View a video
of Drs. Norm Shealy and Gladys McGarey discussing the early days of holistic medicine and the founding of the AHMA.
The American Holistic Medical Association was an outgrowth of another holistic non-profit called the Biogenics Institutes of America. This group was founded to provide education in self-regulation and holistic techniques, and held its first meeting in January, 1975 in Point Clear, AL. The early meetings focused on pain clinics, techniques utilized and results, and pain management using transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
In 1978, Biogenics Institutes of America sponsored the founding of the American Holistic Medical Association in Denver, CO. The founders included Norm Shealy, Gladys McGarey (known as the “Father and Mother of Holistic Medicine”), Evarts Loomis, Bill McGarey and Jerry Looney. The initial meeting was attended by 212 members, all of whom were medical doctors, except for two medical students. Subsequent meetings were held at various locations around the country including Chicago, IL, Washington DC, and San Francisco, CA. The final meeting held jointly by the BIA and AHMA took place in LaCrosse, WI in 1979, and was attended by over 530 physicians from the U.S. and abroad.
The AHMA was founded to unite licensed medical doctors who practice holistic medicine, and provide a “safe space” for sharing, networking and collaboration. It is one of the oldest holistic medical organization of its kind, and many of today's national leaders in holistic medicine like Dr. “Patch” Adams, Dr. Bernie Siegel, and Dr. Christiane Northrup, are or were, members of the AHMA. In 2008, the AHMA opened membership to other licensed holistic practitioners including naturopaths, acupuncturists and massage therapists, and promotes the integration of conventional with complementary and alternative medicine. Today, the AHMA numbers over 800 members in 48 states, and has local chapters in Minneapolis, MN, and Cleveland, OH, the current national headquarters.
Since its first meeting, the AHMA has continued to strive toward creating fellowship and collaboration among practitioners and those they work with - bringing an understanding of how the mind, body and spirit all have a part to play in healing. In addition to bringing together conventional and complementary and alternative medicine, the AHMA is working to unite organizations within the holistic/integrative movement, in an effort to grow and strengthen the collective voice and shift the paradigm from “disease care” to TRUE health care.
The formation of the AHMA later inspired the creation of the ABIHM
. In 1996, a group of AHMA members formed the American Board of Holistic Medicine (ABHM), now known as the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM.)
to read more about the history of the ABIHM as told by AHMA past-president and ABIHM founding president, Robert Anderson, MD, ABIHM.