UNCP5528: Holistic Living

Rachel E. Spector

Associate Professor of School of Nursing

Course Description

This seminar will examine spirituality, community, personal and family relationships, and education through the lenses of cross-cultural holistic Health? and Healing practices. Selected readings, films, and field visits will assist you to visualize the relationships of Health to the holistic aspects of your life and that of the multicultural communities in which you will live and work. Through this study, the course will provide insight into the nature of health/Health, the comparisons of health/Health and healing/Healing practices cross culturally, and the consequences of health/Health related choices. In addition, a central theme within will be an examination of how Boston College has affected your development in general and within this topical area specifically.

Course Purpose and Process

Capstone courses are designed to provide you with the opportunity to reflect upon and integrate your education and experiences at Boston College in preparation for your future life. This course aims at studying spirituality, the duties of citizenship, vocation/career, education, and personal relationships through the lenses of Health and holistic living.

The two of the most significant tasks of your adult life will be:

  • the development of cultural competency, given the dramatic demographic changes occurring in the United States and the globalization of the market place, and
  • negotiating and advocating for comprehensive Health care for self and family. In fact, the development of an understanding of diversity within a Health centered focus, leads to a broad understanding and sensitivity to issues related to the larger issues of multiculturalism.

Ordinarily, a course dedicated to both Health and holistic living would be structured to examine health practices and methods that may be employed to modify your health behaviors and choices. But in this course, we will examine your Health from a much deeper perspective and explore ways of expanding this concept to include social justice and work and the relationship that these concepts have to Health. In each of the areas we will use novels or films, guest speakers, and/or field trips to broaden your perspectives of Health, holistic living and cultural diversity. You will see the relationships of Health to the holistic aspects of your life and that of the communities in which you will live and work.

Course Objectives

The student will:


  • deepen his/her understanding about self and reflect on what has been learned at Boston College about personal Health;
  • explore his/her existing knowledge about personal Health care and holistic living;
  • develop a long-term awareness about his/her role in citizenship, vocation/career, education, and personal relationships that is impacted on by Health;
  • develop an understanding and respect for the Health traditions of people from many different cultural heritages;
  • develop an understanding of the similarities and differences of culturally determined Health traditions and the relevance to overall cultural competency and,
  • reflect upon and evaluate the impact of the Boston College education.


Course Content

  • Culture-Heritage Consistency

  • Perceptions of Health/Health and Illness/Illness

  • Ethnocultural Familial Beliefs

  • Modern Health Care Delivery V

  • Allopathic versus Homeopathic Philosophies

  • Health/ Health and Illness/Illness in Selected Populations

Teaching and Learning Methods

Reading assignments seminars discussion films academic project/paper field trips Each student, with assistance, will take responsibility for one class and for framing the discussion questions from each of the assigned films, novels, or field trips. The questions must relate in some way to the overall themes of Health and holistic living and the impact that they have had on:

  1. your life experiences,
  2. your awareness of the health care delivery system,
  3. your awareness of the traditions of your heritage, and/or
  4. your awareness of the cultural heritage of other people; and/or our future commitments, responsibilities, and accomplishments within your personal life and career.

Course Assignments

  • Class attendance and participation is mandatory 25%
  • Weekly reflection, Health diary/or web assignment 25%
  • Discussion leadership and activity day of class 25%
  • Final integrating essay 25%

Required Texts

  • Animal Dreams, Kingsolver, B. NY: Harper, 1990

  • Cultural Diversity in Health and Illness, 6th Ed. Spector, R. Prentice Hall, 2004

  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Fadiman, A. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997

Suggested Texts

  • The Joy Luck Club, Tann, Ivy, 1989
  • Alternative Medicine: What Works, Fugh-Berman, Odonian, 1996
  • Medical Nemesis, Illych, I. Marion-Bogars, 1975
  • The Dancing Healers, Hammerschlag, D. Harper Collins, 1989
  • Crow Dog, Crow Dog, L. & Erdoes, B. Harper, 1996
  • Second Opinion, Groopman, E., 1999
  • Stolen Life, Wiebe, R. Sand Johnson, Y. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 2000
  • Others (T.B.A.)

