History of the Center


Aerial view of the University of Minnesota

In 1995, the field, then called "complementary and alternative medicine," or "CAM," was newly emerging. Individuals were demanding information and services and found healthcare providers uninformed and lacking credible resources. Few universities or hospitals had programs. The University of Minnesota, a well-known pioneer in health, recognized this void and decided to act boldly. 

Through the early vision of our leaders, the Center for Spirituality & Healing was founded with a broad focus on improving health and wellbeing through the lenses of spirituality, culture and integrative healing practices - its name reflecting a larger canvas for change and innovation. We received strong support from the University and a community that believed in our work and wanted to make it happen.

Since 1995, our work with organizations, foundations and volunteers has helped to bring innovative approaches and programs to the forefront of health sciences education and research, and to clinical care.

Some of our milestones include:

1995 - 1999

1995 - 1999

1995: The Center is established with the goal of improving patient care through the integration of spirituality, cross-cultural and complementary healing practice

1997: The Academic Health Center (AHC) publishes the Task Force Report, "Transforming Health Care: Integrating Complementary, Spiritual and Cross-Cultural Care." The Center's mission and vision are expanded at the direction of the AHC leadership. 

1998: The Center lays the groundwork for the Graduate Minor by offering courses in complementary care and healing practices at the University of Minnesota.

1999: The Center establishes the nation's first Graduate Minor in Complementary Therapies and Healing Practices. Coursework includes complementary therapies and healing practices, spirituality, cross-cultural and international health. 

2000 - 2004

2000 - 2004

2000: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awards the Center a five-year $1.6 million grant to support the development and integration of CAM into health sciences curricula at the University of Minnesota Medical School, the School of Nursing and the College of Pharmacy. 

2001: The Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Clinical Research Consortium is established in collaboration with the Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research at Hennepin County Medical Center, Northwestern Health Sciences University and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The Consortium received funding from NIH to support training of CAM researchers. Additionally, the Center hosts the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Minnesota Town Hall meeting.

2002: Dr. Joel Slaton, director of research at the Center, is awarded a $300,000 grant by the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to study whether chemicals from the reishi mushroom can help the body’s immune system fight off cancer. Minnesota’s first long-term treatment facility for women with eating disorders opens. 

2003: Director of graduate studies, Linda Halcon, PhD, MPH, RN, is awarded Investigative New Drug (IND) status by the FDA for her research into tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) as a treatment for wounds with Staphylococcus aureus. A year-long pilot exploring the impact of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on solid organ transplant patients leads to a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the NIH to conduct a larger clinical trial.

2004: The Center is designated a “Developmental Center for Research on Complementary & Alternative Medicine” by the NIH – one of only three designations in the country. The Center is awarded a $2.3 million NIH grant to study whether taking Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) extract can boost and maintain the body’s immune response following radiation therapy. Additionally, the Center introduces a post-baccalaureate certificate in Complementary Therapies & Healing Practices. With approval by the Board of Regents and Graduate School, this interdisciplinary graduate program enables students to acquire advanced knowledge and skills to enhance their professional careers and impact the lives of their patients.

2005 - present

2005 - present

2005: The Center’s celebrates its 10th anniversary with a sold-out special engagement by world-renowned health and wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil. The Center creates a formal track in Health Coaching under the graduate-level, post-baccalaureate certificate in Complementary Therapies and Healing Practices. The health coaching track is the first at a fully-accredited institution and is available to healthcare professionals or those currently enrolled in our certificate or other graduate healthcare program. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., world-renowned mind-body medicine expert and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), visits the Center to speak about the power of practicing mindfulness through meditation and everyday activities.

2006: In collaboration with the Life Science Foundation, the Center launches Taking Charge of Your Health, a free, interactive Web site providing tools and resources to help consumers make informed health choices. Dr. Joel Slaton’s continued research on the Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) is rewarded with an Investigative New Drug (IND) status by the FDA.

2007: The Center embarks on an interdisciplinary research study on chronic insomnia with the University’s School of Pharmacy, School of Nursing, and the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center (at HCMC). Made possible by a grant from the Academic Health Center, the study will compare a mind-body approach, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), with an approved prescription sleep medication for insomnia.

2011: The Center celebrates 15 years in integrative health and Healing. Health care is changing. Today, patients take a more active role in the healthcare decisions that impact them. Many seek a more holistic approach to care and one that enables them to combine conventional medicine with integrative therapies.

The future

In the future, the Center will continue to forge new paths for interprofessional education and research and raise awareness about integrative health and healing.