Coming up on its 20-year anniversary, the Tucson-based Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine leads the nation when it comes to studying integrative medicine.

Integrative medicine, a synthesis of the best conventional and alternative medical practices, examines patients holistically, said Dr. Victoria Maizes, an executive director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. "We pay a lot of attention to what people eat, how they move in the world, how they manage their stress, their spiritual lives."

Today, the center is thriving and has the largest training program in the world.

"We train 120 fellows each year," Maizes said. "They come from all different specialties, whether it’s oncology or family medicine, pediatrics, or it's psychiatry, or OB/GYN."

To determine what treatment is effective within integrative medicine, there is a need for trials.

“We have herbs on the marketplace, we have vitamins, people are doing acupuncture, they are using naturopathy," Maizes explained. "The process of studying them has to be a bit different than the randomized control trials."

Currently, inside a new clinic that opened a year ago in Maricopa County, specialists from the AzCIM compare patients who receive conventional therapies and those who use more holistic approaches.

"We believe integrative treatment is more cost-effective because of our attention to life style and our successes of helping people live healthier lives, which reduces the risk of chronic diseases," Maizes said. "We have to prove it."

The center treats all kinds of patients. The best-served patients are those who have been diagnosed with a new chronic illness, and want to know what else they can do to heal themselves, Maizes said. Also, people who really care about prevention and wellness, and feel like this is a good philosophical alignment are good candidates for the treatment, she said.