Something is missing in healthcare

I have been trying to find my niche in healthcare, and I have a bit of a bone to pick or perhaps a rant to go on. I believe that what I have to offer is of value, but I need to convince the medical community and I think my best chance is from within. Commence project infiltration.

We know that more and more people are turning to complementary and alternative healing modalities in the United States and all over the world. Many people practice healing methods that have been passed down from generation to generation yet the medical community still does not acknowledge the pluralistic system we are a part of. Western Allistic medicine still believes (in general) that their way is the only right way.

I am a healer, but more than that I want to build bridges. I want to help conventional medicine to see that people are looking outside their boundaries for health and happiness. In order to truly help people we must take into account their personal experiences, culture and spirituality. I want people to feel comfortable going to the doctor if they need to without fear of judgement. The people and modern medicine are in conflict, and I don’t believe it has to be that way. The Hippocratic Oath proclaims that physicians shall “do no harm,” but can they claim that as a profession they are following that creed?

I have heard so many stories from clients, friends and colleagues about traumatic experiences within the healthcare system. Isn’t the goal to help people, not cause additional distress during experiences that might be life changing like birth, death, injury or major illness?

My solution to this overwhelming problem lies in cultural sensitivity and improved communication and education. Many medical schools are beginning to emphasize the importance of the humanities in medical education, and I believe this is a step in the right direction, but collaborative efforts need to extend beyond the classroom. Herbalists other alternative practitioners and doctors need to have an open dialogue, and work together for the benefit of their patients. Public health efforts need to utilize the wisdom of alternative practitioners in preventative practices. We need to tear down the hierarchy of medicine that often put the physician on a pedestal looking down on everyone, including those they are supposed to be helping. Doctors are not gods, and we need to stop treating them as such.

We need to relearn to trust our intuition about our health and our bodies. We must educate ourselves and make informed medical decisions with the assistance of healthcare providers and quality research. It is time to take back ownership of our individual health and advocate for ourselves.

I know that this is not going to happen overnight. Change takes time. If my voice is going to be heard, it needs to be loud, and I will need to speak with authority and confidence. I could use help, I am not sure how yet, but I intend to start a revolution. Will you join me? Together we can do more.

My first step is graduate school. I have applied to Public Health programs, and begun making connections with like-minded individuals. I will likely be the odd one out in an MPH program, but I hope to learn, and sway opinions along the way as well.


How to make elderberry honey syrup

This fall I foraged a good bunch of elderberries from a few big bushes near me. Since I have been pretty buys and knew I wouldn’t get to them right away I popped them in the freezer, which actually helps make them easier to get off the stems.

When I was ready to make syrup I pulled them out and began pulling them off the stems. Freezing caused many of them to just fall off, but honestly this is the most tedious part of processing elderberries, and can still take quite a while.

Here they are with all their stems

After getting them as destemmed as possible you can seperate the unripe berries and any additional stems by giving them a quick soak in cold water. This also helps get any dirt or spiders or whatever other weird things might be clinging to them. The stems, spiders and unripe berries float and can be easily removed with a sieve.

Next I boiled them down and mashed them up, getting as much juice as I could out of them.

Here comes the fun part! Strain them through a clean tea towel or linen cloth getting all that good juice out. If you don’t want to turn your hands semi-permanently purple, you can wear gloves, but I like to wear the purple on my hands like badges of proof of my herbal prowess.

Gloves can also be really helpful for handling the hot berries. You can wait until they cool down just a bit, but leaving them uncovered, warm and wet is just inviting bacteria into your syrup, so I don’t wait. Twist and squeeze the cloth to get all that good juice out.

Once you have your warm juice add equal parts local raw honey, and you’ve made syrup! Bottle it up and give as gifts!

My favorite way to use elderberry syrup to boost my immune system is to add a tablespoon or two to a glass of sparkling water to make elderberry soda! Yum!

Basic recipe for elderberry syrup:

2 cups fresh or 1/2 cup dried elderberries

3-4 cups filtered water

boil and strain

Add equal parts honey to the juice

Optional additions include:

spices like ginger, cinnamon, or star anise- add in with the berries and water during the boiling process.

Add a up to tablespoon of gelatin or agar agar in to the syrup to make it thicker.

Understanding Unassisted Childbirth as a Choice

by Sheri McCaskill

            In order to understand why women choose unassisted childbirth (UC) we must first define what the term unassisted childbirth means. In some situations, and reference materials UC is also called free birth, autonomous birth or unhindered birth. (Miller) For the purposes of this project, I am looking to understand only planned out of hospital births without the assistance of a medically trained birth attendant. In some cases, the women who choose UC are trained in attending births in some way, if they were the only trained medical professional in attendance, I still count this as an UC. Women are rarely actually alone for UC and may have family and friends present. (Freeze, 2008)

                    My aim is to understand what motivates women to choose this option, and what kinds of obstacles they may encounter in doing so. Women seem to have many options when it comes to the birth experience in America, yet relatively few choose non-normative, out of hospital births. We have very little data concerning women who choose to give birth without the assistance of a medical professional in the United States (Miller and Schriver, 2012) and I would like to gain a greater depth of understanding into who they are and why some mothers choose something so outside of what the current culture in our country dictates as normal.

