As traditional medicine makes way in this country for more alternative therapies, colleges are working to meet the demand of students to study these methods.


Anoka-Ramsey Community College (, with campuses in Coon Rapids and Cambridge, started its Integrative Health & Healing program in 2004 by offering a certificate course and an associate of science degree. This fall, the college will add certificate courses in Holistic Hospice and Palliative Care and in Holistic Geriatric Health.


The college has articulation agreements with Metropolitan State University (, St. Catherine University (, the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine ( and Northwestern Health Sciences University ( for students who want to further their education in these areas.


How it works

The Anoka-Ramsey program emphasizes an understanding of the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit. Students are taught about trends in holistic health, holistic healing philosophies and ethics, and the role of healing strategies for self-care and within the healthcare system. They also read current scientific literature in support of the field.


Research reported in that literature has fueled growth in the field of integrative health and healing, says Valerie Lis, an Anoka-Ramsey faculty member. Results of a study released in 2008 by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed approximately 38 percent of U.S. adults use some form of complementary or alternative medicine.


What's the attraction?

Integrative therapies particularly help patients with chronic conditions, Lis says. Most students of the Anoka-Ramsey program were attracted to it because of their own or a loved one's health challenge, according to Natasha Baer, program director.


The impetus for student and businesswoman Tonya Olson was the onset of severe acid reflux. Olson was dissatisfied with the results of traditional medicine and began to seek other options.


"There are many different things that we can be doing through nutrition and exercise, (to reduce) stress levels, and so many of these modalities that I'm being exposed to in the integrative health program here meet those curiosities and give me the opportunities to share them with many other people," Olson says.


Bill Swanson, a retired dental laboratory owner and operator, heard about the program while studying energy healing to relieve his back pain. He is pursuing the associate degree and hopes to work in healthcare, possibly combining healing and teaching.


Student Lyn Snell is a business consultant who entered the program to improve her health and that of her family. "I have always wanted to be a healer," she says. "I thought certain people were born with that gift. I have learned that anyone can be a healer. You can heal yourself; you can heal others. That opened my eyes to a whole new world."