“The future of healthcare”: How one college may have the leg-up on student wellness

The Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute has tripled its flagship space thanks to a $200 million donation from Susan and Henry Samueli.

It’s no surprise that higher education faces a mental health problem among its students. While teletherapy programs are re-strategizing how to meet students before therapy, have you ever considered Tai Chi as a legitimate exercise?

Beginning in fall 2022, the University of California, Irvine, operated its first academic year with the newly constructed Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, which conjoins the Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences. While UCI has practiced integrative healthcare for over 20 years, the new institute triples the flagship space, buoyed by a $200 million donation from Susan and Henry Samueli. Now, UC Irvine is poised to reach its mission as the “global model for integrative health.”

The Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute has now broadened its student reach to cut wait times and compounded its exam rooms, treatment rooms, procedure rooms, consult rooms and infusion suites.

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“We believe that the way we are approaching whole-person health is the future of healthcare,” said Dr. Shaista Malik, associate vice chancellor for Integrative Health at the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences, in an email. “With our partnerships, we are committed to reimagining the future of healthcare by pioneering an interdisciplinary, evidence-informed, integrative approach to health and wellness.”

The institute is the latest addition the BraveNet Collaborative, a practice-based research network encompassing 25 institutions worldwide. At the likes of Duke University, Indiana University, Vanderbilt University and others, these institutions focus on curating a holistic approach to medicine based on science. The Academic Consortium of Integrative Medicine defines integrative health as an approach that focuses on the whole person to achieve optimal health and healing.

The network utilizes whole health therapy techniques that aim to address the root causes of disease through lifestyle modification and patient empowerment, hence the emphasis on exercise and nutrition. These techniques, however, are not arbitrary. Within UCI’s institute, its exercise equipment is located within the Cardiac Rehabilitation program, and the institute’s emphasis on mindfulness programs is backed by consistently positive evidence of its impact on student mental health intervention initiatives.

One of its most popular programs this past academic year was its new Mussallem Nutritional Education Center, where an executive chef conducts patient education and cooking class. The hoods over each cook station provide an unobstructed view from the participants to the instructor, and each cooking station has its own audio-visual display so participants can closely examine the chef’s preparation of healthy cooking techniques, said Malik. After all, what we consume on a day-to-day basis is proven to affect our mental health and well-being, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Malik and other similar healthcare practitioners believe its personalized patient approach is the key to integrative healthcare.

“The UCI Samueli Institute is committed to making whole-person care the standard for all individuals,” Malik said. “We recognize the vital importance of treating each patient as an individual and therefore consider each patient’s unique circumstances through whole-person care.”

Aside from UCI’s innovative programs, what’s also unique about the space is how well it utilizes its design also to inform holistic wellness. Living plant walls help produce oxygen and natural textures, and the clinic’s color schemes use warm color schemes.

“The space includes an outdoor wooden deck on the first floor featuring a noise-blocking wall that is used for Tai Chi sessions and other activities.” (Photo by: HED Design)
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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