by John Weeks, Publisher/Editor of The Integrator Blog News and Reports

The University of Minnesota announced that it has renamed its Center for Spirituality and Healing in honor of Earl E. Bakken, one of the early leading philanthropic backers of complementary, integrative, and “blended” medicine. In respect for his field-shaping legacy, the center will now be called the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing.

The center’s founder and director, Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, RN, FAAN, celebrated the action. “Mr. Bakken is one of our most illustrious and accomplished alumni, and his work has a continuing impact on millions of people daily around the world,” she said. “He has inspired us to think bigger, to try to fulfill the immense potential we have to improve the health and wellbeing of people and communities around the world.”

Bakken was an early mentor for Kreitzer and “continues to be a strong advocate for integrative approaches to health and healing,” she said.

Bakken, an engineer and inventor, was credited in the release from the University of Minnesota for his “unique appreciation for both the art and science of health care, a center focused on research, outreach, and education of integrative health and wellbeing.”

The center, under Kreitzer’s leadership, developed one of the first respectful, interprofessional web-based resources on complementary and alternative medicine. It has since launched the nation’s first master’s degree in health coaching. The center’s personnel have worked on multiple National Insititues of Health (NIH)-funded research projects. It’s leaders, according to the release, “consult with health care systems on care model innovation and supports corporate and community-based organizations advancing health and wellbeing programming.”

Bakken first became known through his invention and production of the pacemaker. At a moment of early significant financial hardship for his business, the now enormous Medtronic, he declared the company’s mission—balancing industry leadership with “fair profit,” recognition of the “worth of employees,” and “good citizenship.”

Comments:  One of the most remarkable signs of the coming of the integrative medicine era two decades ago was the early interest Bakken’s firm, Medtronic, showed in what became “integrative cardiology.” The firm, then led by Bill George, offered a series of big ticket Medtronic grants to explore the field, to pioneers such as Mimi Guarneri, MD.

The story came out about the remarkable human behind Medtronic. His strategic support for integrative health included rare support of early interprofessionalism through a significant grant to fund the National Education Dialogue to Advance Integrated Health Care: Creating Common Ground. In his adoptive home in The Big Island, Hawaii, he funded what he anticipated would be the fully integrated North Hawaii Community Hospital. There, for instance, local naturopathic doctor and long-time integrative health policy leader Michael Traub, ND, DHANP took the lead in creating the nation’s first hospital formularies for botanicals, homeopathics and other natural health products. Bakken’s vision turned out to be ahead of the field. Resistance of the medical staff shut off the integrative potential.

Ever the visionary, Bakken changed course and began systemic investments targeting the social determinants of the health in his community. It is terrific to see him honored in this way, and to see the honor linked to Kreitzer, herself an integrative health luminary whose own steps have kept close to the mission of health creation.