                    I believe that women who choose UC do so for a number of reasons. Many of the primary reasons are due to previously negative experiences in hospitals or with medical care providers. Others are personal, spiritual or religious beliefs. Much of the data surrounding the choice in UA is unrecorded or inaccurate due to women feeling stigmatized or judged for their decisions, particularly with medical professional. I believe there will be trends among women who make this choice, not only in previous experience, but in other choices they make regarding their own and their child’s health beyond birth. I believe there is an upward trend in making the choice to birth without medical assistance, and I believe it is important for the medical community as well as the community as a whole to understand more thoroughly the reality of the risks associated with birthing at home and how to best understand the choices women make in a non-judgmental and compassionate way.

                    According to Plested less than 1% of women in the United States choose to give birth at home, and less than 1% of those that do choose to do so unassisted. This is interesting to me since birthing outside the home is such a recent trend from a historical perspective. Women most frequently choose homebirth after having one hospital birth (Rossi and Perfumo, 2018) which leads me to consider the possibility that their hospital experience was a factor in their decision. I’d like to explore the key motivating factors for making the choice to birth unassisted, and what they mean. I will delve deeper into several of the most frequently mentioned reasons for choosing UC.

                    Empowerment was a key term that frequently arose in the literature I examined and is a major self-reported marker of why women choose to birth unassisted. Women mentioned that they feel more in control and proud of the accomplishment when they birth without medical assistance. They feel powerful and independent and want others to understand how empowering the experience can be.

            The next major theme explored in choosing UC was a distrust of the medical establishment. Women cited negative previous experiences with both medical professionals and hospitals. Not only did they believe they were undervalued as patients, but they also felt like their requests were not considered when being treated in these situations. Respect is a recurring theme in choices of birthing situations. Miller and Lalonde said that, “improved outcomes, including fewer cesareans, enhanced bonding, improved breastfeeding, decreased reports of stress after birth, and reduced need for operative deliveries, when women had companions during labor and birth, were treated as equals in the birth process, and were allowed to hold and breastfeed their babies immediately after birth.” Women do not feel they are treated as equals when they are in hospitals or birthing with medically trained personal.

                    Religious motivations factored into some accounts of women’s choice to birth unassisted. Either these women felt that their beliefs wouldn’t be respected in a hospital environment or their beliefs dictated limited medical care.

                    One woman I personally spoke with had a confidence in her own knowledge over the knowledge of others. Many women feel they can prepare and educate themselves enough to take control of their own birth experience. This is particularly true of women who had had more than one previous birth. They did not give authoritative knowledge to medical professionals and instead felt that they or their social circles held more authoritative power.

            Some women expressed fear of unnecessary medical intervention and believed that birth with a trained medical professional would put them at higher risk for interventions. In 2016 Plested said “the encounter with maternity services is experienced as stepping into a risk obsessed system driven by fear” Statistics proved that this in fact was the case. Women who give birth in a hospital do have higher rates of unnecessary C-sections and other medically induced complications (citation).

                    Next, I would like to look at factors that may have gone into the decisions that women made on where and how to birth as it applies to UC.

                    It is common for women to feel that others perceive their choice as the wrong one. Women believe that there is a stigma surrounding UC and choose not to tell many people when they do make this decision. They also mention feeling shamed or judged by others as an irresponsible mother by those that don’t understand the reasons behind their choices. Women not specifically that they feel stigmatized by those in the medical community, and they cite this as a reason for choosing not to engage with medical professionals.

                    Lack of medical support factors into the decision-making process. There is some concern among women that if something does go wrong during labor, they could be denied proper medical care when they do choose to seek it or that it will not be available at all.  Because of this, women have hidden still born babies, and have even died from complications rather than seek professional treatment. Women who do consider the choice to birth unassisted but ultimately do not, frequently mention those as a reason for choosing otherwise.

                    It seems that women who are aware of this option in birthing but do not consider it, say that they lack personal knowledge or authoritative knowledge about birth. They also say that they fear complications and emergency situations arising. (Plested, 2016)

                    We do not have enough data on this type of birth due to many of the above-mentioned factors, and there is no way for women to self-report UC outcomes and experiences. Only by continuing an open dialogue can we understand the motivating factors for their choices. If the medical establishment has failed to provide what women want and need in their birthing experience, I believe they will continue to make choices that do not include doctors and hospitals. We also must allow women the freedom to choose what is best for themselves, without stigma or shame.


