Chiropractic Student Ihotu Ali: Speaking at Whole Person Health Summit

Ihotu Ali, MPH, is women’s health researcher and consultant, doula, and mid-career change chiropractic student at NWHSU. Ihotu and chiropractic student Kit Harlow collaborated on this article.   

Last month, chiropractic student Ihotu Ali spoke at the 2023 Inaugural Whole Person Health Summit hosted at St. Thomas University.  

The theme of the summit was “From Awareness to Action,” with the goal of bringing together leaders in health care across government, hospital systems, health insurance companies, community and culturally specific clinics, and wellness advocates to discuss the advancement of integrative health in the aftermath of COVID-19.  

The Importance of Culturally Grounded Care 

The Importance of Culturally Grounded Care As part of the panel on “Promising Practices,” Ihotu spoke on the importance of culturally grounded care within whole person heath, specifically as a part of preventive health for high-risk pregnancies and addressing racial health disparities such as the high rates of complications and mortality among Black and Indigenous mothers and birthing people.  

In communities of color, integrative health services like chiropractic, acupuncture and massage, are often priced expensively and have developed a reputation of being only for the wealthy and privileged, and often for white communities.  

However, research shows that many of these traditions were originally practiced in and learned from Indigenous communities (Renfrew, 2015). The introduction of 20th century licensing requirements in health care had the unfortunate effect of nearly eradicating many types of Black and Indigenous healers, midwives, and bonesetters, while wealthier and often white providers were able to continue practicing under the new professional standards (Suarez, 2020). 

From Awareness to Action 

The morning began with a keynote presentation by former Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, including her reflections on how the pandemic revealed the limitations of overloaded hospitals, and the need for more community-based and whole-person care. She spoke to the need for us to rebuild our sense of “WE” and the sociological compact between people that was so damaged through all the challenges of 2020.  

Throughout the day, community leaders addressed the importance of shifting the health care paradigm to whole person-centered care and preventive health to help keep people healthy and avoid needing advanced medical care, with conversations on social, environmental, economic and political influences that contribute to health. Speakers came from a wide variety of backgrounds that included hospital workers, mental health professionals, insurance providers and religious groups. Along with discussion, participants offered tangible ways to implement whole person health care in our communities.  

The Oshun Center  

In addition to being a chiropractic student, Ihotu is the founder and Director of the Oshun Center for Intercultural Healing, an integrative care clinic and training center located inside of Family Tree Clinic in Minneapolis. Services at the center are offered by a team of Black, Indigenous, people of color, and LGBTQ+ practitioners.  

With the support of its training programs, the Oshun Center is able to offer apprenticeships to increase the numbers of community care workers of color, as well as offer affordable, sliding scale prices to community members to access massage and myofascial release therapy, craniosacral therapy, energy work, abdominal and womb care, ear acupressure, cupping, birth and lactation support, children’s sessions, health coaching and more.  

Ihotu shares that: “The Oshun Center is named after the African goddess of the sweet waters, abundance and ease, and we stand as a reminder that everyone deserves time for rest, care, to feel seen and appreciated, and to receive whole person health – this is not only for wealthy or white communities – this is for all of us. After years of collective trauma, social division, burnout and grief, we can barely make peace with ourselves, let alone each other. It’s more important than ever that we create post-pandemic healing spaces for finding peace and contentedness in our souls. Once we can return to a sense of safety, abundances and ease, I believe we can find our way back to ourselves, and back to each other.” 

Community Offerings  

Current NWHSU acupuncture student Preston Branch and recent graduate Tatum Fjerstad

As the flagship of its training programs, the Oshun Center offers a monthly membership called the Sweet Water Alliance for professionals to receive curated training and holistic leadership development in implicit bias, compassionate workplace policies, equity tools like sliding scale pricing, conflict mediation and collective trauma healing to strengthen members’ abilities to hold space for courageous conversations and compassionate responses to difficult situations, whether in their families, communities, or workplaces.  

Collaboration with NWHSU  

Current acupuncture students Preston Branch, Shelby Ankerfelt and Nicole Lonergan, graduates Tatum Fjerstad and Nicki Balian, and current chiropractic student Ihotu Ali

In the spirit of integrative care and serving community, The Oshun Center has also partnered with the George Wellbeing Foundation of the YMCA of the North and NWHSU acupuncture students and recent graduates to offer community acupuncture for prenatal and postpartum care, reproductive health concerns, chronic pain and addiction withdrawal symptoms (using the NADA Protocol developed with the support of the Black Panthers), and chronic stress and burnout.  

“We are the System” 

Seated next to Ihotu in the “Promising Practices” Panel was Dr. Aarti Prasad, Chief Strategic Development Officer at Hennepin Healthcare. Dr. Prasad spoke to efforts that Hennepin Healthcare has made to make whole person health available on large scale, systems levels, and in closing, offered a valuable reminder to us all in health care, that “WE are the system.” 

You can follow The Oshun Center and Ihotu Ali’s work on Instagram at @oshuncenter and @ihotuali or visit for more information, to book a session, or to join their training and holistic leadership programs. 

Written by Kit Harlow in collaboration with Ihotu Ali