Vaclav Havel, the Czech poet and revolutionary political leader, has famously argued that “hope is not the same as optimism” to explain how people can be activists despite compelling evidence for pessimism. Cited in Paul Loeb’s book “The Impossible Will Take a Little While”, the perspective has animated the work of the Integrative Healthcare Symposium 2020 Leadership Award recipient John Weeks in the 37 years as an organizer, chronicler, executive, columnist, and editor in the field of integrative health and medicine. As the field morphed from “alternative” to its present leadership in cultural transformation at the Veteran’s Administration and to informing mainstream medicine’s corrective shift toward “health creation”, the publisher of the influential Integrator Blog newsletter shifted his own work. Weeks began by directing prior professional experience in journalism, politics and community organizing into leadership roles for the emerging naturopathic medical profession (1983-1993). As the integrative era subsequently began, Weeks shifted to chronicling, commentary and consultancies with multiple healthcare stakeholders. These included diverse professional associations, academic health centers, insurers, the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the AHA, the NIH, and the WHO. Believing power to influence rises via collaboration and strength in numbers, Weeks helped found the Integrative Health Policy Consortium, the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health, and the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine. He also provided assistance to the founder of Integrative Medicine for the Underserved (where he continues as an adviser) and to the International Association of Yoga Therapists at a key moment of its maturation. “Hope” says Weeks – reflecting on Havel – “is a verb.”
The work of the present editor-in-chief of JACM-Paradigm, Practice and Policy Advancing Integrative Health (The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine) continues to be directed at efforts to forge relationships needed to “change the therapeutic order of the nation.” At JACM, he has partnered with top academic researchers for special issues in subjects such as whole systems research, group-delivered services, naturopathy, integrative palliative care, and implementation science. Weeks attended Stanford for 3 years, studying art history and writing poetry. Four institutions have granted him honorary doctorates. In 2014, three consortia combined to present him with a book of 150 testimonials from movement leaders as a Lifetime Achievement Living Tribute Award. Weeks’ keynote will be a personal and collective journey from the 1960s’ rambunctious birth of many of the field’s cultural change movements through the organizational efforts in the 1970s-1980s, collaborative engagements at the turn of the century, the present signs of convergence and influence, and then a look forward. His partner in this life and work is Jeana Kimball, ND, MPH with whom he has two grown children. Weeks feels particularly lucky to have spent 6 of the past 18 years working from Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico where he took up paddleboard surfing and paddle-boarding which he continues to do 3-4 days a week on the Salish Sea near their West Seattle home.