Dr. Esther Sternberg to Head Research at UA Center for Integrative Medicine

She will establish and direct the Institute on Place and Well-Being to explore and measure the effects of built space and the physical and green environment on human health, emotions and spirituality.
Sept. 26, 2012
Dr. Esther Sternberg
Dr. Esther Sternberg

Dr. Esther Sternberg, world-renowned for her discoveries in the science of mind-body interactions, has joined the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine as director of research.

She also joins the faculty of the UA College of Medicine-Tucson and the UA College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, or CALA, where she will establish and direct the Institute on Place and Well-Being. Sternberg also will join The University of Arizona Arthritis Center and will serve on the center’s Scientific Advisory Board. She will relocate to Tucson with her research team and program from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, or AzCIM, founded by Dr. Andrew Weil in 1994, was the first integrative medicine institution based at a U.S. medical school and is the recognized leader in integrative medicine education. AzCIM established the nation’s first two-year postgraduate fellowship in integrated medicine in 1997.
With the addition of Sternberg’s program, it is positioned to become the leader in integrated medicine research, as well.

At the UA, Sternberg will establish a collaborative, multi-disciplinary translational research program that will explore the science of the mind-body connection from varying perspectives and efficiently translate those findings into integrative medicine practice, resulting in meaningful health outcomes.
“We’re honored that a researcher of Dr. Sternberg’s caliber has decided to join us and commit to important research on the integrative mind-body connection and practical applications,” said Weil. “Her dedication will produce the science-based outcomes and cost-effectiveness research that will take the national health-care discussion to the next level.”

Sternberg added, “Joining the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the UA College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture gives me and my team the opportunity to expand the research we’ve already begun and to apply our methodology in a much larger, more interdisciplinary way. The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine believes profoundly in the mind-body connection to which I’ve already dedicated years of research, and the University of Arizona’s support of this program, coupled with its leadership in architecture and the physical and environmental sciences, provides a unique multi-disciplinary infrastructure to carry out our work."

“This is an exciting and natural progression in my career and in our research at-large, which will help us understand the science of mind-body interventions, when to most effectively apply them, and how place figures into health and well-being,” Sternberg said.
Sternberg’s research will focus on three areas: establishment of a biomarker laboratory that began at the NIH, aimed at development of a new sweat patch technology to measure patients’ immune and stress responses; design and implementation of tools to compare mechanisms of action and effectiveness of integrative versus conventional medicine approaches, including non-invasive measures of psychological, physiological, endocrine, nervous and immune systems’ health status; and the establishment of the Institute for Place and Well-Being at the UA.
The Institute for Place and Well-Being will be a joint venture among AzCIM, the UA colleges of medicine and architecture and landscape architecture, and the UA Institute of the Environment. The mission of the Institute for Place and Well-Being will be to explore and measure the effects of built space and the physical and green environment on human health, emotions and spirituality.
“Dr. Sternberg’s appointment and the establishment of the Institute for Place and Well-Being at the UA are some of the biggest developments in the field of health and environmental design in the past 25 years,” said Janice Cervelli, dean of the UA College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. “We always have intuitively understood a connection between the quality of the built environment and health, but we now will be able to demonstrate such a relationship quantitatively through Dr. Sternberg’s work.
“The knowledge will help in the design and planning of a broad range of environments that can actually facilitate healing and well-being, including surgical and clinical environments, recovery and long-term care facilities, the workplace, schools and residences. Dr. Sternberg will help position Southern Arizona as an emerging knowledge and economic cluster around environment, place and health.”
Diana Liverman, co-director of the Institute of the Environment, said one of the goals of the recent environmental hiring initiative coordinated by the Institute of the Environment was to strengthen research and collaboration across campus, including in the area of environment and health and sustainable built environments. The UA’s recently hired faculty with environmental interests totals nearly 30 with Sternberg’s hire.
“We understand that the strength of the UA’s interdisciplinary work on the environment, with several hundred faculty and researchers across campus, and the potential for collaboration, were factors that attracted Dr. Sternberg,” said Liverman. “We hope that she will join us in future projects that seek to identify relationships between people and the built and natural environment that contribute to sustainability and personal well-being.”
Sternberg, who has a reputation for translating complex scientific subjects into language and formats that are accessible for public audiences, has had an ongoing relationship with AzCIM. Together in December 2010 they presented a Tucson public screening of her PBS documentary “The Science of Healing,” followed by a lively panel discussion and question-and-answer session with Sternberg and Weil and AzCIM executive director, Dr. Victoria Maizes.
“We are absolutely delighted that Dr. Sternberg has agreed to join our Center,” said Maizes. “She will bring a critical perspective to outcomes research of integrative medicine, and together with CALA, we will break new ground by investigating the impact of built and natural spaces on health.”
Sternberg is internationally recognized for her discoveries proving the role of the brain’s stress response in arthritis, autoimmune and other debilitating illnesses. She received her medical degree and trained in rheumatology at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and was on the faculty at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., before joining the National Institutes of Health, in 1986. At NIH she was section chief of neuroendocrine immunology and behavior at the National Institute of Mental Health.
Her popular books, "The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions" and "Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being," are informative and scientifically based and deal with the complexities and 21st century frontiers of stress, healing and wellness. Sternberg’s many honors include recognition by the National Library of Medicine as one of 300 women physicians who have changed the face of medicine.

The University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine is leading the transformation of health care by creating, educating and actively supporting a community that embodies the philosophy and practice of healing-oriented medicine, addressing mind, body and spirit. Integrative medicine takes account of all lifestyle factors that influence health and makes use of conventional and complementary therapies, as appropriate.

Since its inception, the AzCIM has focused its efforts on three areas: education, clinical care and research, with the primary emphasis on education. AzCIM was built on the premise that the best way to change a field is to educate the most gifted professionals and place them in settings where they can teach others.
The UA College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture leads the nation in sustainable design and planning for arid regions. CALA faculty members work at the forefront of sustainability and regenerative development, specifically, alternative energy, water conservation, landscape ecology, climate change adaptation, affordable housing and heritage preservation.

Inspired by a strong passion for place and its people, CALA produces practitioners and scholars that champion the importance of regionalism in design and planning. The CALA curriculum is highly integrated across the professions of architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning, and is delivered within a small, caring and diverse community strongly rooted in practice. CALA alumni are recognized internationally for modern desert architecture, landscape architecture and urban and regional planning and design, comprising what is known as the "Arizona School."
The UA Institute of the Environment fosters and facilitates cross-campus, community, state, national and worldwide collaborations that help explain and resolve environmental challenges and seize solution-driven opportunities created by such challenges. It also provides a portal to the internationally recognized expertise of more than 300 affiliated faculty and research staff across campus and to programs, events and projects that transform environmental research into useful knowledge for decision makers, consumers and other stakeholders.