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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Holistic care: A new way to treat patients

The+outside+of+Beutel+Health+Center+on+Monday%2C+October+23%2C+2023.
Photo by Kaili Gaston

The outside of Beutel Health Center on Monday, October 23, 2023.

Holistic care is the new name on the block in the medical and public health field. 

Texas A&M students are taking notice of a new method of care and how it can help improve student physical and mental health simultaneously. 

Nursing senior Professor Jane Bolin, Ph.D., said holistic care is integral to the future of the medical and public health fields. 

“Holistic medicine is taking the whole person into account,” Bolin said. “Where they live, what their challenges are, the culture they came from and we are trying to go outside the assessments of just vital signs.”

Bolin said holistic care is an important factor to finding out if patients can actually achieve health.

“If we try to treat someone with Type 2 diabetes and talk to them about their diet, we may not realize they are in a food desert,” Bolin said. “All they may have is access to a gas station or fried foods. It pays to understand how we, [providers,] can help them get what they need.”

In 2018, the Urban Institute reported as many as 10% of college students were uninsured. Bolin said she is trying to make her students aware that college students face specific struggles that could be improved by holistic care. 

“It is absolutely critical that a practitioner knows the student they are talking to about getting insulin may not have the money for it,” Bolin said. “The college student also may be uninsured, they may not have stable housing or [they] are jumping from apartment to apartment. We are trying to make our students and practitioners aware that this is what they are going to see out there.”

Assistant Director of Behavioral Health and Wellbeing in the Department of Primary Care and Rural Medicine Patti Savage said A&M students in the Integrated Behavioral Health program are working at a clinic to promote holistic care in the College Station area.

“In our integrated behavioral health program at [A&M,] we blend medical and behavioral health treatment in one setting,” Savage said. “We work very closely with many disciplines, including medical doctors, psychologists, social workers [and] medical residents. When we are looking at a treatment plan for a patient, it is definitely a team approach.”

Savage said the clinic is working to improve the behavioral health setting in Texas and bring more holistic care to the mainstream.

“In 2023, Texas was ranked lowest in mental health treatment,” Savage said. “There is only one mental health provider for every 760 individuals, which is double the national average … Oftentimes, a person with a chronic illness is often suffering with depression and grief and loss issues as their health declines, so we have to treat the whole person.”

Savage said students are especially affected by this mental health crisis, and they can receive help from the clinic.

“A lot of our A&M students have their primary care here and get referred to integrated behavioral health,” Savage said. “Depending on the time of the semester, students can be very stressed out. We can help them deal with that and any other mental health conditions or medical conditions that are driving those mental health conditions.”

Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Paul Ou said holistic care is making a comeback in the medical field with more doctors taking it upon themselves to learn this type of treatment.

“At least the older doctors, or even modern doctors in the field, are not trained in this kind of medicine,” Ou said. “Traditional medicine teaches prescribing of medicine and medical procedures.”

However, Ou said holistic medicine is not a new idea but has been a part of many cultures’ daily practices.

“For instance, our parents told us to go to bed early, drink our water and brush our teeth,” Ou said. “We know that it is essential for health, but it is not taught in medicine. Many of us have gone into looking at the whole person. Around a decade or two ago, we saw that our patients aren’t getting better, so we started to investigate on our own outside of mainstream medicine.”

Ou said this practice of holistic medicine is becoming more mainstream, however, he said more research is needed within the healthcare field.

“With holistic medicine, because there is not that research, it is very hard to discern what is real and what is not,” Ou said. “A very large amount of liver disease is caused by people taking too many supplements. So it is true there are things out there that are good for us that do not require prescriptions, but it is also true that something can be dangerous. This is why it is good to have a doctor that is trained in medical school and holistic medicine.”

Savage said that A&M professionals will continue to work in the holistic field to improve students and Texans health through a holistic approach. 

“We are hoping that we can start planting holistic and integrated behavioral health across the nation,” Savage said. “The need for holistic care is here.”

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