  1. Miller, Amy Chasteen, and Thomas E. Shriver. “Women’s Childbirth Preferences and Practices in the United States.” Social Science and Medicine 75, no. 4 (2012): 709–16.
  2. Rossi, A. Cristina, and Federico Prefumo. “Planned Home versus Planned Hospital Births in Women at Low-Risk Pregnancy: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis.” European Journal of Obstetrics Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 2018.
  3. Van Der Hulst, Leonie A.M., Edwin R. Van Teijlingen, Gouke J. Bonsel, Martine Eskes, and Otto P. Bleker. “Does a Pregnant Woman’s Intended Place of Birth Influence Her Attitudes toward and Occurrence of Obstetric Interventions?” Birth, 2004.
  4. Dannaway, Jasan, and Hans Peter Dietz. “Unassisted Childbirth: Why Mothers Are Leaving the System.” Journal of Medical Ethics 40, no. 12 (December 2014): 817–20.
  5. Chasteen, Amy, and Thomas E Shriver. “Social Science & Medicine Women’s Childbirth Preferences and Practices in the United States.” SSM 75, no. 4 (2012): 709–16.
  6. Freeze, Rixa Ann Spencer. “Born Free: Unassisted Childbirth in North America.” ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. The University of Iowa, 2008.
  7. Snowden, Jonathan M., Ellen L. Tilden, Janice Snyder, Brian Quigley, Aaron B. Caughey, and Yvonne W. Cheng. “Planned Out-of-Hospital Birth and Birth Outcomes.” New England Journal of Medicine 373, no. 27 (2015): 2642–53.
  8. Plested, Mariamni, and Mavis Kirkham. “Risk and Fear in the Lived Experience of Birth without a Midwife.” Midwifery 38 (July 2016): 29–34.
  9. Cummins, Molly Wiant. “Reproductive Surveillance: The Making of Pregnant Docile Bodies.” Kaleidoscope 13, no. 1 (2014): 33.
  10. Wax, Joseph R., F. Lee Lucas, Maryanne Lamont, Michael G. Pinette, Angelina Cartin, and Jacquelyn Blackstone. “Maternal and Newborn Outcomes in Planned Home Birth vs Planned Hospital Births: A Metaanalysis.” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2010.
  11. Miller, Suellen, and Andre Lalonde. “The Global Epidemic of Abuse and Disrespect during Childbirth: History, Evidence, Interventions, and FIGO’s Mother-Baby Friendly Birthing Facilities Initiative.” International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 131 (2015).
  12. Barker-Williams, Kerry. “A Systematic Review to Examine the Evidence Regarding Discussions by Midwives, with Women, around Their Options for Where to Give Birth.” Practising Midwife, 2017.
  13. Feeley, Claire, and Gill Thomson. “Tensions and Conflicts in ‘Choice’: Womens’ Experiences of Freebirthing in the UK.” Midwifery 41 (October 2016): 16–21.
  14. Feeley, Claire, and Gill Thomson. “Why Do Some Women Choose to Freebirth in the UK. An Interpretative Phenomenological Study.” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 16, no. 1 (December 21, 2016): 59.
  15. Jackson, Melanie Kathleen. “Birthing Outside the System : Wanting the Best and Safest Women to Choose a High-Risk Homebirth Or,” no. July (2014).
  16. Gibson, Erica. “Women, Birth Practitioners, and Models of Pregnancy and Birth—Does Consensus Exist?” Health Care for Women International 35, no. 2 (February 2, 2014): 149–74.
  17. Cameron, Heather Jean. “Expert on Her Own Body: Contested Framings of Risk and Expertise in Discourses on Unassisted Childbirth.” ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Lakehead University (Canada), 2012.

America in a Different Mirror: Revisioning Our Nation’s Past by Ronald Takaki: Review

Though this book doesn’t have anything to do with plants, I believe that our food and medicine is so wrapped up in our culture, and understanding where the people who make up this country have come from in important in understand the role plants play in our lives. This book really helps illuminate some of the struggles of race and culture in America’s past, and it’s an excellent addition to any bookshelf.

Dr. Ronald Takaki, in his speech given at Sonoma State University in 2004, explains the idea of the master narrative to us through a series of stories. A narrative is, after all, many stories combined to tell us about something, so his methods in conveying meaning are not only effective, but interesting and entertaining as well. He first tells us briefly of his own story as a Japanese American from Hawaii, followed by his experience in higher education in Ohio and Boston. He explains how he came to teach the first Black history course, and how the events of the civil rights movement shaped him. He realized early on in his teaching career that more of the story of American history needed to be told. 

The American master narrative, he explains, is “pervasive and powerful but mistaken.” It is the history of the United States from only one perspective. One which excludes many of the events and people that helped shape major parts of our history. He uses a comparative, multicultural approach in examining history. By giving us a quick history lecture about the Irish and Chinese immigrants that came to the United States in the nineteenth century, he effectively demonstrates how interconnected our story truly is. 

It begins with the influx of Irish immigrants to the East coast, followed by Chinese immigrants, primarily men, to the West coast. Many of the Irish women found work in the textile factories of the area, processing cotton, which came from African slave labor on land purchased or taken from the Mexican government driving native americans from their homes. The Chinese, were brought here as labourers to build the transcontinental railway, and met the Irish men who were building the railroad from the east in the middle of the country. As this demonstration makes clear, there is no way the American story would be the same without any of these groups of people, and we cannot tell in in its entirety without including multiple perspectives. 

People from many different places are woven so deeply into our histories, that is it necessary to change our master narrative to include them. To look at the history of this country from the perspective that the master narrative dictates, is to miss the bigger picture. That is what our education system has been teaching; only a very small piece of the puzzle of a complete American narrative. Dr. Takaki teaches us to remember that we don’t know everything about our history, and that it is not our fault, but that it is important to seek the answers to see the whole.

Body Positivity, Artistic Expression, and Mental Health


            It is my aim to understand the ways in which artistic expression effects the mental health of those who follow and participate in the body positivity movement. Body positivity is a common topic of contemporary discussion, and a loosely formed movement has come into being in recent years. The majority of research done on the movement seems to be on social media participation, but others participate in different ways as well. As the movement expands, so too do the ways in which participants express themselves and reach a broader audience.  

Perception of the body plays a major role in our social role as human beings. The emergence of the body positivity movement, in recent years, has aimed to change our own perception of ourselves and of others. Many people actively contribute to the body positivity movement through artistic expression. I set out to discover more about how this contribution effects the mental health of those who are creating and sharing it. I began with several questions; does creative expression of the body have a positive effect on those who engage in it, is it necessary to share that with others or is there additional impact to the consumers of these creative works, and how does it all tie into overall body image and mental health? Through the use of semi-structured interviews, I will attempt to answer these questions as they pertain to two body positivity movement participants and determine how their experiences fit into the movement as a whole.


