Date of Completion


Document Type




Faculty Advisor/Sponsor

Fiona Patterson


Ankylosing Spondylitis, Axial Spondylarthritis, mindful exercise, philosophy, education, medical education, creative arts, interdisciplinary


Through the lens of my disability I am exploring dialogue in medical and education settings. Diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), I have explored the concept and notion behind: “What quantifies or qualifies ‘illness’ or ‘cure’?”. As an arthritic autoimmune condition, it is chronic and can be debilitating. Through course work in the College of Education and Social Service's Interdisciplinary Program, many more questions arose than answers.

A 2012 study by Reveille, et al. shows conditions like AS, grouped as Axial Spondylarthritis (AxSA) or SpA, may affect up to 1% of the population. Classes like Beyond Medical Models expanded perspectives on ‘care’ and ‘treatment modalities.’ Are we as a society and world fully engaged to usher in the next generation of ‘healing’ and ‘care’ in medicine and education paradigms? Can genomic expression, such as mine, be ‘cared’ for through proper nutrition, mindful exercise, a healthy living environment, and communal support; not just chronic and acute pills, needles or surgeries? Obviously, there is no ‘one size fits all approach.’

Arthritic lower back pain or ‘Chronic Pain’ is leading the nation in claims for social security disability payments ( It is one of many ‘conditions’ categorized along with other physical and mental health concerns, including addiction recovery as “Invisible Disabilities” (Chizick). I will speak to further advocate for dialogue and collaboration in healing modalities for choice in treatment, care and education. In conclusion, more research, communication and action are needed for positive transformative global change.


University of Vermont Student Research Conference Presentation. April 14, 2014.