As Hilary Garivaltis became the full-time executive director at the National Ayurvedic Medical Association in June 2016, important transitions for the association were well underway. Since its formation in 2000 NAMA has steadily matured its institutional and service capacity along a path familiar to many integrative professional organizations: advancing accreditations, convening annual conferences, advocating for state licensure and state organizations: building credibility.
Hilary’s own journey as an Ayurvedic practitioner and educator parallels her profession’s growth as reputable piece of the fabric of complementary and integrative health. Her personal introduction began when she was attracted to Ayurveda for her own health needs and came to see her experience as part of “a system that is profound, is natural and common sense; all these things I believed as an individual.” Inspired by the potential to help others, she entered her many years in Ayurvedic education as a student at the New England Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine, then went on to advanced training in India at the Rishikesh College of Ayurveda and the Jiva Institute.
Hilary joined the Kripalu Center for Yoga and its Healing Arts team and became the founder and first dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. While there she started volunteering with NAMA on its education committee. She joined the board in 2006 and served as president, secretary, and chair of the standards committee ultimately taking on the role as part-time executive director as the organization’s growth and administrative needs became more apparent. The position became full time in 2018. One other full-time and three part-time staff now work closely with the board and volunteer committees. (Through her practice she also provides education and training services at Ayurvedic Health Education Services, LLC .)
As its membership has crossed the 1500 mark, NAMA’s primary strategy focuses on certification and accreditation, the latter being a process that has begun with an appointed board and a part time manager. “This is a big move for us as a profession,” Hilary notes. ‘’Ayurveda is now being recognized as an option in healthcare in the United States, by states and government, as a profession. We need to have all these infrastructures in place so the states that will be looking at potentially regulating Ayurveda can see that there is internal infrastructure that supports and evaluates the profession and its educational arm.”
The association currently offers certifications for Ayurvedic Health Counselor and Ayurvedic Practitioner. An exam for Ayurvedic Doctor is in development and expected for release in 2020.
The often arduous process of obtaining licensure in the states has begun in Colorado, where an application is pending. NAMA has several historic integrative models to consider as it creates advocates for licensure: “We compare ourselves to the acupuncturists’ process of professionalization in terms of licensure,” she says, noting that it has been “a decades-long process.” The importance of creating a critical mass among practitioners and patients, she notes, is essential for making licensure possible.
In this process NAMA is also supporting the formation of state-based professional Ayurvedic associations. Five are now in operation, and one of those is a NAMA member. A state sub-committee is working on growing relationships with and support in the states. “We will lend support in multiple ways to any group that is heading in that direction,” Hilary says, “because it will only advance the profession as a whole.” NAMA is working on establishing reciprocal memberships with state groups.
The current marketplace of ideas and foundational redefinitions among healthcare partnerships -- in part around the growing presence of integrative pain management -- marks what Hilary calls “a very interesting time” for her profession. “The climate at the moment allows for these different forms of medicine to blossom and to contribute to healthcare in the US. We are appreciative of those who came before us and what we can learn from them.”
“We look to collaborate and work with other groups as much as possible in the integrative medical model,” she says, pointing out the importance of NAMA’s membership in ACIH, “as well as being recognized as a field of medicine that can stand on its own.”