A Broad Look at Disability

During the Middle Ages or medieval period in Europe, people with disabilities or illness were considered demon-possessed and often ostracized from society, subjected to exorcism, or worse.

Students minoring in disability studies at Pacific get a broad look at disabilities from historical, cultural, as well as medical contexts, including History of Witchcraft and Magic, taught by history Professor Martha Rampton. Other classes explore literature and disability, the politics of health care, and related courses from sociology, psychology, and special education.

It's all part of a "biopsychosocial" (for biological, psychological, social) approach to studying wellness and disease, said Co-director John Medeiros, professor in the School of Physical Therapy. The idea is to prepare health sciences students for roles as clinicians, teachers, and researchers by introducing them to the social, psychological, and behavioral dimensions of illness. Many then go on to graduate work at Pacific or elsewhere before entering the field.

"For example, the physical therapist must ascertain the signs and symptoms of the patient's disorder as well as the patient's feelings and beliefs about his illness, his school or work environment, his relationships with family and his community, and his ability to pay for health care services," said Medeiros.

"The fuller the understanding of the biopsychosocial aspects of wellness and disability, the better the students and future clinicians will be at promoting the health and wellness of their clients."