University Hospitals and UC Irvine Announce New Co-Leadership of BraveNet, a Practice-Based Integrative Medicine Research Network

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Collaboration will further advance research into whole health approaches

University Hospitals (UH) Connor Whole Health and Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute (SSIHI) at University of California, Irvine have joined in collaboration to lead BraveNet -- the first and largest whole health, practice-based research network in the U.S. BraveNet is a nationwide consortium comprised of academic health systems conducting evidence-based research on therapies used in integrative medicine, which is now more often known as whole health. Together, these 17 research-based institutions offer whole health services to more than 100,000 patients a year.

Previously led by Albert Einstein College of Medicine, BraveNet will have shared leadership going forward. SSIHI will serve as the data coordinating center under Shaista Malik, MD, PhD, executive director of SSIHI. Jeffery Dusek, PhD, will serve as BraveNet’s principal investigator through his role as research director of UH Connor Whole Health (UH Connor). This new management structure will further BraveNet’s mission of advancing integrative medicine by providing clinical outcomes and cost benefit data that have previously not been available to the medical and scientific communities.

“UH Connor is one of the largest integrative medicine clinical programs across the country and this appointment demonstrates our leadership and expertise in the field,” said Dr. Dusek, who has served on BraveNet’s executive committee since 2017. “This co-leadership opportunity provides us with resources to further research in this field. With two new entities leading the charge, this collaboration will have greater ability to document the power of integrative medicine and health, leading to better treatment for patients.”

“We are inheriting a program that is on course to generate important scientific evidence about integrative practices, thanks, in part, to the progress made by the Albert Einstein team during its tenure,” said Dr. Malik. “Combining the forces of two integrative health leaders to continue the BraveNet studies enables us to sustain and expand the academic medicine community’s involvement in further understanding the effectiveness of integrative treatments. The resulting science will help determine how the whole health approach is integrated into the health system and ultimately, give patients greater control over their personal health and well-being.”

Since 2015, SSIHI has participated in the flagship BraveNet project, PRIMIER: Patients Receiving Integrative Medicine Interventions Effectiveness Registry, an integrative medicine database launched in 2013. Led by Dr. Dusek, PRIMIER is a multi-institution project designed to uniformly collect patient-reported outcomes and extracted electronic health record data into a large national registry that would help improve the health and well-being of patients. PRIMIER provides a framework that can be used for quality improvement and evidence-based research, as well as discovering best practices within integrative medicine.

Another example of collaborative research conducted under the BraveNet umbrella includes a randomized trial studying the effectiveness of using acupuncture in the emergency department (ED), which was funded by a prestigious grant to Case Western Reserve University from the National Institutes of Health. Three BraveNet members -- UH, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and the University of California, San Diego -- are participating in the study, led by Dr. Dusek, who is serving as principal investigator with M. Diane McKee, MD, MS, chair and professor of family medicine & community health at UMass Chan Medical School. According to published studies, pain accounts for up to 78 percent of ED patient visits in the United States. The overall goal of this research is to determine if acupuncture can manage pain and ideally reduce the use and prescription of opioid medications in the ED.

“At UH Connor we are passionate about pursuing non-pharmacologic treatments for pain in order to help mitigate the opioid epidemic impacting our communities,” said Francoise Adan, MD, Chief Whole Health & Well-being Officer and the Christopher M. & Sara H. Connor Chair in Integrative Health, University Hospitals Health System and Director, UH Connor Whole Health. “This study exemplifies how BraveNet is impacting our field. We have made many strides in the perception, understanding and acceptance of evidence-based integrative medicine in recent years, but we have more work to do. This new role provides UH Connor and SSIHI with a unique opportunity to collectively guide the evolution and expansion of integrative medicine across the U.S.”

The first half of 2022 serves as a transition period. UH Connor and SSIHI will officially begin their leadership roles on July 1, 2022.

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