My own experience with body image and the body positivity movement has influenced my choice to investigate this topic further. I have engaged with this movement through the consumption of creative works and social media myself, and I have struggled with my own self-image as it pertains to body positivity. I was interested to learn how the people I see as advocates for body-positivity see themselves and if their participation effects their individual mental health in the same way I believe it has helped myself and others. I consider myself a consumer of the messages of the movement and feel that these messages have had a positive impact on my own mental health.


The theoretical method I have chosen to inform the writing of the paper is the critical-interpretive medical anthropology theoretical approach, including the three levels of analysis: the individual body, the social body, and the body politic.  Additionalconcepts such as the medicalization of the body, race, ethnicity, gender, will also be considered as well as symbolism used to represent the body and body image specifically in creative works but also in everyday life as perceived by interviewees. The body as a social symbol of health, both physical and mental, will be explored as well.

There are many ways to view the body, and the viewpoints the interviewees have taken, as well as available literature on the subject have helped to inform which of these aspects are most explored in the paper. Focus is on the contradictory nature of the body positivity movement, self-improvement, and mental health and ways in which artistic expression changes engagement with the movement.

Data and Methodology

Primary qualitative data was collected through the use of semi-structured interviews with two individuals: Amy, a bestselling author of body positive romance novels and Peg, belly and ballet dancer, teacher and student in the master’s degree program at Sarah Lawrence in dance movement therapy. Both names are pseudonyms. Questions focused on their individual involvement in the body positivity movement, the ways in which they choose to express themselves, and the perceived impact the movement and self-expression have had on their own mental health.

Additionally, contemporary scholarship on body positivity and the movement has been consulted to add outside perspective to understanding of the topic as a whole and its evolution. The body positivity movement is relatively young, and research into it is scarce but mostly focuses on social media as a hub of body positive activity. The intersection of mental health, artistic expression and body positivity is something that, as far as I am aware, has not yet been researched.


Concepts such as cultural constructions the body, medicalization, the body politic. Race, ethnicity, class, gender, will be considered as factors effecting the body positivity movement and how individuals choose to express themselves. Interviewees points of view will be incorporated in both quotes and paraphrases to help support arguments supporting the thesis as found in outside resources.

According to Schepler-Hughes and Lock, western thinking has dominated the way the body has been perceived in biomedicine and anthropological studies (1987). They go on to explain that though we can assume that individuals have a perception of their own body as separate from that of others, the ways in which they view that body in relation to psyche, soul and society can vary greatly from individual to individual. It is this difference in perception of the body of self and others that is foundational to the experience of body positivity.

The body positivity movement is a rebellion against biopower. Foucault’s theory of biopower as a dominant system of control considers biopower as social control imposed upon the self by a standard of prevailing societal norms (Pylypa, 1998). Western society dictates a “thin ideal” as the norm which can make it difficult for women to accept their own bodies (Slaughter, 2019). For example, women are beginning to self-identify as “fat” as a way to take back the power and negative connotations that word has (Moana, 2019). By normalizing bodies that do not fit the social ideal, the movement aims to introduce a way for people to look at and accept themselves and others who might be outside of the social ideal.  

The individual body as defined by Schepler-Hughes, is the most obvious way in which the body positivity can effect change. She says that it is the “phenomenological sense of the lived experience of the body-self.” How we view ourselves is influenced by many factors, but what we see, read and hear are the primary influencing factors the body-positivity movement can attempt to change. The social body, she says are the ways in which we relate the body to society, nature and culture (Schepler-Hughes, 1987). Again, body positivity is aiming to change that as well. Culture is partially created through artistic means, and hence why I feel that it could have a great impact in body-positivity and should be studied in greater depth. These are lofty goals.

Finally, the body politic, as defined as the regulation and control of the body, is a motivator to body positivity activists. In the interview I conducted Amy said that the one thing she wished more people knew was “how much discrimination fat people face in medical settings.” Weight can be a major barrier to health care with biases of practitioners clouding medical judgement and decreasing compassion. This, she said has a big influence on mental health. She mentions other places body discrimination causes problems as well, for example daily micro-aggressions and job discrimination.   

Both interviewees discussed at length, the need for external validation that they find through their art and the influence it has on their mental health. Peg said, “I believe everyone has a desire to be seen,” for her dancing and teaching dance is that outlet, for Amy the same is achieved through her writing.  She said, “isolation is bad for mental health,” which can be hard for authors and uses social media and the internet as a way of reaching readers and colleagues to stay connected. Both women conveyed to me how their art is a way to express their innermost feelings making them feel somewhat vulnerable, but it is not enough just to express themselves, they need others to see and approve of that self-expression. While many who participate in the movement get pushback for doing so, even the negative feedback can be a way to feel seen.

Each interviewee had unique experiences as well. Peg had a lot of internal conflict as her own body changed. She felt that as she lost weight, she was no longer allowed to participate in the body positivity movement as when she was at a heavier weight even though the messages she received and promoted remained the same regardless of her size. She acknowledged that her body weight often fluctuates, but the importance of loving her own body at every size did not change.

As a dancer, she discussed the way the body is perceived as a symbol of health and expression. The industry has very specific standards they expect in the bodies that are making art, but, she says, dance should not be for only one specific type of body. The benefits of dance can be gained by any type of body.

