Exploring Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Students explore alternative medicine during J-term.

What the course catalog says:

This course offers students the opportunity to explore multiple approaches to holistic health care by investigating complementary and alternative health care medicine (CAM) (e.g., acupuncture, chiropractic, aromatherapy, massage therapy, reflexology, etc.). Students will engage in researching the principles, practices, use, and outcomes of CAM leading to individual and group written and oral presentation experiences.

What the professor says:

I enjoy stimulating the interest and curiosity of my students about complementary and alternative medicine. It’s gaining in popularity and is already in use by the general public. I also teach that it’s important to become well informed before making a decision about including CAM therapies/interventions in one’s own health care.

Throughout the course, I encourage students to approach these topics with an open mind yet maintain a healthy skepticism. We invariably discuss topics they’ve never heard of before and do some demonstrations that tend to “blow their minds!” Students discover that every topic involves the mind, body, and spirit connection—a holistic approach to health.  I invite students to do the research necessary to help them make an informed decision and they learn the value of critical analysis.

Student-led discussions and oral presentations allow them to share their research and opinions. Students also benefit from listening to actual CAM practitioners who we invite to class to share their expertise in areas such as Reiki, Traditional Chinese Medicine (including acupuncture, herbs and Qi Gong), chiropractic, kinesiology/muscle testing, and reflexology. It’s my hope, of course, that students leave the course with continued curiosity about this area of study.

Jacki Wright, associate professor of health and physical education

What students say:

I’m a biology major and plan to get my master’s or doctorate degree in physical therapy. I chose to take this course because I thought the class sounded interesting and could help me with my career. As a physical therapist, I would use my knowledge of other complementary and alternative therapies to help my patients and know where to refer them. I also wanted to learn more about making good decisions about my own health and how I could do that naturally or without relying on conventional medicine.

I’ve never learned about complementary or alternative therapies before. These topics are not covered in our general studies or in the biology major. I loved the open atmosphere and conversational tone of class. We heard from many guest speakers who introduced us to new perspectives. We also completed many hands-on activities and tried out relaxation exercises or techniques for certain therapies. Being able to experience and feel results from some of the therapies convinced me of the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine.

—Laura Judd

I chose this course because I’ve been tossing around different career path ideas in the medical field. When I read the description of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I thought it would be important to learn about it and could help me become a more well-rounded professional.

I discovered that complementary and alternative medicine makes a lot of sense and sometimes seems more reasonable than conventional medicine. Taking care of your whole body is one of the points of emphasis. Now that I know more about this and the research that supports it, I’m probably going to use many of the different therapies and methods we learned about in my own health routine.

—Anneleise Frie

The class was challenging in that Dr. Wright had high expectations for our class participation, but it also helped us fully grasp the topics and have fun. I gained new confidence in myself by presenting and leading discussions, learning new ideas, and being open to topics other people are often weary of.

—Laura Judd