Becoming Balanced

Hypnotism. Herbal remedies. Acupuncture. Yoga. Meditation. Competing against Benadryl, Tylenol and Day Quil?

Despite cutting-edge technological and scientific advances in the field of medicine, a propelling interest in alternative therapy has emerged. Increasingly, even students schooled and trained in the traditional scientific method have latched on.

From house courses and conferences to massage therapy classes and popping Echinacea during finals, students are becoming more and more interested in alternative ways of dealing with health care than the traditional doctor visit.

Students said such methods treat the whole person and not just the disease or ailment, providing benefits that medicine cannot and developing psychological well-being.

"It's evident that throughout the years, many students--pre-meds and others--are becoming more and more interested in approaching health care issues from a different perspective," said Kim Dau, Trinity '02, a former instructor of the Holistic Living House Course. She said that for the past two years and each of the four semesters she taught the class, it was filled to capacity.

Senior Page Inman, the current house course instructor, agreed with Dau on the transforming interests in health care.

"In my course we explore the shift [in health care] by exploring other dimensions of health, such as spirituality," Inman said. "Certain therapies, such as herbal therapy, could work; cost-wise they could be more efficient; and they have been around for a long time. So they have some merit and they should not be discredited."

During fall break both Inman and Dau attended a conference run by the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine that investigated alternative therapy and holistic approaches to health care.

Among the topics addressed in the conference were preventive measures for overall well-being using non-traditional modes of treatment, such as nutrition and exercise, as well as cognitive behavioral, spiritual and herbal therapies.

Such conferences have been an ongoing project by the DCIM for the past eight years. Next month, DCIM will host another conferred on diabetes and integrative methods.

This year the topic focused mainly on Women's health issues and a holistic way of dealing with such issues, said Dr. Larry Burk, a radiologist at the Medical Center and a chair of DCIM.

"We made the focus of this year's conference on women's issues because throughout our experiences we have found women to be the biggest consumer of alternative therapy," Burk said. "In most families, women tend to make the health care decisions anyway."

Burk first became interested in alternative forms of therapy when his radiology patients reported symptoms of claustrophobia because of the electromagnetic treatments they were receiving. Burk found hypnosis to be an effective treatment option. He and his colleagues at DCIM now hope to establish Duke as a prominent center for investigating integrative and alternative modes of treatment, especially for women's issues.

"I enjoyed learning from strong and assertive women," Inman said. "It's imperative, especially in the field of medicine, for other women to share their voices with students. I also liked learning from these women how they were able to develop therapeutic methods from nontraditional modes."

The chances that more undergraduates will attend another conference dealing with similar themes in the upcoming years are high, said senior Lindsey Rich, a pre-med student and another conference attendee.

"I greatly enjoyed hearing from individuals within the field about how the role of health care is now transforming," Rich said. "There seems to be a transformation in the patient/doctor relationship these days. Doctors are now focusing more so on the patient's overall wellness.... This is something that we may not [learn about] in traditional pre-med experiences, such as shadowing a doctor," Rich said.

As the focus of health care shifts toward a more holistic stance, more and more students are relying on nontraditional modes in regards to their own health care as well. Instead of relying on doctors or over the counter remedies for treating minor ailments, such as the common cold, headache, fatigue and body ache, students are able to treat themselves using holistic remedies. Junior Victor Jeffreys and co-instructor of the Holistic Medicine House Course relies on the benefits of herbal therapy and relaxation techniques.

"I go to an herbalist and have tinctures, or extracts of certain herbs custom-made for me and I take these on a daily basis," he said. "This helps keep my body in tune. It is difficult for us college students to be healthy, but an overall of balance of the entire body is essential. It is important to cure the whole [body] system, instead of just the symptoms of the ailment in order to be fully healthy" he said.


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