As a teacher she became conscious of the language she uses with her dance students when talking about the body. She mentioned how, historically, the language used in dance could be seen as problematic, negatively influencing body image. She now opts for metaphors when describing body position, which often helps more than more standard methods of discussing posture and form. She uses metaphors from nature and invokes imagination when discussing the way the body ought to move in dance, especially for younger dancers who may not yet have fully formed ideas about their own bodies. She feels that she is in a unique position as a teacher and a future therapist to influence the body image perception of young dancers as they find ways to express themselves and become comfortable in their bodies.

Amy, on the other hand, as a romance writer, focused more on the idea that all people in all bodies are deserving of love. While the movement proclaims that “all bodies are beautiful” very few people actually promote this idea, she says. Each participant focuses on the issue most important to them. Amy writes characters of a larger body size, something she says she relates to. She believes that the “all bodies are beautiful” message is important but will only write protagonists who struggle with their body because it is bigger. She told me about feedback she has received from readers telling her how much it means to them to read about characters with bodies like their own finding love. People want to see themselves in books and be able to relate to the stories on a level that resonates with them. Writing diverse body types helps more people be able to engage with what they read on this deeper level. The symbolism used in literature, like romance novels, can be used to help others to be more comfortable in their own bodies.

Both women could see some level of gatekeeping and irony within the movement. While the idea seems entirely positive, upon closer inspection, participants are only pushing the idea that one type of body is worthy of attention and a lot of negative language is often used towards “normal bodies”. Often, it is fat bodies that are the focus. Amy said that this is “the first time in history” discrimination against fat bodies is being addressed, though it has always been a problem. The movement is also almost entirely geared toward women though we are beginning to see more male participants.

The movement is in its infancy, and Peg believes that it will never reach the same kind of status as feminism or other major cultural movements, but that it is effecting change, though slowly. Both interviewees felt a level of responsibility in expressing themselves in authentic ways as a way of keeping expectations realistic.

They both said they struggle with body-image and mental health regularly, and by openly admitting that, they set realistic expectations for others. Peg says, as a dancer, “there is truly no way to be in your body and hate your body,” emphasizing her belief that expression though dance is among the best way to self-acceptance. Amy says she continually works on her own self-acceptance so that she can “walk the walk”. Others look to her as a role model for self-love and she needs to try her best to act in a way that in in alignment with her message.

As briefly mentioned above, problems with the movement certainly exist. Influencers within the movement send mixed messages by conforming to societal beauty norms by engaging posed photos, accompanied by high fashion and cosmetic usage while saying that this is what they are combatting (Moana, 2019).

Peg had conflicted feelings about the way many influencers are driven by commercial means, gaining monetary sponsorships from companies that promote “healthy living” products. Amy took issue with the ways women who are a part of the movement shamed conventionally accepted bodied women with commonly heard phrases like “real women have curves” or “men prefer women who are soft and full.” Men, transgender, minority and disabled bodies are often left out of the conversation.


The potential future impact of the body positivity movement is broad but may not come soon.  Notice of the movement is slow to catch on outside of those it directly affects, and research is minimal. The movement needs outside advocates. The types of artistic works that are being created that support bodily differences is increasing and moving beyond Instagram and the internet. In my research I found evidence of not just authors and dancers participating, but painters, photographers, cosplayers and journalists creating works about body image, self-love and fat acceptance.

Individual experiences vary, just as individual bodies and individual psyches do. Intersectionality should be more completely addressed in body positivity conversations. However, it is as a collective of individuals speaking out with the same message that I believe can influence real change. People’s lives are affected on a daily basis by not only their own perception of their bodies, but by the expectation’s others have of their bodies. All three levels of the body as defined by Schepler-Hughes are important to consider in the body positivity movement, and more anthropological scholarship is needed to consider each of them in depth. I believe that additional scholarship is the missing piece needed to move body positivity forward and make real change.


Moana, Aroha. “#Bodypositive :|bperformances of Body Positivity by Influencers on Instagram.” Massey University, 2019.

Slaughter, Natalie. “How Can Storytelling Facilitate Body Positivity in Young Women Struggling with Their Bodies?: Literature Review.” Expressive Therapies Capstone Theses, May 18, 2019.

Crawshaw, Trisha L. “Rock and Rolls: Exploring Body Positivity at Girls Rock Camp.” Fat Studies 9, no. 1 (January 2, 2020): 17–36.

Lome, Jordan Kass. “The Creative Empowerment of Body Positivity in the Cosplay Community.” Transformative Works and Cultures 22 (September 15, 2016).

Pylypa, J. (1998). Power and Bodily Practice: Applying the Work of Foucault to an Anthropology of the Body. Arizona Anthropologist, 13(0). Retrieved from

Scheper-Hughes, N., & Lock, M. M. (1987). The Mindful Body: A Prolegomenon to Future Work in Medical Anthropology. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 1(1), 6–41.

Thomas, Martina and Jason A. DeCaro. 2017. “Body Image Models among Low-income African American Mothers and Daughters in the Southeast United States.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 32(2): 293-310.

Incorporating Research Instruction into Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Training Programs

Executive Summary

Figure 1: Break down of survey respondents

This study reveals the lack of instruction in complementary and alternative medicine training programs and the disconnect between what schools and instructors believe they are teaching and what students are learning. Though many survey respondents said that they were taught these skills, when probed further they didn’t know how to obtain literature or apply what they had learned. 93% of student respondents said that their schools did not have a librarian on staff, or they were unsure if they did.

