Amrita Samyogam 2017, an International Conference on Integrative Ayurveda and Modern Medicine was held at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, on August 6-7. 2017. The conference was attended by more than 1000 delegates representing Ayurveda, Modern Medicine and Modern Science. Although the participation from Ayurveda was numerically higher, the quality of the representation from Modern Medicine and Science was of very high order. The focus of the conference was primarily Clinical Integration of Ayurveda and Modern Medicine by identifying areas for cross referrals as well as multimodal combined treatment in specific diseases. In order to strengthen the clinical integration, the conference also proposed to discover biological mechanisms through basic science studies and Integrating new technologies for effective delivery of treatment at point of care.The Special Secretatry of Ministry of AYUSH, Dr. Rajesh Kotecha, The Advisor of Ministry of AYUSH, Dr. Dinesh Katoch, Scientist from Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India, Dr. Ketaki Bapat, Director of National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research, Dr. Ravi Mehrotra, the Director of All India Institute of Ayurveda, Dr. Abhimanyu Kumar and Director of NIMHANS, Dr. B. N. Gangadhar were amongst the top government officials who attended the conference. About sixty resource persons took part in the deliberations of Amrita Samyogam 2017 conference from United States, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Argentina and India. About 100 Institutions were represented including 22 States from India. Academic sessions of the conference included a Pre-conference Workshop on Scientific Writing and a Pre-conference Meeting on Integrative Oncology. The major areas for iintegrations that was taken up for discussion during Amrita Samyogam were Cancer, Diabetes, Neurodegenerative Diseases, Musculoskeletal Diseases and Mental Health.
There were 11 Plenary Sessions and 2 Featured Plenary Talks, 2 Panel Discussions, 9 Parallel Sessions, 3 Break Out Sessions and 2 Poster Sessions. The Plenary Session featured 31 talks and the Parallel Sessions featured 16 talks. There were 50 Oral Abstract Presentations and 70 Posters.The plenary sessions sparked off new thoughts and opened up avenues for integration in these five specialities. Some of the leading experts and thought leaders in the field participated in these sessions.
Dr. Jeffrey White from National Cancer Institute, USA, Dr. Ravi Mehrotra from National Institute for Cancer Prevention and Research, Noida and Dr. Pavithran from Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences led the sessions on Cancer. Dr. Jeffrey White, Director, OCCAM, National Cancer Institute, USA, said, "It was an excellent experience on several levels and in particular having the opportunity to to meet many other people who are strong advocates for building bridges between modern science and Ayurveda". Dr. Daniel Furst, University of Los Angeles, California, USA, Dr. Christian Kessler, Charite Medical University, Germany and Dr. Vishal Marwaha, Principal and Head of Department of Rheumatology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences led the sessions on Musculoskeletal Diseases. Dr. Nereo Bresolin, University of Milan, Italy, Dr. Anand Kumar A., Vice Principal, School of Medicine, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Dr. Syam Unnikrishnan, ESI, Kollam led the sessions on Neurodegenerative Diseases. Dr. Valdis Pirags, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia and Dr. Harish Kumar, Professor, Endocrinology, School of Medicine, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences led the sessions on Diabetes. Dr. Antonella Delle Fave, University of Milan, Italy and Dr. B. N. Gangadhar, NIMHANS, Bengaluru led the sessions on Mental Health. Dr. Manoranjan Sahu, Benares Hindu University, Varanasi, and Dr. Shantikumar Nair, Dean of Research, Amrita Centre for Nano Sciences and Molecular Medicine, and Dr. Jayakumar Rangasamy, Professor, Amrita Centre for Nano Sciences and Molecular Medicine, led the sessions on Integration of New Technologies.Dr. Ketaki Bapat, Scientist from the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India, Dr. Krishnakumar Menon, Associate Professor, Amrita Centre for Nano Sciences and Molecular Medicine and Dr. Rama Jayasundar from All India Institute of Medical Sciences led the discussions on Basic Science Research to understand biological mechanisms underlying Ayurvedic interventions. "I think that the Amrita Samyogam 2017 has been and historical event and the first real step toward a new integration between traditional and modern knowledge systems", said Antonio Morandi, Neurologist and Ayurvedic Physician, Milan, Italy.
In the course of the deliberations and discussions, the following actionable points emerged:
- With an officially recognized pluralistic health care system, India needs to put in place a well formulated policy for Integrative Medicine and Health. It was pointed out that the National Health Care Policy 2017 mentions Integrative Medicine and Pluralism but the details of the strategy and action plan need to be worked out.
- Integrative Medicine in India has centred around the debate on “cross system practice” - what elements of Modern Medicine should be taught to Ayurveda and other health care professionals and also how AYUSH practitioners can be trained to deliver modern medical care in rural areas. The focus has to shift to collaboration between practitioners in the interest of the patient. We need to establish Integrative Clinical Centres where practitioners of Modern Medicine and Ayurveda will cooperate and work as a team to provide the best care for a patient.
- There is a need to develop guidances and recommendations based on evidence/data generated from well conducted studies to identify diseases/conditions where cross referrals or multimodal combination therapy would be advantageous for the patient. The major obstacle that comes in the way of clinically integrating the two systems is lack of evidence.
- Evidence for nurturing the integrative approach can be generated broadly from two sources, well written Case Reports and well conducted Clinical Trials. It was also pointed out that methodologies for case reports as well as designing and conducting clinical trials need to be defined in the context of Integrative Medicine.
- The need for capacity building and training for designing and conducting clinical trials that meet global standards was emphasized. Educational programs were proposed involving global experts for training in GCP.
- There was a strong recommendation to establish Case Report Registries and Clinical Trial Registries for Integrative Medicine, which should be endorsed by Ministry of AYUSH and ICMR.
- The need for exploring and unraveling the biological mechanisms behind the successful Integrative Clinical interventions was highlighted. It was pointed out that multidisciplinary research involving experts from Ayurveda, Modern Medicine and Modern Science was needed to take this forward. The Ayurveda Biology program of DST could be one of the mechanisms for promoting such studies. Amrita School of Ayurveda has set up an advanced lab for basic science studies and will be initiating research studies in collaboration with other Centres and Schools in Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham.
- Integration of new technologies was identified as an area with lot of possibilities during the conference. There were demonstrations on how drug delivery in Ayurveda can be enhanced with specially designed bandages, how the administration of shirodhara can be fine tuned with technological inputs and how information technology can assist in data capture and analysis for research purposes.
- Multidisciplinary collaboration is the way forward and to facilitate networking amongst individuals and institutions; it was decided to constitute an Indian Society for Integrative Medicine and Health. In the coming months, the modalities for establishing the society would be worked out.
- Several Institutions and individuals have come forward to collaborate and sign MoUs. There have been initial discussions for signing MoUs between Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and All India Institute of Ayurveda for work on Clinical Integration and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and BHU for integration of new technologies.
- It was pointed out that Institutions that are already working in the area of Integrative Medicine should be recognised as Centres of Excellence that can serve as model clinics that can be replicated in other centres.
- It was decided that a Scopus Indexed Peer Reviewed research journal would be launched named “Journal of Integrative Medicine and Health” to facilitate high quality research publications in the field of Integrative Medicine and Health. It is proposed to constitute a working committee from the resource persons who attended Amrita Samyogam Conference to strategize and action the major recommendations that emerged from the conference.