BACKGROUND: Integrative medicine (blending the best of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with conventional medicine) is becoming increasingly popular. OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this paper are to compare and contrast the development of two teams that set out to establish integrative medical clinics, highlighting key issues found to be common to both settings, and to identify factors that appear to be necessary for integration to occur. METHODS: At St Michael's Hospital (an inner-city teaching hospital in Toronto, Canada), a total of 42 interviews were conducted between February 2004 and August 2006 wi18 key participants (4 administrators, 2 chiropractors, 2 physiotherapists and 10 family physicians). At the CARE (Complementary and Alternative Research and Education) Program at Stollery Children's Hospital, Edmonton, Canada, 44 interviews were conducted with 24 people on four occasions: June 2004, March 2005, November 2006, and June 2007. Basic content analysis was used to identify the key themes from the transcribed interviews. RESULTS: Despite the contextual differences between the two programs, a striking number of similar themes emerged from the data. The five most important shared themes were: 1) the necessity of "champions" and institutional facilitators to conceive of, advocate for, and bring the programs to fruition; 2) the credibility of these champions and facilitators (and the credibility of the program being established) was key to the acceptance and growth of the program in each setting; 3) the ability to find the "right" practitioners and staff to establish the integrative team was crucial to each program's ultimate success; 4) the importance of trust (both the trustworthiness of the developing program as well as the trust that developed between the practitioners in the integrative team); and 5) the challenge of finding physical space to house the programs. CONCLUSION: The programs were ultimately successful because of the credibility of the champions, institutional facilitators and the staff members. Selection of excellent clinicians who were able to work well as a team facilitated the establishment of trust both within the team itself as well as between the team and the host institution.
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