Helene Langevin

Helene Langevin

Though it is sometimes ignored, pain can be the first sign that something is wrong. In her role as a researcher, Helene Langevin, MD, focuses on understanding and addressing patients’ pain. As director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at BWH and Harvard Medical School (HMS), she works to overcome the challenges facing investigators in the field of integrative medicine.

For more than 20 years, Langevin has been investigating how acupuncture and other forms of mechanical tissue stimulation may help ease pain. Her research focuses on fascia—the connective tissue found beneath the skin, around muscles and internal organs.

In addition to conducting her own research, Langevin’s mission at the Osher Center is two-fold: bringing researchers in the field together and incorporating integrative medicine into the foundation of conventional medicine.

Integrative medicine—a model of care that uses therapies differing from conventional medical methods—includes acupuncture, meditation, herbal medicine, massage, yoga and tai chi, among other therapies. The Osher Center works to enhance human health, resilience and quality-of-life by connecting integrative medicine researchers, educators and clinicians across BWH, MGH, HMS, the Osher Centers at the University of California San Francisco and Northwestern, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and Vanderbilt. Ultimately, they strive to bring together the integrative medicine community and, on a second level, incorporate integrative therapies into the traditional medical field.

To do this, the BWH- and HMS-based center features an online network map on its website linking about 700 integrative researchers in the Boston area. Each has at least one integrative medicine-related publication. Navigating the map, viewers can see each researcher’s collaborations and publications.

“It’s a really useful tool that shows the extent of what is already happening here,” Langevin said. “This network of integrative medicine is so huge and so rich, but we suspected that it wasn’t fully aware of itself.”

To extend the web connection, the Osher Center is now building a clinical network map that captures the connections among integrative medicine practitioners across Boston.

“Research thrives on collaboration,” Langevin said. “Ultimately, to strengthen integrative medicine, we need to join up and work as a collective.”

The center is also bringing clinicians and researchers together physically for events on and around the BWH campus. Since March, the center has been hosting conventional grand rounds with an unconventional twist.

“We bring a patient in and discuss the management of his or her care from the point of view of a multidisciplinary team, including conventional and integrative medicine practitioners,” said Langevin.

Through these and other events, Langevin hopes the center will foster inclusiveness and break down the silos that isolate different disciplines.

Integrative Medicine Grand Rounds occur on the first Tuesday of each month from 8 to 9 a.m. in the Bornstein Amphitheater. All are welcome to attend. The center is also hosting a conference about the use of integrative medicine to treat various cancers on Nov. 14 at Harvard Medical School. Register online.