This report lays out the feasibility of adding additional research skills instruction to the curricula in these programs. One option is the addition of a librarian for professional level instruction in this area. Other options include training staff on how to best introduce or increase these type skills and using short seminar type programs within a broader curriculum to teach students research skills.


This feasibility report will examine what is currently being offered in trade schools that instruct Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) practitioners, and how more research instruction can be added to curricula, as well as the benefits and economic feasibility of adding research instruction.

CAM practitioners, also known as holistic health professionals, in the United States have a wide variety of different licensure and training requirements. Many are unlicensed and regulated. This causes a broad difference in the education they each receive. Because there is not one gold standard, communication between medical professionals can be difficult. Many practitioners are motivated to continue learning and reading about the latest research but are not given the tools to do so competently as a part of their training. Attitudes vary among CAM practitioners (Hadley et al, 2008).  Some are not even aware of the types of evidence-based information available to them or believe it doesn’t apply to their field of practice. Many believe that if all trade schools training CAM practitioners implemented curriculum in research skills this might lessen the gap between practitioners trained in different modalities and in different schools, helping aid communication as well as increasing breadth and depth of knowledge. If all CAM practitioners had more training in this area, I believe it would increase overall competence in CAM practitioners, resulting in increased clientele and respect among other medical fields helping to legitimize their practice.

Criteria Description

Literature was chosen in subjects and fields relevant to the topic. Styles of instruction in research skills was considered when making recommendations on adding more instruction to programs as well as the biases of each perspective.

An online survey was sent through the authors extended network, and respondents were gathered using the snowball method. Survey respondents have met the criteria of either having attended, taught at, or were owners/administrators of CAM trade schools. Or, they were librarians involved in teaching research skills in the areas of medicine, complementary and alternative health or biomedical sciences, with a preference for those who have created curricula in their fields.

Expert interviews of librarians and school administrators helped to inform decisions on how best to teach, the need for additional instruction and the desire of both schools and librarians to improve the student experience by adding more research skills instruction.

Method of Analysis

Current literature on the subject is difficult to find, however what is available as well as similar topics were explored. Disciplines that contributed literature to this subject include, library science, medical education and complementary and alternative medicine.

Perspectives of the research education field (librarians) as well as trade school instructors and administrators were conducted through one-on-one interviews with experts in each field. In addition, a broader survey was sent to students, teachers, administrators and librarians about their opinions on adding research training to CAM curriculum.

Total Survey Participants: 76

Criteria Evaluation Results

Expert Interviews

The first expert interview with Sadie Skeels, liaison librarian for veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences at Colorado State University, reveals that introduction of a new curriculum including research skills and evaluation can be a lot of work but is worth adding to a medical field curriculum. She said that librarians are often fighting to prove their value in higher education. Educators and administrators do not seem to understand the kind of services they offer to students. This diminished their perceived value. She believes that often librarians are confused with libraries, and though they complement one another they are not mutually exclusive. She emphasized the role librarians take in teaching research skills and offering support for research projects and searching for legitimate information.

Both school administrators contacted said that they believe in the importance of research instruction, and that their programs offer sufficient instruction in this area. Neither saw a benefit in professional librarian assistance either due to space, time and/or cost issues. However, they both indicated that they have sufficient libraries for student use, confirming the statement from Ms. Skeels about the confusion between libraries and librarians and the types of services librarians offer.

Literature review conclusions

After a comprehensive investigation into CAM training programs in the United States Burke et. al. concludes that, “Preparing tomorrow’s scholars and clinicians to contribute meaningfully to this emerging healthcare paradigm will require a plan that integrates all elements of higher education (Burke, 2004.)” That includes the kind of research support and instruction typically provided in a university setting.

In a 2007 study, Hadley et al. determine that needs-based assessments should be undertaken by schools providing medical based education. Their findings indicate different levels of evidence-based competency among graduates of medical programs in the UK, but their conclusions can help us to determine an understanding of how students learn and could be a starting point for discovering the needs of CAM students. Competency in interpreting literature translated to competence in practice (Hadley, et al., 2007.)

Varga and Kakuk’s study into complementary and alternative medicine in the European union focuses on the growing field and how the EU has dealt with the shift in needs in CAM education. They believe that the EU set global standards by unifying the education requirements for CAM programs across countries. This is something that has yet to be done in the United States, but has greatly impacted the quality of education across the board for EU countries, and taking the proposed step in adding research education to U.S. CAM schools would help boost the standard of education in this country, getting us closer to the EU’s precedent. The steps the EU has taken to improve CAM instruction are important to understand and consider when attempting to improve education here in the U.S.

Survey results analysis

The majority of respondents were either students/former students in CAM programs (31.6%) or librarians who teach research methods to healthcare/medicine students (51.3%). This result gives us more insight into their perspectives than that of the decision makers in CAM education. It is my hope that the decision makers will take this information into consideration when making choices in curriculum design.

Approximately 39% of students did not feel that they received sufficient training in research skills or answered that they were unsure if their skills were sufficient, and only 13% said they are not interested in learning more research skills. This indicates a strong desire by students to increase research skills instruction and feelings of competency.

Librarians made up the largest number of respondents as mentioned above. Qualification for the survey was dependent on whether they helped to teach and create instruction curriculum in the health sciences in order to obtain the most useful opinions. An overwhelming majority believed that research skills were important in CAM curriculum, and 52.9% said they would be willing to help CAM programs incorporate research instruction with a further 41% answering with a maybe. A further 55% of librarians said they would be willing to work for a CAM school.

