Wellness guru Dr. Andrew Weil donates $15 million to UA

Dr. Andrew Weil’s world-famous name will live on forever at the University of Arizona.

The celebrity physician and alternative medicine pioneer has pledged $15 million to put his name on the UA center he founded 25 years ago, the university announced Tuesday.

The Center for Integrative Medicine will now be known as the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, a change UA President Robert Robbins called “truly fitting.”

“In my opinion it’s 20 or 30 years late in coming,” said Robbins, a cardiac surgeon and self-described “disciple” of Weil’s efforts to promote healthy living, stress reduction and natural remedies that support the body’s ability to heal.

Their bond was evident as the two men shared the stage at Tuesday’s press conference, referring to each other by their nicknames, “Robby” and “Andy.”

Weil’s methods complement traditional medicine with emphasis on nutrition, lifestyle, natural therapies, spirituality and the mind-body connection.

His presence has made the UA “the epicenter of this movement around the world,” Robbins said.

Long before achieving fame as an author and health commentator, Weil was a doctor seeking work in an era when mainstream medicine was hostile to his views.

He credits Dr. Jim Dalen, then dean of UA’s medical school, for taking a chance on him in 1994 despite heavy criticism from peers around the county.

“A lot of deans said, ‘How could you let Andrew Weil teach at your medical school with all that superstitious stuff?’” Weil, 76, recalled in an interview Tuesday.

Decades later, hundreds of UA students have been trained in Weil’s methods, and top medical schools like Harvard and Stanford have developed their own integrative medicine centers.

Even so, Weil still has critics. Any number of websites claim he’s a quack using his name to get rich peddling vitamin supplements, orthotic shoes and anti-aging face cream.

Weil says he donates the proceeds of such ventures to his private charitable foundation, which funnels the money to worthy causes.

Weil’s $15 million commitment — on top of the more than $5 million he’s already given to the UA — will also establish an endowed chair in integrative medicine, an endowed chair for research in integrative medicine and an endowed program fund for integrative medicine, all of which bear his name.

“This gift marks the high point of my career,” he said.

“A lot of deans said ‘How could you let Andrew Weil teach
at your medical school with all that superstitious stuff?’” Dr. Andrew Weil, recalling his hiring at the UA
by Dr. Jim Dalen

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