Career Profile: Holistic Medicine: Resurgence of an Ancient Tradition

Nurse Anesthesiologist

A decade ago, doctors at the Duke University Medical Center, positioned at the leading-edge of the global medical world, committed themselves to the exploration of an alternative approach in medical treatment: Holistic Medicine. This commitment has only reaffirmed the Duke reputation for visionary medical research, for our nation and the world at large have undergone a phenomenal revival of Holistic philosophy in recent years. For instance, in 2002 The National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine (CAM) conducted a survey revealing that within the previous year, 36% of Americans had used a holistic-related therapy such as yoga, acupuncture, or meditation (Wikipedia). Medical schools have been quick to keep up with this trend, as it is now reported that 60% of U.S. medical schools and 84.8% of U.S. nursing schools educate their students in some form of CAM (Wikipedia). How did Duke researchers have the foresight to predict this rise in Holistic Medicine? By looking at history, that’s how.

You see, the roots of Holistic Medicine can be found 5000 years ago in the culture of ancient China and India. For instance, Ayurveda, a medical approach deeply rooted in Indian Vedic culture, held that disease and ill-health were caused when the material world disrupted a person’s unique constitution, or praktri. The praktri was comprised by three elements, or doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, which bore resemblance to air, fire, and water (Wikipedia). The goal of ayurvedic treatments was to restore the mind-body harmony of these three doshas by utilizing herbs, bodily therapies, and manipulating the patient’s diet. Although modern Holistic Medicine differs from ayruveda in that it relies upon advanced scientific knowledge of human health, the overarching aim is strikingly similar: Holistic Medicine views the human body as an integrated whole whose mental, physical, emotional, and environmental aspects must be harmonized in order to optimize health and well-being.

The attainment of inner harmony was also the founding principle of medicine in China, as expressed by Dr. Simon Mills: “In Chinese medicine…health is determined by a person’s ability to maintain a balanced and harmonious internal environment.” In this tradition, the achievement of harmony is based not only on the concept of Yin and Yang, but also on that of Qi (or Chi)—the vital energy that regulates all aspects of an individual’s inner self: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is believed that Qi flows along twelve meridians, or jingluo, which run up and down the body (Studyworld). If the flow is disrupted, one method of restoring it is acupuncture, which was first developed in 589 AD, during the Sui Dynasty, at the First Imperial Medical College of China (Mills). Recently, Duke University sent a team of researchers to East Asia in order to study acupuncture in its birthplace. The Duke team concluded that acupuncture is a viable treatment modality while simultaneously demonstrating that modern medicine is increasingly finding ancient culture a reservoir of astounding wisdom (Duke).

In fact, the wisdom of Holistic Medicine was advocated by the great Greek sage himself, Socrates, who warned that addressing the illness of only one body part would be detrimental to the body as a whole—going straight to the heart of Holistic Medicine (Medicineworld). This advice was taken to heart by his Roman successors, as gladiators received frequent massages while legionnaires and citizens practiced hydrotherapy in the spas of Rome and Bath, England (Wikipedia).

Today Holistic Medicine embraces a wide variety of treatments that include such things as diet, massage, meditation, exercise, and herbal supplementation, as well as a dizzying array of specialized therapies like aromatherapy, reiki, and acupuncture. Practitioners of Holistic Medicine are at once on the cutting edge of modern medicine and connected to a five millennia-old tradition of harmony and well-being. Theirs is the goal of blending ancient wisdom with modern knowledge to better people’s lives.

* DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, Keller Graduate School of Management is included in this accreditation. In New York, DeVry University operates as DeVry College of New York. DeVry University operates as DeVry Institute of Technology in Calgary, Alberta. DeVry is certified to operate by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. AC0060. DeVry University is authorized for operation by the THEC. Nashville Campus - 3343 Perimeter Hill Dr., Nashville, TN 37211 Program availability varies by location.©2010 DeVry Educational Development Corp. All rights reserved


Duke University
Mills, Simon M.A., and Stephen J. Finado, Ph.D. Alternatives in Healing. Marshall Editions Ltd., 1988.