Tracy Gaudet, MD is a leader in the development of Whole Health through decades of radically re-envisioning and implementing new approaches to address health outcomes and costs. She is co-founder of the Cornerstone Collaboration for Societal Change, the nation’s leading expert in whole health, and worked alongside SCU to develop the first-everDoctor of Whole Health Leadershipprogram.
Prior to this, she served as the founding Executive Director of the Whole Health Institute. Dr. Gaudet was also the Founding Executive Director of the Veterans Health Administration’s National Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation. This Office led VHA’s transformation to Whole Health, an approach to healthcare that empowers and equips people to take charge of their health and live their most meaningful lives. Under her leadership, Veteran Affairs (VA) healthcare delivery has been re-envisioned and is being implemented nationally.
Previously, Dr. Gaudet was with Duke University Health System, where she served as Executive Director of Duke Integrative Medicine until 2010. Under her leadership, Duke Integrative Medicine created a state-of-the-art healthcare facility dedicated to the transformation of medicine through the exploration, demonstration, and research of new models of patient-centered care.
Prior to her work at Duke, Dr. Gaudet was the Founding Executive Director of the University of Arizona Program in Integrative Medicine, leading the design of the country’s first comprehensive curriculum in this new field and launching the Distance Learning Fellowship. In addition, Dr. Gaudet co-founded the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health.
Dr. Gaudet, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist, was featured in the PBS nationally acclaimed special entitled “The New Medicine,” and named by Shape magazine as one of the eleven women who shape the world. Dr. Gaudet has been recognized as one of the “Top 25 Women in Healthcare” by Modern Healthcare and featured as a Game Changer in Fortune Magazine. She was honored with the Bravewell Leadership Award for her significant contributions to advancing the field of medicine, recognized for her significant leadership that benefited our nation’s veterans with the Exemplary Service Award, and most recently was honored with the Visionary Award from the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine for her leadership in transformative healthcare.
Dr. Gaudet is also the author of Consciously Female, a book on integrative medicine and women’s health, and Body, Soul, and Baby.
Read on for a Q&A with Dr. Tracy Gaudet on the future of integrative, whole-person health and advice for the Class of 2023.
Q: Can you share what inspired you to dedicate your career to the transformation of healthcare, particularly with a focus on integrative, whole-person health?
I always had a love for science and a passion for people. From a very early age, I was drawn to healthcare and roles that would allow me to serve as a bridge from the science to the human experience, and to support people in their life journeys. I majored in Psychology and Sociology as an undergrad, knowing that would help provide the foundation that I needed for this kind of work. Then, I learned that for healthcare as it was predominantly practiced, the heart and the soul were most often set aside, and the focus was “solely” on the diseased body part. I couldn’t conceive of how that could ever work and started on my long journey to be a change agent at the system level.
Q: With the founding of your new organization, Cornerstone Collaborative for Societal Change, what initiatives are you focused on as you continue to deliver the message about integrative health?
The mission of the Cornerstone Collaboration is to catalyze and accelerate a change in society such that human values once again have a powerful, practical influence over every aspect of our daily lives. We believe individuals and society have become increasingly disconnected from our own humanity, our interconnectedness, and the natural world in which we live. This is creating a culture of fear, scarcity, and suffering.
We also believe that there is no better place to begin than with health and well-being. We are working to catalyze the transformation of the systems that impact health and well-being so that every person is empowered and equipped to take charge of their mental, spiritual, and physical health and can live their most meaningful life. And that is why we are so excited about working with SCU!
Q: What about the future of integrative healthcare are you most excited for?
I believe our society is now at a point where true transformation is not only called for – it is absolutely imperative. The current system is not working – not in terms of human and clinical outcomes, and not in terms of costs. It is crippling our nation, and doing more of the same will not fix this. The exciting thing is that we now have developed and researched what that new system looks like and how it functions. We are calling it Whole Health.
I believe our society is now at a point where true transformation is not only called for – it is absolutely imperative. – Tracy Gaudet, MD
The largest demonstration thus far has been in the VA, where outcomes are significantly better, and costs lower. And most importantly, people – patients and employees – have hope again. Now, the National Academies and the US Surgeon General are calling on this to be adopted across the nation. To make that happen, we need organizations like SCU and people like your graduates!
Q: Modern Healthcare named you one of the “Top 25 Women in Healthcare” in 2011. Given the evolving landscape of healthcare over the past decade, what advice would you give to emerging women leaders in this field?
It is amazing how much has evolved over the last decade. One thing has become clear – top-down, hierarchical leadership will not succeed in driving the change that we need. There are many great people and organizations working to address the challenges we are facing. And yet the impact is not significant. What is needed is leadership that can harness independent people and efforts. We need systems thinking and systems approaches, not reductionistic, siloed efforts. This calls for a style of leadership that comes very naturally to many women. My advice is to recognize that as a strength and be intentional about this approach to leading change. The results will most likely surprise even you!
Q: At SCU, our vision is “transforming and redefining health and healthcare education.” As our new graduates go into the world, transformed by their education, what guidance or wisdom would you like to impart to this year’s graduating class?
I want the graduates to know – not just intellectually, but know in the depth of their souls – that the world needs them now more than ever. The education and the experience that they have received at SCU has prepared them to enter into the world at just the right time in history. Whether they are in a formal leadership position or an informal one, trust me when I tell you that they will and are leading the way. They are making the future vision of health and well-being a reality in our world now.
Join Dr. Gaudet in celebrating the SCU Class of 2023 at commencement on Monday, December 18 at 10 a.m. For more information, visit mySCU (login required). Congratulations, graduates!