Seattle, Washington, May 17, 2011: Following a lengthy collaborative process involving academic leaders from eight disciplines, the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC) has endorsed what it calls the Competencies for Optimal Practice in Integrated Environments. ACCAHC is presently focused on aggregating and creating content to develop a rich web-portal, the Center for Optimal Integration, ( to assist educators, practitioners and organizations of all types to move toward such competencies.

Mike Wiles, D.C., M.Ed., Vice President and Provost at Minnesota-based Northwestern Health Sciences University, is among those leading the ACCAHC process. Wiles, co-chair of ACCAHC’s Education Working Group, explains the importance of the initiative:

“The era of integration is here. Yet the educational standards and clinical models of the licensed integrative healthcare disciplines are generally not emphasizing integrative models of care. These competencies focus us all on the current and future needs of providers.”

The ACCAHC Competencies consist of 28 competency elements in five distinct fields:

• Health care policy

• Institutional health care

• Culture and practice

• Interprofessional education

• Communication and interprofessional relationships

• Evidence-based health care and evidence-informed practice.

A multidisciplinary group of more than 50 professionals from ACCAHC’s Education Working Group, Clinical Care Working Group, Research Working Group, Council of Advisers, Board of Directors and member organizations participated in the multiple stages of the process that began in September 2009.

Marcia Prenguber, N.D., is co-chair of the ACCAHC Clinical Working Group and director of integrative care for Indiana University Health Goshen, in Goshen, Indiana, where she also heads a residency program for naturopathic doctors. Prenguber, the past president of the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, underscores that the focus is on “optimal” competencies rather than the minimal competencies in typical accreditation standards.

Prenguber states: “Our work on the Competencies is energized by the knowledge – which I see daily here in my health system – that creating optimal health care teams while at the same time honoring the diverse contributions of our practices amidst the challenges of healthcare delivery asks all of us to perform at our best. The document represents our identification of the kinds of knowledge, skills and attitudes that would do that.”

Next steps – toward a web portal

ACCAHC executive committee member Jan Schwartz, who also serves as Wiles’ co-chair of the Education Working Group, notes that ACCAHC’s Board has chosen as its central focus from 2010 forward the development and hosting of an extensive body of resources that will assist educators, students, clinicians and administrators toward bettering patient care through the identified competencies.

Schwartz, a massage therapist and Past-Chair of the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, is also an online education specialist. She states: “We are developing plans and looking for the resources to create what will be an extraordinary web portal. We will have more to report on this soon.” The site, in development, will be called the Center for Optimal Integration.

Prenguber’s co-chair of the clinical group, Jason Wright, LAc., Dean of the Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine of the multidisciplinary New York Chiropractic College, clarifies that “these competencies are not about the skills of current graduates to provide quality clinical services—our practitioners are well trained for that in our accredited programs.”

Wright, a member of the executive committee of the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, explains: “Our work with the competencies and providing web-based resources is at the heart of ACCAHC’s mission. This work supports our ongoing commitment to promote mutual understanding, collaborative activities, interdisciplinary health care education, and the delivery of optimal patient care.”

ACCAHC urges any institutions and organizations that share this mission to post, circulate and publish the competencies to their educators, students, clinicians and administrators. (Contact for a separate PDF and introduction.)


CLARIFICATION: After the ACCAHC released its press release, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) released the following statement:

AMTA would like to clarify the reference to the American Massage Therapy Association Council of Schools (COS) in the ACCAHC press release. Much of the work of the ACCAHC which led to creation of its Competencies for Optimal Practice in Integrated Environments was done when the COS still existed. AMTA appreciates the recognition given its past schools governance structure by ACCAHC in the release. The association is also extremely happy with the enhanced and interactive relationship it has with its more than 330 member schools in some 400 locations.