Rappahannock News

Taking a holistic approach (to health and life)

- By John W. K i ser The writer lives in Slate Mills

Recently, I was looking through my file of past articles for the Rappahanno­ck News and came across my 17-year-old piece below. It has been slightly shortened, but the wise messages that sprang from Dr. Jack McCue are needed more than ever today.

He also brings a perspectiv­e toward illness that is both new and ancient. Often referred to today as “holistic” medicine, McCue explains the term simply as looking at disease and illness from the inside out. He begins with trying to understand a person’s state of mind, what is going on in their lives that can be affecting their emotional health.

He has observed over the years that the majority of his patients have a naive faith in pills as a solution to their problems. “Pills can alleviate, but they don’t fix anything. They are also expensive and always have some side effects. People are looking for quick fixes. I try to help a patient from within. Most illness begins inside of us,” emphasized McCue.

McCue’s interest in medicine began early in life. He was raised in a large German-Irish Catholic family in Westfield, New Jersey, the fourth child among ten siblings: seven girls and three boys. “Being raised in a large family, I learned about sharing, the importance of helping each other, and compromise,” he noted. His three sisters were all math whizzes. John had inherited his engineer father’s aptitude with his hands. His sisters helped him with math and he would help them fix their bikes. “From as young as I can remember, I was interested in medicine, but it didn’t come from within my family.” After getting certified as a physical therapist, McCue decided to go to medical school. The US Air Force needed doctors in the 1980s, so Uncle Sam paid his medical school expenses at Rutgers University. When payback time came, the Air Force wanted to do his medical service in Japan.


McCue didn’t particular­ly want to leave America, having just started a family. But choices were not his to make. Despite initial misgivings, Japan turned out to be a mind expanding experience for the young Air Force doctor. He found a country with many admirable features — virtually no crime, safe and comfortabl­e in its crowdednes­s. “People didn’t lock cars and if you lost something, no one would touch it. I left a video camera in the huge Tokyo Rail Station. even hours later, I found it exactly where I had left it,” remembered McCue.

McCue believes his years in Japan made him a better doctor and a better person. “It opened my eyes to alternativ­e approaches. I saw what they could do with acupunctur­e and herbal medicine.” He was also impressed by their social relations, especially the respect Japanese show each other and the importance of family and community. “Theirs is a stratified society, but there is still great respect shown to everyone. All jobs are honorable. A garbage collector is respected in Japan. After living in Japan, I don’t beep my horn at people anymore. In their culture, beeping is a sign of disrespect and shouting and yelling are unheard of.


McCue believes that much illness in America is indirectly caused by our culture of materialis­m. A lot of stress in people’s lives comes from overindebt­edness. The culture of peddling credit cards and pre-approved loans is like pushing drugs—to get us hooked on debt. This is tied to our culture of consumptio­n, which is based on the false belief that more possession­s will make us happier.

The other false god is technology itself, be it pills or computers. Computers, in some ways, have increased isolation, loneliness, which also leads to sickness. People have email relationsh­ips all over the world but don’t know their next door neighbors. Persons working in the same office or living in the same house exchange emails, watch TV or surf the net rather than talk to one another. Technology may have improved long distance communicat­ion, but at the expense of the shorter, more intimate distances of everyday life. The habit of face-to-face conversati­on has suffered.

How does this translate into disease and bad health? Simple, says McCue, for whom there are four pillars for leading a healthy life.


To be healthy, a person needs to be physically active. Cars, TVs, computers, office work all tend toward making us more sedentary. The less we use our bodies the less healthy we will be. Second, good health is related to family, friends and community — what he calls the “hug factor.” We all need emotional warmth in our lives and warmth comes from our human relationsh­ips, our ability to love and be loved. He believes in pets, too. They can be as important as people, perhaps more important — animals typically reciprocat­e affection, whereas humans are not so dependable. The third pillar is eating good, healthy food, and not too much of it. Quality is more important than quantity, as the “right” quantity is dependent on the level of a person’s physical activity.

America’s out of control obesity problem is basically about too much (bad) food and too little physical activity. Finally, the fourth pillar brings us back to the Greeks and the mindbody relationsh­ip. Health is vitally dependent on a person’s heart and mind — that is to say, their attitude toward life and way of responding to its nasty surprises. McCue calls it “having inner peace.”


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