Course Policies

  • Academic Integrity-students are expected to have high standards of integrity in the academic setting. Students who misrepresent their work in papers, at a minimum will receive no credit for the course requirement involved. Adapted from, The Boston College William F. Connell School of Nursing policy.
  • It is expected that students will attend all classes.
  • All papers must be handed in on time. They will be marked down 0.5 points for each late day.

The first three weeks set the stage with primary reflections on your self and family over time– ast–what was it like as a child, in high school and the years at BC, and now, senior year through the lenses of health/HEALTH:

  • Week 1–Introductions: to each other, To Capstone, and to health/ HEALTH and illness/ILLNESS; readings: Spector, ch. 3 and 4, and Fadiman, ch. 1-9
  • Week 2–Culture, Ethnicity, Religion, and Diversity and their relationships to health/HEALTH and illness; readings: Spector, ch. 1 and 2, and Fadiman, ch. 10-19
  • Week 3–Health and HEALTH of our parents and ancestors; readings and activity: Spector, ch. 6 discuss Ethnohealth family interviews.

The second five weeks explore the dynamics of moving to the duties of citizenship, vocation/career, education, and personal relationships again through the lenses of health/HEALTH and illness.

  • Week 4–Americana–from Osteopathic Medicine, Homeopathic Medicine, and Over The Counter Medicines to New Age Spirituality; reading: Spector, ch. 4, and field trips to Christian Science Church and Mary Baker Eddy Museum, for the betterment of humanity.
  • Week 5–The Western (Modern) Health Care System
  • Week 6–reading: Spector, ch. 7, and web-based assignment
  • Week 7–Traditional (Homeopathic) Medicine and Spiritual HEALTH Care; reading: Spector, ch. 6, and field trip to Mission Church
  • Week 8–The Pause that Refreshes; reading: Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

The remainder of this class explores the spiritual aspects of HEALTH by examining spirituality as it is found in the HEALTH traditions of selected ethno-cultural populations. The comparison to your own experiences of spirituality, primarily in respect to the notion of Holistic Living will become the central focus of reflection.

  • October 28–European–American Traditions; reading: ch. 12; film, The Sorceress
  • November 4–American Indian HEALTH Traditions; reading: Spector, ch. 8; film, Running with Wolves
    November 11–Hispanic American HEALTH Traditions; reading: Spector ch. 11; film, El Norte; field trip
  • November 18–Black American HEALTH Traditions; reading: Spector, ch. 10; film, Boys in the Hood
  • November 25–Asian American HEALTH Traditions; reading: Spector, ch. 9; film, The Joy Luck Club; field trip
  • December 2–Implications for your personal and professional future life
  • December 9–Final class–HEALTHY HEALTH Traditions Cultural Banquet, to be decided by class.

Ethnohealth Family Interview

In preparation for the class on February 5, I am asking each of you to interview your maternal grandmother, mother, or a maternal aunt. Please ask her for the following information:

  • Ethnic background; country of origin; religion; number of generations in U.S.
  • What does she do to maintain health? Also, if she can remember, what did her mother do?
  • What does she do to prevent illness? Also, if she can remember, what did her mother do?
  • What "home remedies" does she use to treat illness? Also, if she can remember, what did her mother do?
  • How do her religious/spiritual beliefs define birth? What rituals accompany this event?
  • How does her religious/spiritual beliefs define illness? What rituals accompany this event?
  • How does her religious/spiritual beliefs define healing? What rituals accompany this event?
  • How does her religious/spiritual beliefs define death? What rituals accompany this event?

For class discussion on September 16; this is a paper that you may want to save so please make two copies.

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