All of the instructors that participated said that they believed that research skills are important for student success, and that they themselves read current research in their fields. They also all stated that they teach research skills in their own classes, but that they would be willing to add additional instruction in this area with some desire for more guidance in doing so.

The most interesting results of this survey came from CAM school owners and administrators. This was the category of respondents that was most reluctant to participate and had the fewest respondents. Those that did respond all believed that their schools sufficiently taught research skills, though none of them employed professional librarians. These beliefs are contradicted by the student’s responses concerning adequate research skills instruction and abilities. It is important to note that many of the student respondents did attend schools whose administrators responded.

Survey results (Students)

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Survey results (Librarians)

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Survey results (CAM Instructors)

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Survey results (CAM school administrators and owners)

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Overall, findings indicate that it would be beneficial to both students and schools to incorporate increased levels of research skills instruction into complimentary and alternative medicine trade school programs of all types. Instructors and librarians are willing to assist in making this change, and students desire more instruction in this area. It is the opinion of the author that the best way to do so would be to hire either a consulting librarian with experience in creating such curriculum or to consider adding a librarian to the permanent staff of the school. Though these options can be cost prohibitive for many smaller schools, an alternative would be to offer either short seminars in research instruction or training current staff to better teach these skills. Most librarians at other higher education institutions are willing to do guest lectures or consult with schools on how best to add research instruction to the curriculum, often times these services are free of charge.  Many also offer free online instruction videos through their universities that could be easily utilized.

Expert Interviews:

Sadie Skeels- Liaison Librarian Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University

Laura Cascardi- Founder and Director, Equinox Center for Herbal Studies

Literature review:

Burke, A., Peper, E., Burrows, K., & Kline, B. (2004). Developing the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Education Infrastructure: Baccalaureate Programs in the United States. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10(6), 1115–1121.

Hadley, J. A., Wall, D., & Khan, K. S. (2007). Learning needs analysis to guide teaching evidence-based medicine: Knowledge and beliefs amongst trainees from various specialities. BMC Medical Education, 7, 11.

Hadley, J., Hassan, I., & Khan, K. S. (2008). Knowledge and beliefs concerning evidence-based practice amongst complementary and alternative medicine health care practitioners and allied health care professionals: A questionnaire survey. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 8(1), 45.

Varga, O., & Kakuk, P. (2006). European Union and Alternative Medicine: Some Institutional and Legal Impacts on a Developing Field. Integrative Medicine Insights, 1, 117863370600100.


Survey questions 

Section 1 of 5

What is your role in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)? Please choose the best fit.

Section 2 of 5


Where did you attend school?

Do you feel like your training effectively helped you learn to find and understand the current research in your area of complementary and alternative medicine?

Would you have liked to learn more about researching, research methods and how to find and interpret research in your field during your training?

Are you familiar with the term “Evidence Based Medicine?”

Do you ever read trade publications in your area of practice or study?

Does current research in your field effect how you practice?

Have you ever published or considered publishing in peer reviewed publications in your field?

Would you be interested in taking a class on how to find, interpret, and publish research in your field?

Does your school have a professional librarian?

Section 3 of 5

CAM instructors

Do you teach research skills in classes you teach?

As an instructor, do you feel that research skills are important to your students success?

Would you be willing to incorporate more research based instruction into your current curriculum?

As an instructor do you read current research in your area of expertise?

Section 4 of 5

CAM school administrators

Does your program provide instruction in how to find and understand current research in the student’s field of study?

What is the size of your program(s)?

Does your school employ a librarian?

Do you believe that it is important for students/practitioners to stay on top of current research in their field of study?

If you don’t currently have any research instruction in your program, would you be interested in adding it to the curriculum?

Section 5 of 5


Do you instruct students in research skills in medicine, healthcare, alternative and complementary medicine or biomedical sciences?

Do you think research skills are important for students of complementary and alternative medicine?

Would you be willing to help a complementary and alternative medicine program build research skills into their curriculum?

Would you ever be willing to work for a complementary and alternative medicine school?

Do you believe that conventional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine research skills are similar?

The Role of Narrative in the Peruvian Matsigenka’s Cultural Perception of Well-being


In the following paper I will examine what well-being means to the Matsigenka of the Peruvian Amazon and how narratives are an essential part of their culture leading to a feeling of well-being. Though rates of disease have significantly decreased in recent years, the perceived well-being of members of the population has decreased. The change in the use of cultural narrative can be considered a major contributing factor to this decrease. By obtaining a better understanding in how health and happiness are connected to story, we can help to facilitate a sence of well-being among the Matsigenka that aligns with both biomedical standards and their own, changing communication strategies in biomedical education and practice.

I will be looking into the relationship story narratives have with the concept of health and well-being in the culture of the Matsigenka people of Peru. The way Biomedical personnel communicate with the Matsigenka does not always align with their beliefs and values. If we can gain a better understanding of what constitutes health, and how it is obtained among the Matsigenka, we can more effectively and compassionately provide care and bridge the gap between traditional cultural ideas of heath and western ideologies.  

