From the Director’s Desk
April 2013

Dr. Margaret Chesney, Director
UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine


Welcome to the inaugural issue of the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine’s “From the Director’s Desk” e-newsletter, where I will share some of the exciting work that we are doing here at the Osher Center.  Integrative medicine spans the life spectrum, from prenatal and pediatric to geriatric and palliative, and today, I’d like to share two projects that are engaging our more senior friends who are among the “wellderly.” I’d also like to invite you to an Integrative Medicine half-day conference that we are hosting at UCSF Mission Bay on April 26. In an upcoming report, I’ll update you on exciting developments for children and youth.


Osher Center Collaborating with Zen Hospice Project and StoryCorps

Shelley Adler, PhD
and BJ Miller, MD

This spring, the Osher Center’s Education Program is starting a new initiative on integrative approaches to end-of-life care. Dr. Shelley Adler, Director of our Center’s Education Program, is partnering with the Zen Hospice Project of San Francisco (ZHP) and StoryCorps to collect some of the rich narratives of patients facing life-threatening illness. You may have heard some of these personal stories, which are broadcast weekly to millions of listeners on NPR’s Morning Edition. Hospice patients will be interviewed, assisted by UCSF health professional students and ZHP volunteers, for StoryCorps’ Legacy Project. Because of these recordings, participants will be able to share their stories as a precious legacy for family and friends. With permission, a copy of each interview will be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for generations to come.

This project is part of a new collaboration between Dr. Adler and Dr. BJ Miller, Executive Director of ZHP.  Their new 80-hour course (open to all UCSF health professional students) is called “Integrative Approaches to End-of-Life Care” and provides training in relationship-centered, end-of-life care; contemplative care; and cross-cultural views of death and dying. This OCIM-ZHP educational collaboration is supported by a Mount Zion Health Fund Campus-Community Partnership Award.


Good News!  Integrative Exercise Appears to Improve Cognitive Function of Seniors with Dementia

PLIE session at
Irene Swindells Center

A team of Osher Center investigators have completed a promising pilot study that suggests a group exercise program integrating approaches drawn from yoga, tai chi,  Feldenkrais, occupational and physical therapy, mindfulness meditation, and other methods may improve physical function, cognitive function and quality of life in individuals with mild to moderate dementia, in comparison to a control group.  The project, entitled Preventing Loss of Independence through Exercise (PLIÉ), was funded by philanthropy and carried out in partnership with the San Francisco Institute on Aging’s Irene Swindells Center for Adult Day Services.

These results, although preliminary, are important because we are currently on the brink of a worldwide public health crisis related to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The number of people living with dementia is expected to rise from 5 to 13 million in the U.S. and from 32 to 107 million worldwide by the year 2050. The current costs of caring for individuals with dementia are $200 billion annually in the U.S. alone, and future costs could be crippling to economies worldwide. The progressive loss of ability to function independently is one of the most difficult aspects of the disease for both affected individuals and caregivers, and there are no medications that stop or even slow disease progression. Therefore, it is critically important that we develop strategies, such as PLIÉ, to help those with dementia maintain function and quality of life. The investigators plan to seek funding to test the effectiveness of PLIÉ in a larger study.

This study was recently featured in a Medscape article, entitled Novel Exercise Program May Trump Meds for Dementia (free registration on Medscape required to read article).


Osher Center to Introduce UCSF Alumni to Integrative Medicine – Join Us!

The Osher Center has been invited to teach a course on Integrative Medicine as part of UCSF Alumni Weekend, which will be of special interest to those who graduated from UCSF before the Osher Center existed.  We are opening this half-day “Foundations of Integrative Medicine” conference to the public as well, and I would like to invite you to attend this event, to be held at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus on Friday, April 26, from 8:00 am until 1:00 pm.

Osher Center clinicians and researchers will discuss the research behind the science of integrative medicine and offer opportunities to learn about disease prevention, stress reduction, resilience, mindfulness and wellness. This event will offer unique opportunity to chat with alumni and spouses from around the world. The fee of $85 includes a half-day of education, continental breakfast, lunch, and a UCSF Fitness Center day pass. To learn more or register, please visit the web page.


If you would like to help fund the continuation of this exciting Integrative Medicine research, please contact Evan Kavanagh, director of development and strategic communications at Evan.Kavanagh@ucsf.edu or 415-353-7223.

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