a sense of joy and liveliness. Music plays throughout the clinic and in the rooms — which are called treatment rooms, not examination rooms. Instead of numbers, the rooms have names: Heal, Hope, Calm, Relax, Pleasure, Longevity. Instead of examination tables and fluorescent lights, they have small water fountains, massage tables and cushy furniture.

The building is new, but the center began last year when the Health Sciences Center expanded the integrated medicine section it started in 2001.

Prasad acknowledges that some doctors don’t support the idea of integrative medicine, but said more patients are demanding options.

“It’s here because our consumers are wanting it, our consumers are asking these questions so we have to go out and find the answers for them,” she said.

(Associated Press)