The Latest

USU, Maryland University of Integrative Health Announce Partnership

Students doing yoga exercises

By Sharon Holland

The Uniformed Services University (USU) and the Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) signed an educational agreement in December to provide graduate-level interprofessional learning opportunities for students enrolled at each institution. MUIH is focused on the study and practice of integrative health and wellness and is one of the few universities in the U.S. dedicated solely to such practices. 

The initial idea for the partnership came from retired Air Force Col. (Dr.) Richard Niemtzow, an assistant professor of Family Medicine at USU and medical acupuncturist at the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine (AIM) Center at Joint Base-Andrews.  Dr. Arnyce Pock, a retired Air Force colonel and associate dean for Curriculum at USU, facilitated the coordination that led to the development and ultimate approval of the new memorandum of agreement between the two organizations.

According to Pock, the MUIH offers an extensive array of certificate, master’s, and doctoral-level  programs that span a variety of areas of potential interest to USU students and Military Health System beneficiaries overall.  These include expertise in Acupuncture, Ayurvedic wellness, Chinese herbs and herbal studies, Integrative Health, Narrative Health, Sports Performance and Integrative Nutrition, and Nutritional Genomics.  

A group of people talking
Medical students at USU participate in the Bench to Bedside and Beyond (B3) course Culinary Medicine workshop. (Photo by Thomas Balfour)

“There’s a growing, global interest in the use of “natural” herbs and remedies, so among other things, it’s increasingly important for military practitioners to have a general awareness of some of the most commonly used remedies, their potential side effects and/or interactions with ‘conventional’ therapeutics,” Pock said. “This makes MUIH’s expertise in Chinese Herbal Medicine, their herbal dispensary and therapeutic herb garden of direct clinical interest, as comparable exposures are not readily available anywhere else in the MHS. MUIH also offers wellness-oriented cooking labs, and (outside of COVID-19) they maintain an active, on-site integrative medicine clinic, where patient care is delivered.”  They also support a variety of community health-based programs along with a growing network of local, national, and international research collaborations.

Once the pandemic abates, the agreement will allow USU students to benefit from some unique, on-site experiences/exposures.  For example, students involved in a four-week Acupuncture elective could gain exposure to the full spectrum of integrative health care, to include the application of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) (addiction) protocol that is frequently used in MUIH’s community clinics.  In fact, depending on a given student’s level of interest and academic schedule, it may even be possible for a student to complete the academic requirements needed to support NADA certification.  

Students will also have the opportunity to learn about common Chinese herbal remedies and their preparations, as well as the use and application of yoga therapy (which differs from the self-practice of yoga). The latter includes learning how and when to write a ‘yoga prescription’ and to whom patients should be referred.  They may also have the opportunity to engage in elements of the MUIH Health Behavior and Self Care courses as an adjunct to some of the student wellness activities currently being developed at USU.  Pock also noted that USU students may have an opportunity to participate in one or more of the MUIH’s weekend culinary health courses as well. In fact, the latter could be a “natural follow-on from the Culinary Medicine workshop that is now part of the (non-COVID) B3/Integrative Medicine curriculum,” she said, and it’s “another means of expanding students’ exposure to interprofessional education” as well.

Three people, one seated at a table (far right). The man on the left supervises the woman in the middle, who is placing an acupuncture needle on the seated man.
Dr. Jeff Leggit (left) oversees the placement of an acupuncture needle by a USU medical student during the university's Bench to Bedside and Beyond (B3)
course. (Photo by Thomas Balfour)

Lunchtime presentations by MUIH faculty to various USU interest groups is yet another possible benefit of the agreement.  Some MUIH faculty may have the opportunity to participate in certain aspects of the USU Reflective Practice curriculum and/or the Narrative Medicine Elective, particularly since MUIH offers graduate level programs in areas such as Narrative Health.  

In addition to the provision of new and/or expanded teaching opportunities, MUIH students and faculty can also benefit from the partnership by participating in a variety of interprofessional educational activities. There is also the potential for collaborative, scholarly activities with USU faculty.  

“We are excited to work with USU to build interprofessional relationships that recognize and combine the value of integrative health and conventional medical approaches to provide high-quality health care,” says Christina Sax, MUIH’s Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs.