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February 22, 2018

Centers for Integrative Medicine, Creativity Keep Bodies, Minds Healthy

Even the most fulfilling work can be stressful, as we rush to meet deadlines and juggle multiple beeping devices, all the while aiming to be good co-workers. Two spots on campus can help: the Center for Integrative Medicine and the Center for Creativity. At its Jan. 23 meeting, the Senate’s benefits and welfare committee learned how these centers allow Pitt employees to pursue natural healing practices and de-stress.

The Center for Integrative Medicine, now 20 years old, takes a holistic approach to health care, offering therapies that complement traditional treatments. Its most common services are acupuncture geared toward aiding migraines, neck pain and knee arthritis, and chiropractic manipulation, which are covered by UPMC insurance, as is an initial assessment from the center.

Other services, which charge fees because they are not yet covered under Pitt’s UPMC Health Plan, include yoga sessions, mindfulness-based stress and anxiety reduction courses and groups, massage therapy, shiatsu, naturopathic counseling, movement therapy, medical hypnosis, behavioral health therapy and biofeedback. Service costs range from $75 to $110, and money from a health care flexible spending account, available as a Pitt benefit, may be used to pay for them. Linda Tashbook, committee chair, said after the meeting that “the benefits and welfare committee will continue to encourage the health plan to increase coverage for alternative medicine.”

Ronald Glick, the center’s medical director and associate professor of psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation and family medicine, noted that it is one of about 70 similar institutions today in North America, signaling the growing popularity of its therapies. The center does not require referrals from primary care physicians; in fact, half of its patients self-refer, he said.

Particularly for mental health conditions, such as depression, drug therapies may not be effective by themselves or may have undesirable side effects, Glick explained. “There are opportunities to do other things that can help” at the center, he said, such as using nutritional supplements, taking mind-body approaches or trying other lifestyle changes.

Among its current classes, the most popular is mindfulness meditation, he reported. The center has a new yoga instructor and hopes to increase yoga offerings and bring back its tai chi class.

Looking ahead, the center plans to a focus more in the coming year on offering services focused on preventive measures, nutritional supplements “and a lot of the conditions we don’t treat well in Western medicine,” said Glick, such as allergies, perimenopause, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive ailments. It will begin community education programs concerning naturopathic medicine in May.

Cross-fertilizing and De-stressing Through Creativity

The two-year-old Center for Creativity is a campus gathering place for the Pitt community to pursue creative projects or simply de-stress at lunchtime or through a hands-on class. All activities at the center’s Workshop space are free, and a University ID is used to drop in or sign up for center use. The center shares space, and hours, with The University Store on Fifth.

 “We’re really trying to create an atmosphere where faculty, staff and students can come together to try things out that they maybe haven’t tried before,” said Erick Schuckers, the center’s workshop manager. “You don’t have to have hours of time; you can come down with no idea, just ‘I am stressed out, I need to work it out.’”

The center offers workshops and hands-on making sessions and hosts classes. Sometimes professors schedule a pretest de-stressing session for their students; on other occasions, they use the space to add creativity to their curriculum, such as an English class this semester that employs center resources to let students make 3-D objects in response to readings.

Studies have shown benefits from creative activity for everything from treating depression to slowing cognitive decline in older people, as well as helping those with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, Schuckers said. Just 45 minutes of creative activity, regardless of what it is or how accomplished you are at a particular art or craft, he added, “can actually lower your cortisol levels and your stress levels.”

If You Go

Center for Integrative Medicine
Shadyside Place, Suite 310, 580 S. Aiken Ave., Shadyside
For general information, including classes, events, conditions treated and resources, visit the center online. To schedule an appointment, call 412-623-3023.

Center for Creativity
4000 Fifth Ave., Oakland (located in the lower level of The University Store on Fifth)
Space can be reserved for group activities or classes on the center’s website. Call 412-383-4110 or email for more information.


Marty Levine,, 412-758-4859


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