Note: This article is a paid placement and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Billy Penn at WHYY.

One thing that’s become apparent over the past few years is that people’s priorities around health care are shifting. People who seek health care are looking for (and even demanding) practitioners who listen and empathize, who treat them as the complex beings they are — not just a collection of symptoms waiting to be diagnosed.

It’s a smart choice, since studies show overall health outcomes improve when practitioners deliver care that is more individualized, holistic, and focused on the patient’s physical, emotional and social wellbeing

Americans are realizing this. Over 42% of people in a recent study said they access a combination of traditional, complementary, and integrative medicine.

Forward-thinking health professionals — physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and many others — understand this shift in patient expectations, and know they need additional tools to deliver more comprehensive care. But until recently, the health care industry has not prioritized all the touchpoints of the patient experience, and obtaining training on how to do so has been a challenge.

Good news: In keeping with the city’s reputation as a hub for biomedical research, Philadelphia is at the forefront of healthcare education, and there are opportunities for health providers to learn approaches to holistic health and wellness often left out of traditional programs.

Several of these opportunities can be found at Thomas Jefferson University, which recently created a historic, first-of-its-kind Department of Integrative Medicine & Nutritional Sciences at Sidney Kimmel Medical College.

In doing so, Jefferson has become the first medical school in the country to provide this type of education, and offer the training that will define the next generation of health care professionals

The new department includes Jefferson Health’s Marcus Institute of Integrative Health, and many of the programs are run in collaboration with the university’s College of Health Professions. The educational mission of the department and the Marcus Institute is to provide foundational training in nutrition, mind-body health, and advanced wellness strategies — all key to the eclectic, diverse, and wellness-focused care people are seeking. The department’s approach is to train practitioners to be evidence-based, patient-centric, and integrative.

Integrative medicine embraces the best of current medical education and enhances it with emerging and innovative approaches for the best overall evidence-based care. This changes the focus of care from the disease to the whole person.

Layered within the necessary medical interventions for the patient are the complementary approaches that can help make the person more resilient, recover faster and better and stay well longer. This comprehensive approach is especially important when supporting patients with chronic problems like autoimmune issues, pain, diabetes, cancer, hormonal disruptions, fatigue, brain-related concerns and many other chronic health challenges.

Thomas Jefferson University offers certificate programs, master’s degrees, fellowships, and conferences for a broad range of health care practitioners who want to offer a more integrated approach to medicine — one that also empowers their patients on their journeys to better health and well-being.

If you or someone you know is a health care professional looking to change the way patients’ lives can be impacted through integrative health practices, you can learn more here.

The Marcus Institute of Integrative Health was established in 2017 by Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health to expand the research, education, and clinical care profile of Jefferson’s integrative...