While studying Music Business at San Francisco State, San Diegan Ryan Altman initially built a career as a Promoter and Talent Agent, booking national tours for emerging artists. After working for five years, he then spent the following five years traveling the world, learning about various cultures.
It was through these travels Ryan was exposed to traditional healing techniques. He dabbled in yoga while in India, massage while in Thailand, reiki in Israel, some basic herbology in Tibet, and homeopathy in France.
After the first election of George W. Bush as President, Ryan decided to return home to focus on healing within his home country. He enrolled in Pacific College’s graduate program for Traditional Chinese Medicine.
While a student, he planned a free educational event in Balboa Park called the San Diego Healing Arts Festival, with the goal of educating potential patients about acupuncture and holistic medicine. This was the decision that ultimately led to our founding.
2005: Ryan Files for Nonprofit Corporate Status for His Company, Alternative Healing Network
Ryan’s concert experience solidified his belief that music is one of the greatest forms of healing. Through the San Diego Healing Arts Festival, he used live music to connect with over 2,500 attendees. In order to work with City Parks separately from the College, Ryan had created an unincorporated nonprofit association called “Alternative Healing Network,” or “ALTHealNet,” as a play on his last name.
After graduating from Pacific College, Ryan officially filed for 501(c)(3) non-profit corporate status on February 14, 2005.
2005-2007: Launch Free Weekly Outreach Events
TOTAL FREE HEALTH SERVICES PROVIDED: 1,247
This was a period of exciting growth. The San Diego Healing Arts Festival continued to be a hit, with up to 18,000 attendees annually. We also launched the Alternative Happy Hour series and began participating in community collaboratives and connecting with other nonprofits and health institutions in San Diego County.
During the 2007 fire season, in which many residents were forced to flee, AltHealNet created a pop-up offering free holistic wellness services to refugees and frontline workers. Based on that pop-up model, we then established a regular weekly free offering for underserved populations called Integrative Health Night, eventually forging partnerships with local schools to send student interns to our growing events.
We were offering acupuncture, clinical massage therapy, chiropractic care, and other essential wellness services at no cost to our community—now we just had to find a way to make it all sustainable.
2008: Open Our Adams Avenue Clinic Location
The country was in a recession by then, with grant money drying up. Our team of weekly volunteer practitioners, including Dr. Dave McCann—our current Clinical Director and Chiropractor—decided to create an affordable, revenue-generating storefront location. By seeing paying patients, we could fund our outreach efforts. We were essentially a social entrepreneurship before we even knew what that was.
On June 22, 2008, we officially celebrated the grand opening of Adams Avenue Integrative Health.
2009 – 2016: A Period of Growth and Expansion
TOTAL FREE WELLNESS SERVICES PROVIDED: 20,016
During the years that followed our opening, we continued to learn, evolve, and connect with our community. Notable events during this time include:
- Hosting over 35,000 attendees and 80 exhibitors for the San Diego Healing Arts Festival
- Deciding to pivot away from the festival in order to focus on our outreach
- Producing a music stage in our parking lot for the Adams Avenue Unplugged (formerly known as the Roots Fest) and Art Around Adams annual events
- Continuing to grow our internship program and add more affiliates for our outreach events
- Expanding our Free Community Wellness programs to over 20,000 free treatments provided in City Heights, Southeast San Diego, and at the YWCA Women’s Shelter
- Offering corporate wellness services to organizations like Rady Children’s Hospital, UCSD, and SDSU
- Taking over the neighboring lease for our Adams Ave location and re-opening as an expanded clinic
2016-Present: Becoming Community Wellness Collaborative
TOTAL FREE WELLNESS SERVICES PROVIDED: OVER 28,000
Since expanding our flagship Adams Avenue Community Wellness Center, we’ve continued to sustain weekly free community wellness events in multiple communities. We’ve helped train hundreds of wellness practitioners through internships and apprenticeships and provided opportunities for them to work with our diverse patient population.
In the fall of 2018, during the Adams Avenue Street Fair, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors declared us a recognized “Live Well San Diego” partner with the HHSA. We were honored for our commitment to providing quality integrative care to San Diego, and we look forward to joining other non-profits at the Southeastern Live Well Center once construction is complete. This location will also serve as the long-term home of our free outreach program beginning in 2023.
In spring 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we allocated some of our resources to assist with disease-fighting research. Led by Dr. Shannyn Fowl, we became a draw site for patient blood donations and assisted research with several labs in order to create more accurate tests, including the Roche Antibody test.
As 2020 drew to a close, we reflected and decided that the name “Alternative” Healing Network no longer served us. We wanted a name that conveyed our commitment to the San Diego community, the fact that wellness is not negotiable for us, and our respect for the power of collaboration to make our dreams a reality.
And here we are! We look forward to continuing to serve the people of San Diego, and we’re thankful for everyone who’s made our work possible thus far.