About the Holistic Health Care Project

My name is Jessica Carney, and the Holistic Health Care Project is the result of my semester-long independent study through the Sociology Department and the Rural Life Center at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. The project has been overseen by Howard Sacks, a professor of Sociology at Kenyon and the Director of the Rural Life Center. I am currently a senior at Kenyon, and with graduate with a degree in Biochemistry on May 20, 2000.

I began this research with two interests: the science and the sociology of medicine. I have known for some time that I want to pursue a medical career. As I prepare to leave Kenyon this May, I do so knowing that I will be starting medical school in the fall. Science has always fascinated me. I enjoy solid facts, and the conclusions that can fall out of them. At the same time, I have always been interested in people. I would love to know why we do what we do, and this interest has brought me into the study of Sociology as a discipline.

Upon entering this project, my exposure to the ideas of holistic health was somewhat limited. I knew some family and friends who had been to alternative practitioners, but knew very little about what actually went on. I was, and still am, very curious. What interested me most about holistic health, though, was less in the realm of the specific techniques and more related to the people whom employed them. What is it that draws patients to alternative practitioners? How does the biomedical community feel about alternative practitioners? How do alternative practitioners feel about physicians? What should I, as a future physician, keep in mind about holistic health?

It is this web of connections that drew me to study holistic health care in Knox County, Ohio. In a close, rural community such as this, I knew there was bound to be connections. In exploring those, I have met a number of wonderful people and have learned quite a bit.

Over the course of the spring semester of 2000, I conducted 14 interviews with alternative practitioners, allopathic practitioners, hospital officials, and people for whom holistic health is a way of life. All interviews began with one of a number of standard interview schedules. Tapes and transcripts of the interviews can be found in the archives of the Rural Life Center at Kenyon College.