Theory and Methodology

 I will include the symbolic meanings of narrative in the Matsigenka culture and concepts of cultural constructions of illness. I will take a critical biocultural medical anthropology theoretical approach to demonstrate the failure of cultural communication between biomedicine and the Matsigenka people. Biomarkers can help to indicate the disconnect between biomedical measures of health and the perceived health by individuals within the Matsigenka population. You can also draw on the narrative analysis approach in anthropology discussed by Jessica Hardin in the ethnography we are reading, Faith and the Pursuit of Health, on pages 112-113.

 Data was gathered from my review of the literature focusing on healing practices of the Matsigenka including available health biomarkers and ethnologies. Ethnographers tend to lump Amazonian cultural groups together based on geographic area. Due to potential confusion and conflicting reports of rituals that are dissimilar to those of other cultural groups, I have drawn only upon literature that mentions the Matisengka specifically, rather than as a group within the Amazon river basin geographic area.

Data and Analysis

            Though biomarkers of health indicate that the Matsigenka have greatly improved health over the last 20 to 30 years, they report a significant decline in well-being according to Carolina Izquierdo (2004). Matsigenka perceptions of health, she says, are in opposition to what western biomedical practitioners believe. The World Health Organization says that health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

            The perceived decrease in well-being is primarily attributed to the influence of outsiders by the Matsigenka people. (Izquierdo, 2004) Peruvian ideals of modernization and acculturation have reached the Matisigenka through means such as governmental education programs, religious missionaries and eco-tourism.

            Healing is an important part of the Matsigenka cultural identity. They are known to use chanting, folktakes and illustrative story narratives when discussing well-being. Often illness is attributed to sorcery used as a result of envy or conflict among members of a community (Izquierdo, 2007)

I intend to begin with definitions of well-being as defined in the Matthews article and the WHO. Key ideas include healing ceremonies, and how narrative plays a role in them. Communication styles of the Matsigenka people, biomarkers, cultural ideologies and the disruption of biomedical intervention into Matsigenka society. I’ll also examine the role of the traditional healers and their ethnopharmaceutical knowledge, mental health perceptions and ethnogenic practices.


I have long been interest with the cultural practices of the people of the Amazon. As an herbalist and student of ethnobotany, the role that herbs play in one of the most botanically diverse regions on the planet has always been a draw in my studies. My original encounter with the Amazonian healing practices was in discovering the use of ayahuasca (Banisteropsis caapi) ceremonies, a current herbal trend in medical tourism. However, the way in which westerners approach the ayahuasca ceremonies is removed from how and why the Matsigenka approach them. This cultural context is what drew me to this topic. My career and experiences led me to carry some level of pre-conceived notions of experiences of healing, particularly by botanical means, and my lack of first-hand knowledge of the culture and language limits my understanding of their ways. I must rely on the research of others in the field in order to gain knowledge about the Matsigenka and their culture.  surprise findings gained from the literature review.


The role that narratives take in the Matsigenka culture are much more important than in western culture.  I have attempted to place emphasis on the cultural ideas of well-being and the value of narrative in the Matsigenka culture as it relates to health specifically. Social, medical and cultural recommendations for future health-based communication with Matsigenka people can be drawn by considering the role of narrative as expressed here.


Black, S. “Ícaros: The Healing Songs of Amazonian Curanderismo and Their Relationship to Jungian Psychology.” Psychology 2014.

Glenn Harvey Shepard Jr, by. “Pharmacognosy and the Senses in Two Amazonian Societies.” Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, 1992.

Izquierdo, Carolina, and Allen Johnson. “Desire, Envy and Punishment: A Matsigenka Emotion Schema in Illness Narratives and Folk Stories.” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 31, no. 4 (December 24, 2007): 419–44.

C. Izquierdo, A. Johnson and G.H. Shepard Jr. (2008) “Revenge, envy and cultural change in an Amazonian society.” In: S. Beckerman and P. Valentine (Eds.) Revenge in the Cultures of Lowland South America. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 162-186.

C. Izquierdo and Glenn H. Shepard Jr., Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology: Health and Illness in the World’s Cultures. “The Matsigenka”

Mathews, Gordon., and Carolina Izquierdo. Pursuits of Happiness : Well-Being in Anthropological Perspective . Chapter 3, Well-being among the Matsigenka of the Peruvian Amazon New York: Berghahn Books, 2009. Print.

Peluso, Daniela M. “‘That Which I Dream Is True’: Dream Narratives in an Amazonian Community.” Dreaming, June 2004.

Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World. Chapter 4: New York: Random House, 2001. Print.

Rosengren, Dan. “Seriously Laughing: On Paradoxes of Absurdity among Matsigenka People.” Ethnos 75, no. 1 (2010): 102–21.

Shepard, Glenn H. “Psychoactive Plants and Ethnopsychiatric Medicines of the Matsigenka.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 30, no. 4 (1998): 321–32.

World Health Organization, Constitution

Loveland Youth Gardeners

Just a quick update as I finish my final semester of my undergrad education, I’ve been busy, but really wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about my new role.

I am excited to announce that I have joined the Board of Directors for the Loveland Youth Gardeners, a non-profit organization that gives struggling kids new skills and ways to connect with nature.

I am announcing this today, because it is Giving Tuesday, and I want to encourage more people to find a worthy non-profit to give to if they have the ability to do so. I certainly think the mission of Loveland Youth Gardeners makes them worthy, and I can feel good about giving my money to help local kids succeed.

If you’d like to learn more about all the awesome stuff Loveland Youth Gardeners is doing, please visit their website at

If you are feeling moved to give this holiday season, please consider LYG. I have set up a Giving Tuesday fundraiser on facebook here: