Integrative medicine and the legacy gift shaping its future

By The Health News Team | February 12, 2024
Suzanne Shea at Sharp HealthCare's corporate offices

Suzanne Shea, vice president of System Pharmacy and Clinical Nutrition, is grateful for the generous gift that will help expand integrative medicine at Sharp.

Sharp HealthCare offers several complementary medicine programs that are used in conjunction with conventional medical treatment. These holistic treatments, including healing touch, acupuncture, meditation and clinical aromatherapy, can help alleviate stress, reduce pain and anxiety, manage symptoms and promote overall well-being and balance.

The blending of Eastern medicine and traditional medical treatment is known as integrative medicine.

“Integrative medicine doesn’t solve for everything, but the base of it is that you’re taking care of yourself through mindfulness practices, nutrition, healing touch, acupuncture and meditation,” says Suzanne Shea, vice president of System Pharmacy and Clinical Nutrition. “The kinds of things we know keep the whole person healthy and prevent chronic conditions.”

But there is more to this. Integrative medicine at Sharp is an emerging department — one that will expand over the coming years thanks to a $975,000 life estate gift annuity by Michael Elkins.

“Michael’s gift is so meaningful because it will really be the launching pad to grow this important area at Sharp,” says Shea.

Integrative medicine’s place at Sharp

Some integrative medicine therapies are offered at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, Sharp Coronado Hospital, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Memorial Hospital. However, the programs are not yet offered uniformly across the system, Shea says.

For example, acupuncture, tai chi and yoga are offered primarily at Sharp Coronado Hospital, while pet therapy and clinical aromatherapy are offered at six Sharp locations, including Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. Sound therapy and healing touch are offered at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

“We’re not telling you not to see your doctor and not to take your medication and traditional treatments that we see in Western medicine,” Shea says. “But what can you incorporate that will help your healing, wellness and healthfulness that are in the concepts around Eastern medicine? It’s combining the two and using the best of both worlds to treat the whole patient.”

Shea and her team review evidence-based research to make sure the integrative medicine treatments Sharp offers meet the health organization’s standards.

“There is a growing body of evidence and research in the area of integrative medicine,” Shea says. “We also hear from our patients the positive experiences they have when using integrative medicine. We need to be mindful to meet our Sharp patients where they are.”

Sharp is in the planning stages of forming an integrative medicine symposium in late 2024. There, likeminded providers and health care employees will gather to discuss and explore ways to grow the programs beyond the therapies offered today.

“We want to educate patients that there are alternatives to what they’re doing now,” Shea says. “It’s up to the patient and their provider to have those discussions and have more choices to achieve wellness.”

Generosity changing lives

Michael sees the positives in integrative medicine, identifying the need to keep people healthy before they need medical treatment. “I’d much rather have a fireman show me how to keep my house from burning down to begin with than having a fireman come over to put out a fire,” he says.

In addition to working as a stockbroker, realtor and software engineer, Michael also formerly worked at the Sharp Grossmont Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Having a continued desire to help others, he reached out to Grossmont Hospital Foundation about a possible legacy donation and spoke with Shea.

“I felt very honored to have a conversation with him and get to know him and his journey,” Shea says. “Michael wanting to provide this generous donation is so touching. It really speaks to him wanting people in the future to be healthier.”

Life estate gift annuities allow individuals to deed their homes or property to the Foundations of Sharp HealthCare while continuing to occupy the home and receive a secure income for life. When the owners of the property pass away, Sharp will sell the property to support the Sharp hospital or program of choice.

Though Michael will not be alive to see his gift come to fruition, he knows his legacy goes beyond his name. “I want to be remembered as somebody who did what he could to further the wellbeing of the common man,” he says. “The common man and the good of humanity come first. I can’t think of a better legacy than standing out in supporting integrative medicine.”

Learn more about the integrative medicine department at Sharp and click here to learn more about estate planning and making legacy contributions.


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