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The History of the Martha's Vineyard Whole Health Alliance


On March 7, 1994 twenty-five health care practitioners gathered at the Wakeman Center in response to an invitation from Catherine Brennan and Kathleen Fitzgibbon, two holistic nurses, to network about health care. The invitation had been sent to over a hundred different practitioners, both traditional and alternative. Each person shared his or her thoughts about the present state of healthcare on Martha’s Vineyard. In the discussion which followed nearly all agreed that much needed to be done to improve health and wellness on the island.

Inspired by the Wakeman Center meeting, a small group of alternative practitioners agreed to meet for additional networking meetings. Six months later this group created The Martha’s Vineyard Whole Health Alliance.

Their mission, they decided, was:

“To educate the Martha’s Vineyard Island community through workshops, publications, and other methods of communication about healing practices which contribute to the well being of the whole person through integration of mind, body and spirit.”

Letters were sent to all known complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners on the island, soliciting their membership. The organization grew in numbers.

In the summer of 1995 MVWHA launched the Journey Into Wellness. This was a series of Wednesday evening presentations at the Windemere recreational therapy room from 7 to 8:30, showcasing the variety of health promoting methods used by island-based practitioners. The program continued through the fall and the following winter.

In October 1995 the federal government granted MVWHA status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

In 1996 MVWHA published its first Whole Health Catalog, a directory of health and healing practices available on the Vineyard. Five subsequent editions have been published, in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002.

In November 1998 and again in November 1999 MVWHA held a day long Whole Health Festival at the Oak Bluffs School gymnasium. Over forty holistic practitioners and agencies set up tables describing their services and offering health products and educational handouts. In separate classrooms different practitioners held hour long workshops.

Beginning in 2003 the annual meeting, in the spring of each year, has featured a speaker on some aspect of complementary and alternative practices. The speaker at the 2003 annual meeting was Glenn Rothfeld, MD, L.Ac. , who gave us his perspective on CAM practitioners working with physicians. In 2004 Victoria Menzies, PhD, spoke about mind/body medicine and the effect of guided imagery on pain management.

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